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Bathing traditions in Latvia – heritage of the ancestors
"Pirts" or the bathhouse has always been honoured amongst Latvians. In Latvian folk songs the bathing ritual is called “Māras pirts” or “Laimas pirts”, because, according to folk beliefs, both goddesses are present in the bathhouse when new life begins. The bathing ritual or “Pirts” has been a Latvian tradition for centuries as not only a way of washing the body, but also relaxation and cleansing the mind.
Nowadays, under the influence of different cultures and practices around the world, bathing or sauna rituals are becoming more diverse, but they all have the same goal – to relieve us from stress, worries and tension.
Read this article to learn more about bathing traditions in Latvia, and discover the places where you can experience them!
Bathing traditions that have remained since ancient times
Bathing traditions in Latvia are very long-standing, and depicted in various sources, including “The Chronicle of Henry of Livonia” and Latvian folk songs. The bathing ritual has always been accompanied by different traditions and customs, for example, our ancestors believed that brushing with various wild plants, harvested at the right time, can alleviate diseases.
A bathing ritual performed by a bathhouse attendant is a special technique for improving health and well-being, often accompanied by traditional songs and swimming.
Usually while the bathhouse heats up, the visitors prepare by getting in the right mindset and drinking herbal teas. This is followed by gradually warming up the body and getting used to the heat of the bathhouse, allowing the body to sweat profusely, and whipping the whole body with wild plant brooms to improve blood circulation and relax strained muscles. Latvian bathhouses can be characterized by everything related to nature and its gifts – plant brooms, herbal teas, natural oils, swimming in nearby water bodies, such as a pond, which allows you to cool down better. A visit to the bathhouse helps to purge various toxic substances from the body, relaxes muscles, promotes the metabolism and improves blood circulation, increases the elasticity of joints and ligaments, and helps eliminate the risk of varicose veins.
Here are some tips to consider before going to the bathhouse
Above all, it should be emphasized that the bathing or sauna ritual should be enjoyed in a leisurely way, so plan at least 3-5 hours for this occasion. The bathhouse should not be visited with a very full stomach, or by people with acute inflammation, physical exhaustion or a hangover. It is recommended to wear a special sauna hat in the bathhouse to protect the head from overheating, because it is much higher than the rest of the body and receives a lot more heat. Soap should not be used in the bathhouse because it breaks down the natural protective barrier of the skin. Instead of soap you can use a salt mixture with some natural oil or honey – this will help to clean the skin without damaging it.
In the bathhouse there is no need to wear clothing, but several towels can come in handy – both a towel to wrap yourself in between bathing sessions and a towel to dry yourself down. Linen towels are most commonly used in the bathhouse.
In the following, find out where you can enjoy the Latvian bathing ritual, based on ancestral traditions!
Bathing ritual near Lake Zvirgzdu
In a beautiful leisure complex "Ezermaļi" by Lake Zvirgzdu you can enjoy the bathing ritual performed by a bathhouse attendant. However, the bathing ritual must be booked in advance. The leisure complex also offers overnight stays. More information is available here.
The sacred bathhouse “Ziedlejas”
In Krimulda municipality, “Ziedlejas” you can experience bathing rituals in a contemporary design Glass sauna or in a rustic Smoke sauna of the old spruce tree. The ritual is performed by a nature spa master. Each visitor receives the master's attention and careful pampering for about 4 hours – from start to finish. More information available here.
“Ziedu pirts” for experienced bathhouse or sauna users
“Ziedu pirts” is located in Raiskums municipality. The bathing ritual is suited for both experienced bathhouse or sauna users, as well as beginners who are exploring the mysterious world of bathing – couples, friends, family, individuals, and groups up to 12 people. More information is available here.
“Meža SPA” – bathing rituals and Latvian bathing traditions
“Meža SPA” is located in a picturesque place in Jūrkalne municipality. Here you can stay overnight and host various celebrations, as well as enjoy different bathing rituals, and learn more about the traditions of bathing in a master class. More information is available here.
Whether your energy is starting to run out, you crave for new adventures or just an interesting activity for the weekend – a visit to the bathhouse will be exactly what you need.
Going to a bathhouse or sauna is a form of art, and a bathing session performed by professional bathhouse attendants will not only improve your health, but also teach you a lot of new things about bathhouse traditions and yourself!