A year and a half ago, when I learned my site placement for these two years, I told pretty much anyone who would listen how my town was famous for its hot springs. This was back when I believed that no one would have anything better to do with their free time than travel across the entire country to my town to sit in a pool of hot water.
Despite bragging endlessly about these hot springs, though, I didn’t visit them until yesterday. A few volunteers came out and we went to Banishta with my friend Y., paying fifty denars (about a dollar) to float in a pool of sulfurous water for an hour. The spa in Banishta, as in Kosovrasti, functions as a sort of medical center as well as a bath house, with a hotel and rooms for different therapies including massages and mud baths.
What is interesting or maybe weird from an American perspective is that people really do visit the spa to take baths. I knew my family sometimes went to Banishta after a slaughter, but didn’t think too much about what those visits entailed. While we were in the pool, a woman came in with her son, along with bottles of shampoo and a razor blade, and as we floated and examined the pruning of our fingers they proceeded to, well, bathe.
Y. told us that the waters in Banishta are fed by a dead volcano. Outside of the spa was a small yellowish, steaming river, pretty cool since it was surrounded by snow.
Back in town, visiting the store to buy things for lunch/dinner, we got some stares, and the woman bagging our groceries told me to be careful not to get sick (wet hair, outside) and wanted to know whether we’d visited Banishta or Kosovrasti. It wasn’t until we got home that I realized she might have figured out where we’d been not only by sight; we reeked of sulfur, and had to spend the next few hours taking turns in the shower to wash the smell off.
More visits in order, I think, when the spa reopens fully for spring.