|credit to panoramio user Asfur_foreveR|
What we got, naturally, was a horrid subterranean 25-lari room with yellowed white tiles and the distinct smell of rotten eggs.
This was, thankfully, an anomaly. While the blue bathhouse seems to have quite a big jump between the 25-lari rooms (horrid) and the 45-lari rooms (genuinely incredible, and very good for the price), and the Royal Baths are likewise similarly fantastical for 50-60 lari, I have since discovered that, for 25 lari a room, I can attend the nicest bathhouse of all.
Unlike the others, the Synagogue Bathhouse (not its real name, but it looks rather like a Moorish synagogue) is located up the hill from Abanos Qucha, on Grishashvili Street (the public entrance is located beneath the archway; the entrance for private rooms is around the corner, past the "Bohemia" sign). It's very slightly less exquisite than the blue-tiled palaces at the Royal Baths, but more than charming, and the tea room (picture above) looks like a terminus of the Orient Express, if said terminus also had Georgian soap operas blaring on television in the background. Tea is 5 lari and comes with fruit candies; massages and scrubs are the standard 10 lari each, and may be performed by naked Soviet shotputters. Manicures and pedicures are also available.
I've taken to going alone, bringing a luxurious book (best choice yet, Mme de Stael's Corinne, possibly my favourite book of the year so far), drinking tea, and wallowing in self-indulgence.
Combine with a visit to either the elaborate but seldom-open Persian Chaikhana at number 14 Grishashvili St, the less-elaborate but reliable Azeri Chaikhana next door.