Just having bought this new/old house--what I've come to think of as a piece of history--a real vacation was out of the question. But being a fan of what I've heard is an essentially French take on travel, micro-tourism, as well as living so close to Sharon Springs, NY, I knew that even a twenty-four hour getaway would feel both like time-travel as well as real-time travel.
Of course, it did. Sharon Springs has no rival in sheer demographic perplexity, quirky history, bad-smelling water and amazing hospitality. Its history as a gentry-spa in the middle of the nineteenth-century is tame compared to the profile of its twentieth-century clientele. Increasingly it was Eastern European Jews seeking the waters (and there are waters) who came to Sharon Springs.
After that there were the World War II survivors financed by German war reparations funds, followed by the Hassidim and now--I should say,today--I saw a Russian-speaking trio. They doffed their tee-shirts to expose ample chests and quivering bellies, unleashed their pit bull (kindly re-leashing him as I strolled hesitantly toward the sulphur spring) and partook.
Understand, I like funky water. A bottle of Badoit is a real treasure to me. Bring on the Hepar and Gerolsteiner. But this is funky, funky water. The sulphur stuff in the first spring hurt the fillings in my teeth. I strolled toward the magnesium spring. Less tooth pain. Probably good for what ails you, as my mother always said of prune juice.
Of course, both the elaborate bathhouses and inhalation rooms surrounding these two springs are all in ruins. As is a phenomenal Moorish-styled 200-room hotel, long-derelict, just across the street. Built in the 1920's to cater to the needs of Orthodox Jews, it is currently owned by Korean investors who are apparently unaware of how many people have paid visits to the strange and ghostly rooms lining the hotel corridors, though the interior tells a story of vagrancy and off-the-beaten-track tourism which off-site landlords have not been able to quell.
Not too far from town, down a bunch of backroads I seem able to remember though I've only been there a few times, is a spring with water as sweet as baby's breath. Okay, much sweeter. I pulled up today and a truck edged in behind me. And parked. I gamely took my bottles to the spring, hoping not to be mugged, raped or forced into unwilling Amish-ness. On the way back from the spring, bottles filled, I approached the truck.
"Does the spring have a name?" I asked.
"No. But a friend of mine owns the property," he said. What he really said was: But a freynd of meyne owns the prop-perty in a thick Australian accent.
"It's great-tasting water," I said, trying to not let on that I was equally as stunned as relieved to discover an Australian as opposed to a kidnapper at the out-of-the-way and nameless spring. An Australian? Here?
I guess we got auerselves a great blassing here with this spring, he finished.
And I had to agree. Sharon Springs is a great blassing indeed.