When you think of the great spa towns of Europe, names like Baden-Baden, Bath, Vichy or Marienbad might leap to mind. Druskininkai? Not so much.
That said, Litvaks have been flocking here for centuries to take the curative waters and I wanted the old-school spa experience. I wanted to dehydrate in a rust-weeping steam bath that had seen better days.
I wanted to be pummelled and birch slapped by a woman with a surly demeanour and drill sergeant facial hair.
See also: That time I … learned a painful tequila lesson in Mexico
So it was that I presented myself at the distinctly old-school Druskininkai Health Resort, which I will forever associate with the phrase “be careful what you wish for”.
Having paid a modest entry fee, I was then presented with a list of the medical treatments on offer. Apparently carbonic acid and turpentine baths were big favourites. As was the intestinal bathing treatment administered by an onsite proctologist. After which you could indulge in a “12th derivation electrocardiogram with or without analysis” and top things off with a “mud application for gums”.
Steering clear of “the salty moments”, “sweet salty moments” and “golden moments” packages, I opted for the chap friendly “force of Apollo” experience.
This began with a soak in an indoor kidney shaped pool whose water was tepid and imbued with a mineral cocktail that scorched my shaving rash and leeched the colour from my boardshorts. At one end was a trio of apertures from which “massaging jets” of water exploded at a speed and volume usually reserved for G8 protesters. These were not controlled automatically but rather by a switch flicked in an antechamber screened behind one-way glass. Venture too close and some invisible sadist would send a torrential projectile ricocheting off your skull.
It was then time for my mudbath and a phrase which would become a refrain for my time at this facility: “BIKINI OFF!”
“Excuse me?”, I replied.
“BIKINI OFF,” restated a dumpling of a woman, the cheeriness of whose daffodil uniform was in inverse proportion to that of her demeanour. I don’t know what I was thinking, but it seemed prudent to give her a moment to leave the room while I nuded up. Alas not.
She stared me down with the nonchalance of someone who had seen a million willies and was not impressed by one of them.
The mudbath was apparently meant to be bursting with a host of rejuvenating properties but all I can report was that it was warm, goopey, drowsy fun. Until Corporal Punishment came in to direct me to the showers. Allowing me to once again pull on the boardies, she then blasted the mud off me with a high-pressure hose prison-movie style.
Some respite was offered in the hands of a far gentler staff member who half-heartedly went through the motions of a salt scrub and honey massage before ushering me into a sauna in which I was to marinate for 15 minutes before another thudding appointment with the master blaster.
My penultimate treat was the “ascending shower”. I had pictured some sort of vertical Vichy with streams of wall-mounted soothing sprays. Instead, I was presented with a cubicle in which a lone hose – which was unnervingly reinforced by bolts to the floor – stood cobra like mere inches below a toilet seat attached to the wall.
Perched naked and fearful above a device that seemed designed to extract confessions from the innocent, the jets were administered with an intensity that might be utilised to remove oil from concrete. Alternating volleys of hot and cold water delivered the kind of scrotal pummelling experienced by a porn star on honeymoon. I also believed I experienced the world’s first low colonic.
It was at this point that my “therapist” slid the door open, poked her head round the corner and in a voice more commonly associated with the phrase “would you like to upsize your combo?” said, “You want enema?”
Too late, I thought as I made my bandy-legged way into the night.
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