Sulfur baths of Tbilisi – favorite places of Pushkin and Sting
When the Iberian king Vakhtang decided to establish the present capital of Georgia here, the main factor was the presence of thermal hydrogen sulfide springs in these parts. This is an ancient legend, and the presence of a large number of sulfur baths on the territory of Tbilisi in ancient times is another confirmation of this. The city grew and was built, centuries passed, but the thermal baths of Tbilisi today are one of its main attractions. Sulfur baths are a must for many excursion programs in Tbilisi.
History of Tbilisi baths
Tbilisi means “warm” in translation, and it was thermal springs that contributed to the fact that the capital of Georgia was given such a name. In Tbilisi’s baths, water comes directly from under the ground, as they say – “first-hand”, which makes them practically unique in their kind bathhouses. By the way, there are only two similar baths organized on natural hydrogen sulfide sources in Europe: in Italy and Great Britain.
It was not in vain that the Iberian lord chose the construction site here: the pheasant wounded by the royal falcon fell into the source and recovered. Then the rest began to notice that sulfuric waters are healing and cure many diseases. The first analogues of the baths appeared in the form of bathtubs carved into the rocks, where precious water poured, and subsequently a whole bath block grew in the city under construction.
Georgians are a sociable, convivial, hospitable and fiery people. It is not surprising that a trip to the bathhouse in the old days was a whole ritual. Sulfur springs have become not only a place for washing and healing, but also a real epicenter of “interest clubs”. People came here to play backgammon, discuss the latest city news, and drink wine for fresh homemade snacks.
Now there are both male and female halls, and in the old days, male and female days were introduced in the premises of Abanotubani to separate visitors by gender.
So on women’s days in the baths the real bridegroom was arranged. Modern clothes cover more than hide, and in past centuries it wasn’t so easy to see a figure behind long clothes. And the Georgian matchmakers went to Abanotubani as a job, carefully examining all the merits and demerits of the girls to be extradited, so that later they would give potential relatives absolutely reliable information.
Over time, when private baths appeared in the houses and plumbing was carried out, ritual trips lost their significance. Today, more people go to Tbilisi baths, providing for their direct purpose. Here you can swim in the pool with different temperature conditions, wash and do massage. Those who do not want public relaxation are provided with separate rooms.
Thermal hydrogen sulfide sources strengthen the nervous system well, relax muscles, positively affect the condition of the musculoskeletal system. Hot water with a healing composition cleanses and whitens the skin, treats eczema, and removes toxins from the body.
Most watercourses have a comfortable temperature corresponding to the regime of the human body – 36-37 degrees. But there are also very hot springs that will not yield to water from the famous fairy tale about the Humpbacked Horse. This is exactly what traveler Evliya Celebi described in his notes when he stated that sheep’s hooves can even be boiled in Tbilisi’s thermal springs.
Note. In Soviet times, sulfur water from hot streams was supplied directly to apartments in some quarters of Tbilisi. The residents of such houses had a unique opportunity to take spa treatments right in their own bathroom. And today, in some places, a similar “service” has remained. Arriving on an excursion, you can choose just such a corner of Tbilisi to stay in order to take advantage of the healing properties of thermal water for free.
Abanotubani – Tbilisi Mecca
Sulfur baths in Tbilisi stretched a chain along the channel of the Tsavkisisskali River flowing from the gorge, where natural sources were discovered by King Vakhtang. Abanotubani is translated from Georgian – bathing area. In those days, when the fashion for beauty, sophistication and luxury came from the Persians in Tbilisi, here, instead of rocky bathtubs, semi-basement houses with domed roofs were built. Windows were inserted into the domes, from which daylight fell into the bathing twilight, and the roof itself, internal walls and bathtubs were decorated with colorful tiles and mosaics. According to historical information, the bath complex has existed since the 16th century, and in addition to Georgians, Turks and Persians were also involved in the construction.
The beauty and convenience of Tbilisi baths, as well as the skill of local bathhouse attendants, attracted many famous people here. Having visited Tiflis, A.S. Pushkin described the local baths as luxurious and superior to similar establishments in Turkey and Russia. Later, Alexander Dumas Sr. joined the rave reviews of his colleagues about the local baths and the city itself.