EXPERIENCE A PIRTS IN LATVIA

To penetrate the mystery of "pirts" better not be cautious. The Latvian version of the sauna, steam room, Roman baths and other Native American sweat lodge provides indeed to plunge naked in the snow when the thermometer shows negative temperatures. But in Latvia, we do not mess with this ceremony belongs to the national heritage. "The pirts is really the temple Latvian, without exaggeration," says Juris Batna, owner Lielzemenes, a complex located about fifty kilometers south of the capital, Riga. "Long before the arrival of Christianity in Latvia with the Crusaders of the Germanic peoples, they were our church," the quiquagénaire, evoking the pagan period before the evangelization of the country in the thirteenth century. At first glance, the Latvian pirts really no different saunas and hammams. From the outside, it's small log cabins heated by wood stoves. "The big difference is what is being done inside. We call it a ritual," explains Juris Batna. The sensory experience of another dimension when it starts and his wife Aelita into action: they paint their patients with assemblies branches resembling brooms witches of fairy tales. As the temperature rises, hot stones, symbols of wood and wool, rhythmic chants, bells, scented oils gradually involved in the ritual, sometimes confusing mixture of sensations, smells and sounds. The ceremony lasts at least three hours - sometimes it can be double - and uses more than a dozen bundles composed of different plant species, says Juris Batna. The final touch is to dive into the icy water or roll in the snow. But before going out in the freezing cold for the last event preceding the supposed nirvana, Mr. Batna pauses: "This is the moment some people - how do we call it? - Ah yes, experience imminent death! "