Monday, July 14, 2008

Isti Su

July 5
The exploration of the day was Isti Su. This literally means “Hot Water.” Isti Su is a Soviet Era sanitarium – but really there are a set of hot springs. At least, that was my understanding after a conversation I had at the place I finally found in the mountains.
The Soviet Era sanitarium is pretty unappealing. Trashy. The resort itself is like Chernobyl or something. It looks like it was just abandoned after the Soviet Union’s collapse. The rose bushes are healthy. The buildings are completely empty – and decaying rapidly.
After exploring the ruins, I got some confident directions from a Russian-speaking man at the resort. He told me something like “You will find it.” With that somewhat mystical injunction, I was inspired – and in fact I climbed through the steep hills tangled with ironwood thickets, unto the crest with the oaks and the occasional cow. Beautiful hills. Beautiful trees. And then down again – where I found another resort – much more appealing. I shelled out two mantat for 20 minutes of soaking in the hot, sulphuric water. Despite the fact that the day was hot, it did feel good. I haven’t had a hot shower since I arrived in Lenkoran – so it was nice just soaking. I didn’t suffer from rheumatism or gout before my little bath – but perhaps now I am even less likely to be afflicted with these ailments. Or any others. It did feel good.
The trip back was non-eventful, aside from a challenging conversation with a couple of women selling vegetables, fruit and household items. They spoke almost no Russian. No English. But they were really excited to meet an American. Eventually, they waved over a guy who had worked in Russia for eight years. He served in the army - but also worked there. Loved it. The discos. The girls. Here – boring. Rafik likes Baku too. The discos. The girls…..
The younger woman had a daughter & a son – but no husband. She wanted me to bring her to America. We didn’t agree on anything firm. She knows that it would be difficult without knowing English. She wouldn’t accept payment for the melon she gave me. I must admit that the melon was good. Despite some misgivings, I agreed to give Rafik my phone number. I hope he loses my card.
(Above is a photo of the woman who wanted me to bring her to America. She's with her son. Also - a photo of one of the cabanas on the beach - at night.)