Turkish/Russian Bathhouse

Located in The Castilla del Mar is a Turkish/Russian Bathhouse. Offering a wide variety of services to pamper your every need. This is what the Miami Herald news paper wrote about it.

Wrung Out? No Sweat!

Turkish/Russian Bathhouses Offers to Invigorate You

Miami Herald Staff Writer

Wrapped in a searing heat that Lucifer himself would cringe at, Paul Boca sat and sweat and let the worries of the outside world drain from his pores.

Nearby, 15 tons of boulders rested on brick arches, baked overnight to 160 degrees by gas jets. Every few minutes, Boca and others seated on the top tier of the red-tiled Russian Radiant Room poured buckets of cold water over their flaming heads.

"After a 10-hour day, I come here and relax," said Boca, 32, a construction supervisor. "Once I go home, I feel like a brand-new man."

The broiling heat of the Russian Radiant Room is not for the sweat-shy or heat-sensitive. It is, however, the main attraction of the Russian and Turkish Baths, a labyrinth of exotic steam rooms and therapeutic saunas open since November in the cellar of the Castle Beach Club, 5445 Collins Ave.

Bathhouses such as this originated in Eastern Europe and have been popularized in New York, where they are called schvitzes -- the Yiddish word for steam bath.

Now these Old-World recipes for backaches and stress are becoming Miami Beach's latest craze.

"There's nothing like this south of New York," said co- owner John Gonzalez, a local developer and contractor. "You could spend a whole day here."

Gonzalez met Boris Tuberman, co-owner of a New York schvitz, while designing Tuberman's Miami Beach apartment. Gonzalez drew the plans to the Russian and Turkish Baths and together with Tuberman opened the enterprise -- 11,000 square feet of steam rooms and baths costing $1 million.

For a $15 entrance fee, visitors can inhale the eucalyptus and peppermint herbs of the Aroma Therapy Room, said to help clear sinuses and cure migraines. Others lounge in the 100- degree saltwater Jacuzzi. There are also a traditional Redwood Sauna and the dry steam of the Turkish Hamam Room.

But the sign of a real schvitz is the Russian Radiant Room. Visitors roast here for as long as possible, periodically draining buckets of ice water over their heads. Diehard bathers pay extra to be pummeled by small, oak-leaf brooms, which rid the skin of toxins.

Many visitors step immediately from the Russian Radiant Room into Swedish Showers, which shoot ice-cold water all over the body from six shower heads. The dramatic shift from hot to cold is said to increase circulation and send oxygen shooting through the body.

"It's a million-dollar shower," said Johnny Adams, 26, who broils in the Radiant Room every weekend before hitting South Beach clubs with friends. "It's a good prep. It enlivens you."

Some visitors stagger from the Radiant Room to the 40-seat dining area to sip on water, beer or Gatorade and watch TV or play cards. Elena Ermilova, a local Russian emigre, serves traditional homeland meals of garden salad and marinated scumbria (mackerel).

A Relaxation Room offers bunk beds where patrons can nap if they become too tired. For extra cash, visitors can also indulge in underwater massages, herbal bath Jacuzzi treatments or mud treatments. Licensed masseuses stroll through the premises, offering half-hour massages for $26.

"You just feel so relaxed coming out of here," said Cary Leeds, an ex-circuit tennis player who said he was sent to the baths by a trainer. "It relieves sore muscles and prevents injuries."

The Russian and Turkish Baths are open only to men Mondays and Wednesdays, co-ed the rest of the week. Fifty percent of his clientele, in fact, are women, Gonzalez said.

"I don't feel threatened an ounce that it's co-ed," said Michelle Riley, 27, who visits the baths twice a week. "I feel people who come here are really nice. There's no other place like this in Miami."

The New York bathhouses played an important role in the area's culture in the early part of the century. Immigrants, most living in cold-water flats, would congregate at the more than 40 public baths. The idea was to keep everyone clean and hygienic. The advent of modern plumbing, however, greatly diminished the baths. Today only a few remain scattered through Manhattan, Coney Island and New Jersey.

The tradition and services of the New York baths have attracted their share of celebrities, ranging from rap star L.L. Cool J to the late comedian John Belushi to actor Billy Crystal. Already rumored to have visited the Miami Beach baths: actor Steven Bauer and Robin Quivers, shock jock Howard Stern's celebrity sidekick.

The 10th Street Baths in New York's East Village, however, is "a whole different animal" from the Miami Beach bath, said Gonzalez, who grew up in the Bronx.

That schvitz is older, he said, situated in a crumbling 10th Street building, and attracts an array of clientele ranging from Hasidic rabbis to hung-over punk rockers. The Miami Beach bath attracts mainly young professionals, like Boca, and Russian locals.

"This one's good because it's here," said James Mitchell, who had been going to New York's baths since 1974 and now travels three times a week from Hollywood to attend the one here. "Nothing on Earth gets you cleaner than this."

The Russian and Turkish Baths, located in the Castle Beach Club, 5445 Collins Ave., are open from noon to midnight every day. Mondays and Wednesdays are for men only; the rest of the week is co-ed. Entrance is $20 and valet parking is $5.