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From chocolate therapy in the capital city, Tallinn to smelly mud baths in the beautiful town of Haapsalu, these are the spa treatments on offer in Estonia In the late 90s I lived for a while in Estonia. While the countryside was peaceful and covered with a forest rumoured to be growing faster than it could be chopped down, Tallinn — the capital — was under the same pressures as any other post-Soviet metropolis.
One way of unwinding was to visit Dorrit, a local masseuse who was convinced that her dead Doberman had been reincarnated in the form of her new poodle. I could not find Dorrit on my recent visit to Estonia, but her spirit lives on. Baltic water and sea mud were deemed essential cures for anything from rheumatism to insomnia to inflammation of the sexual organs, and the habit of a restorative sojourn duly took off.
In the Soviet years there were health spas for politburo members, KGB men and prize-winning Stakhanovite factory workers who strained and blistered their way through an entire year for a brief but prestigious bout of relaxation. The spa culture seems an extension, too, of the Estonian outdoor life. s from the 19th century and between the wars describe a country still largely in existence today: a peace-loving nation given to forest frolicking, nude bathing and saunas.
But if these customs remain unchanged, the spas themselves are going through a slick modernisation, part of an equally traditional Estonian rage to be ruthlessly up-to-date in what they know they do well. A Soviet austerity has, in many places, been jettisoned for a New Age ambience of scented candles, essential oils and dolphin music. Any visit to Estonia, for health reasons or otherwise, will doubtless begin in Tallinn.
Chocolate therapy, like many faddish things, is gaining a reputation in Estonia, and locals I told about it were wistful and curious. My suggestion that I could save money by having a basic massage and eating a bar of Galaxy afterwards was treated with Nordic disdain. In a candlelit room I was asked to strip, don a thong and scour myself with body scrub. Minutes later hot liquid chocolate was applied to almost every part of my body, I was wrapped up in plastic and then left to suppurate. I felt like a cross between a basted chicken and Augustus Gloop receiving justice. Occasionally the masseuse would return to caress my head and tug, quite painlessly, at my hair.
And they were definitely right about that happiness molecule: I enjoyed a good five hours of euphoria afterwards. Kalev spa is one of a of new health centres thriving in the capital. Here, a clinical atmosphere of linoleum, white coats and arcane equipment is cheered up by the friendliness of the staff and its seaside setting. Armies of elderly Finns come for extensive curative packages, often as a yearly habit. An endless promenade overlooks the Baltic, which glimmers like a vast pewter plate. For more than a century Haapsalu has been famous for mud baths, which is why I was here. What nobody told me, though, was that in the great genealogy of smells, sea mud is twin brother to pig poo.
The dismay I felt on seeing a great puddle of the stuff spread out on a plastic sheet and being told to sit naked right in the middle of it, was acute. Once again I was coated, trussed and immobilised, and blankets were piled on top of me to keep the mud warm. I could feel great w of the fetid guck between my fingers, and of course within seconds my nose began to itch.
My mud session ended without regret. Mud must be a miracle cure — why else anyone would choose such smelly degradation when they can be marinated in chocolate is beyond me. Perhaps one brown substance will usurp the other. I could discern no happiness molecule in mud, and for the rest of the day I stank.
I was reassured to see that, if the Estonians have a reputation for health cures, they are equally good at providing the need for them. Coffee and brandy arrived, and the toxins came flooding back. Your good health. Or, as they say in Estonia, Terviseks! Robin Ashenden 01 June A bizarre spa weekend in Estonia From chocolate therapy in the capital city, Tallinn to smelly mud baths in the beautiful town of Haapsalu, these are the spa treatments on offer in Estonia Forest near Talllinn Dreamstime. A historic sauna in Estonia Dreamstime.
Beautiful Tallinn Dreamstime. Chocolate therapy has gained popularity in Estonia Shutterstock. The lovely town of Haapsalu Dreamstime. Tervise Paradiis Shutterstock. Explore more spa experiences: Here's everything you need to know before going to a hammam Or how about trying an onsen in Japan? Have a look at these top spa, yoga and spirituality retreats. Related Articles. Looking for inspiration. our Newsletter Love travel quizzes, events and competitions? Your firstname.Estonia nude
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Tallinn, Estonia. Statue of a nude woman with her hand on her head