Getting Naked and Renting out a Gay Russian Bath House in Moscow
I had finally arrived in Moscow. The last month or so on the Trans Siberian train had been the adventure of a lifetime. From Beijing, through Mongolia, into Siberia, then a detour through Kazakhstan, and now finally all the way across Russia, I was finally in Moscow. 81 hours on the train from Kazakhstan meant I was due a relaxing experience in a Russian bathhouse. Right?
So apparently Russian bathhouses are all the rage. A bit like the Scandinavians and their saunas. So being the willing tourist I am I thought I’d sample a bit of it while I found myself in Russia. My guidebook had it down as a ‘must-see’ so why not give it a shot. I was tired from sightseeing all day. So a spot in a Russian Bathhouse might just be the recharge my body needs. It was a perfect plan by all accounts, although apparently, it was a little flawed.
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Does anyone know any good Russian Bathhouses?
I chatted with the girl in my hostel about her recommendations for a cool bathhouse in the city for a ‘genuine experience’. I don’t think she quite understood what I meant. She gave me some directions, all on the back of a tourist information leaflet. I was with 3 friends, and perhaps she got the wrong end of the stick
Anyway, the instructions were sketchy at best. It had been a long journey to Moscow, so despite the dodgy directions, we went looking for the bathhouse with newfound levels of motivation, eagerly awaiting a hot tub, steam room and some serious downtime.
“A gay people’s bath place”?
The hostel girl wasn’t the sharpest tool in the shed. She had chosen not to write either the correct phone number OR the actual address OR even the actual name of the place so when my mates and I couldn’t find it, we’re were in a spot of bother. We asked person after person and no one knew where it was.
The closest we came to someone recognizing it was an old man who didn’t know exactly but he heard there was a “gay people’s bath place” around here. Hmmmm, alarm bells should have rung then for me and my 3 buddies, but nope, it didn’t’ even register.
It took us over 2 hours to find the place. Finally we wandered up a narrow alley and saw an old door with a bathtub icon above it. THIS MUST BE IT! We clambered up the creaky, rusted iron stairs and entered through the old door. Instantly a narrow dark corridor, and some more stairs.
When we descended down the dingiest stairs into the basement of some shady building. I’m not sure my digital nomad insurance would cover an injury in a place like this. I began to wonder if this could really be the right place. I banged on the door, some creaky lock was unlatched and on we went.
Mirrored Ceilings, Circular Beds and A Communal Bathtub
The 2 staff members at reception spoke no English. They were giving us some very strange looks, casting a few giggles too. But I just put that down to us being foreigners. We tried to tell them we wanted to enter the bathhouse. We asked for bathing suits but they were unnecessary apparently. After much laughter, we finally paid our $30 and entered.
The area was pretty small, cosy would maybe be a better word however the alarm bells turned into sirens when we realised the entire place was kitted out with naked men on the wall. Karma sutra plastered across every wall. I didn’t know 2 guys could bend like that. There were open shower rooms at the end of the corridor, and then the centrepiece. A HUGE (orgy?) sized circular bed, with silk streets with a massive oval-shaped mirrored ceiling. Another huge mirror facing the bed sat proudly in the centre of the complex. Interesting. Suddenly the sly glances, giggles, confusion and ridicule were making a lot more sense.
Private bookings, thankfully
Luckily enough the boys and I had clearly not made our innocent intentions clear to the Russian staff outside. But amidst the confusion, it turned out we had booked the whole place out for the 4 of us. We had secured a private session. They had assumed the 4 of us had come for our own little party and didn’t want to be bothered by strangers.
We had paid our money. So despite our discover as to the real nature of this place, we stayed for our one-hour session as the only people there. We had smuggled in our $ 3-litre bottles of Russian Vodka, and we were playing some horrible Russian hip-hop playing from the speakers.
1 litre of vodka later, ample nudity between friends, saunas and plunge pools and we made a discreet, if a little sheepish, exit from the place. I know it’s normal to be stared at when you’re a foreigner in a new country, but the looks we got upon leaving that place should never be cast on anyone, that was a true walk of shame. I wanted to scream ‘we just had a few drinks and chilled in the sauna, it’s not what you think”, but it would be a waste of time. So I slapped my mate on the bum, and we walked back to the hostel.
A hurriedly escape back to our hostel where we told the girl we couldn’t find the place we were looking for, but don’t worry. We don’t want to go to a Russian bathhouse anymore. Thanks anyway.
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