07 July 2013

A Week at a Russian Sanatorium

We are in the village again for the summer, with no landline telephone, and consequently, no cable internet.  Our Beeline USB with a Huawei modem isn’t working so well and presently I can’t include photos with this post.  I’m optimistic that soon this glitch will be solved.  Rob MacDonald


My clipped wings...

This April I saw my cardiologist.  For once I overcame my American expressive optimism and told her I was feeling tired and overall not good. 

I’d been thinking about visiting the USA  for the first time since 2004.  I wish I could just hop a plane and go, but those days are over.  After what I said and her examination, the doctor ruled out air travel for the summer.

I believe the key to happy living at 70 is to accept things as they are, and  concentrate on activities that are still enjoyable.  For me that means relishing tasty food, reading good books, and visiting with people. 

A happy idea...

While still in the appointment I suggested that Larissa and I could go to a sanatorium.  It would be a vacation for the wife from shopping, carrying grocery bags home, cooking and cleanup for a week.

We have several sanatoriums in the St Petersburg area.  A Russian sanatorium is similar to the spas at Baden-Baden, Bath, or Hot Springs but with an overlay of Soviet tradition... more egalitarian, less luxurious, and with few graceful manners.

They offer a place to recuperate from surgeries, but also an affordable vacation for older folks that want healthy living, simple accommodations, good food, quiet, fresh air, and scenic places to walk. 

Recuperating the Russian way...

Around 2005 and 2007 we were at Chernaya Rechka Sanatory, which specializes in providing recuperation from heart surgery.  One of the stays was free.  Back then, a stay at a sanatorium to me wasn’t so appealing.  Many guests were older than us, it was too regimented, and the food was bland.

Guests were assigned a table and each group had to circle items on a list to order the next day’s meals. I had a full schedule of places to visit... such as massage, cardiac exercise, aromatherapy, adaptive advice, and relaxation music. In late afternoon there often was a concert by some obscure performer.  In the evenings we went a few times to a little bar in the building, and danced to some live music.

A great vacation close by...

This time Larissa heard from a friend that the Cestroretzky Kyport (resort) was worth trying.  I found I liked it better than Chernaya Rechka, but missed the dancing.  We took a bus and then a mashrutka (route van) for an hour and a half to get there.  We returned by train, which took us right from the sanatorium to a stop not far from our apartment. 

An inexpensive yet adequate room...

When we arrived at Cestroetz, typical of Russia, there were no smiling greetings, just an impersonal check-in.

When we travel, we save money on accommodations, and shift that cash to better food and easier transportation. The rooms in Corpus Two are basic.  There was too much furniture, mismatched and sometimes worn, with space enough for two beds side by side, a desk, a wardrobe, a sink, and a small color TV.  We chose to walk to the bathroom (up-to-date and clean) and shower room (sort of soaked and moldy).

The receptionist the first few days was obliging.  We didn’t like our first room... next to a noisy brat with his grandmother... so she encouraged us to switch, giving us keys to look over rooms.  We chose one on the third level with our own rundown but pleasing balcony. 

They were remote about the remote...

I noticed the TV remote control was missing in our new room.  I said, “We’ll get one when we walk past reception.”  I forgot I was in Russia.  The receptionist told us to go to the coat check to write in a book that our room needed a remote.  Larissa insisted that the receptionist walk across the lobby and do this herself. 

Then the receptionist and the other clerk felt they had no further responsibility to see if we ever got a remote.  People here are not much with follow-through.  We never got a remote.

Fabulous food!

We selected the limitless Swedish buffet.  Table service was available but less popular.  We sat in a circular alcove with lots of windows and not too far from the food!

Завтрак,, pronounced zavtrak, breakfast...had two hot cereals, and a lot of cooked items, coffee, tea, and baked goods.  In Russia you rarely see bacon and eggs as you do in Britain or the USA.

Russians love cold salads.  There were five or six of these offered  for обед... pronounced o-bed, dinner... and ужин...pronounced y-jen, supper. Add to this the five or so entrees, fresh bread, sour cream, milk, soups, and we were plenty satisfied with scrumptious food every day. The cooks, wait staff (who continually cleared the plates for us) and the supervisors were friendly and attentive.

Cestroetz mineral water...

Larissa was convinced that the Cestroetz mineral water from their 165 meter well was beneficial.  Twice a day she went to the main building to turn on one of the old taps to fill her bottle with this elixir.  I tried it but refused it the rest of the week as it seemed saline and gaseous.

A restful place on the Gulf...

We enjoyed the walkways, the country paths, and the promenade along the Gulf of Finland.  Some people lay on wooden platforms sunning themselves, like the walruses we saw on the Big Sur in California years ago.  The weather for mid May was exceptional.

Larissa was busy...

Larissa had a steam bath in an old wooden barrel with just her head sticking  out. She sat with hands and feet in convenient tanks while little fish nibbled, what is called fish peeling.  Then she had hands and feet covered with lotion and then massaged.

We look forward the next time to bathing in their large pool, filled with Cestroetz water.

See you at the sanatorium!

An escape to a Russian sanatorium is a special experience which takes you back to a pleasant aspect of former Soviet life.  It’s a positive of living in Russia. You should find it relaxing, fattening, and economical!

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