Two new things I tried this week:
- Living in Bulgaria
- Getting naked in a Bulgarian hot spring with a group of fellow remotes and some elderly Bulgarian women.
First of all, Sofia (which is the capital of Bulgaria, for anyone who is as clueless as I was before I moved here) is awesome. It’s surrounded by these beautiful mountains, and outdoor activities like hiking, biking and sunrise yoga are all huge parts of the culture. I’ve spent the majority of my time here so far running through the gorgeous, grassy hills like I’m Maria Von Trapp living in The Sound of Music, and have never been happier.
Just when I thought my obsession with Sofia couldn’t run any deeper (on my first night here, a random couple on the street helped me carry my groceries home and didn’t try to murder me — that’s how nice these people are), I found out about the traditional, mineral-water-filled hot springs located a half and hour outside of the city. As it turns out, these Bulgarian hot springs are historically famous for being able to cure everything. They’re infused with all kinds of minerals like silicic acid, calcium and sulphates, which have health-inducing properties that are made even stronger by the heat. The baths were famous during ancient times (… probably because they were a good place for kings to entertain their harems) are known for fixing everything from kidney issues to skin diseases to orthopedic issues.
Considering how head-over-heels I was about the Blue Lagoon, I figured I had to give it a try. The only difference, though, is that the springs in Bulgaria are naked hot springs.
On Wednesday, 20 of us boarded a bus to the Pancherevo hot springs, fully aware that it was only a matter of time before we had to drop trough in front of one another. Our morning of outdoor bathing started out with a silent, 30-minute “meditative hike” (otherwise known as my worst nightmare), during which I almost fell off the side of a mountain and took some awkwardly sound-free Instagram videos. At one point, I got shushed after an accidental “WOAHHHH” slipped out of my mouth because the views were so beautiful. I’m guessing you don’t care about this though, and are only still reading because you want to get to the naked part. Perv.
After the silent hike, our guide led us over to the bath house. I had expected it to be an open outdoor pool, so was pretty surprised to see that it looked like the entrance of a JCC pool locker room than The Blue Lagoon. The guys and girls were separated (which for some reason also surprised me… Did I think I was attending a massive outdoor orgy?), handed exfoliating cloths and given specific instructions on what to do when we got inside.
First, we stripped, doing our best not to make eye contact with each other or with the older Bulgarian strangers who were severely judging us for how hard we were giggling. Then, we showered all together like some sort of 1970’s high school gym class before making our way over to the 98° mineral water pool, where we sat for 10 minutes in alternating silence and laughter. After we had spent enough time sitting in our tit soup, we got out and showered again — this time using the exfoliating pads all over our bodies.The Bulgarian woman in the stall next to me brought a pumice stone from home and was using it on her feet, which was equal parts disgusting and genius and I was jealous. Then, we got in a second pool, which was 107°… We were instructed to only stay in for four minutes or risk passing out and/or dying, but we lost track of time because we couldn’t stop laughing at each other.
A friend’s sister, who was visiting, looked at me at one point and said “Wow, this must be so awkward for you guys because you know each other… And have to see each other all the time.”
After 10 light headed (and I guess, light hearted?) minutes in the boil-bath, it was time for our final team shower during which I exfoliated the shit out of my entire body. I rubbed and scrubbed myself from head to toe until my skin was next-level raw and sOoOoOo soft. My sunburn (from a hike a few days prior) also hurt less, though I have no idea why.
Once we got back to the locker room, we got dressed and offered each other high fives for surviving the weirdness of group naked bathing. Just when we thought it was time to leave, a naked Bulgarian lady came into the locker room and started asking us questions about where we were from, what we were doing at a random naked hot spring in Bulgaria, etc. We made the usual Remote Year small talk (my least favorite kind of small talk, FYI), and she told us she is a “Professor of Spas and Wellness” and has been going to the baths three times a week for the last 14 years and has never gotten sick. She swears by the hot spring as a cure-all for all of her ailments, and is living proof that it works.
Her methodology is a little bit different than the one we followed, but I’m 100p going back and trying her wise way, because she looked pretty damn good in the nude, IMHO:
- 10 minutes in the 98° bath
- 5 minutes in the 107° bath
- Shower and exfoliate with salt (instead of the weird exfoliating wash cloth)
- 10 minutes in the 98° bath
- 5 minutes in the 107° bath
- RUB HONEY EVERYWHERE (really – everywhere. Up, down and around.) as a moisturizer and antibacterial.
SO, not only do I have an amazing new skincare (and bone care? and kidney care? and self care?) routine, I am now also intimately familiar with my fellow female Remotes’ nipples and personal grooming habits… as well as those of a few rando Bulgarian strangers. And honestly, I think it made us closer. (Is that weird? It’s def weird. But whatever). #bonding