PARNU - There is more in Parnu than just the beach, summer and sun. There is also sadomasochism.
At least it seemed like that to me. There I was, outside a cold chamber watching a man being frozen to minus 120 degrees Celsius, I kid you not, and screaming out, "more, more. Colder please."
It's all in the name of health at one of the city's spa resorts. The city is liveliest in the summer. While at any other time of the year it's just a rather dull, small town by the sea, spa resorts have grown up to fill the gap in the market when the sun worshippers don't come.
It's remarkable that Parnu has one third of all the spa places available in Estonia while the city itself has only a few more than 40,000 inhabitants.
Spas it seems are addictive, if expensive.
"People sometimes book a room a year in advance. They come one summer and before leaving they already book a room for the next year," Brigita Laane, marketing specialist for Estonia SPA, said.
I visited SPA Estonia, which offers both relaxation and health packages. It's one of the biggest spas in Estonia, located in three different houses 's Park House, Green House and White House.
Park House is the biggest and oldest one. On the eighth floor there's a cafeteria from which you can see the whole town, the sea and if it's late enough the sunset. At the end of May a new water park will be added which will have interesting facilities such as a salt sauna with Japanese pool.
The Green House and White house are linked by a corridor, so they feel almost like one house.
The Green House is newer and all the beauty and body treatments take place there. The White House is for sauna and swimming.
One of the things that makes beauty treatments more interesting is certainly Jet Peel, which combines water's and oxygen's useful qualities. There are also more classical and relaxing procedures such as body treatments, a wide range of different massages and a relaxation chamber.
The aforementioned cold chamber in this spa is almost unique, it is only offered in two places in Estonia. Temperature in the chamber ranges from 100 below zero to a mind numbing minus 120 degrees Celsius. It was too terrifying for me, but other people smiled happily when they came out. After that it's off to the gym to warm up.
But if you really want to vegetate there are different types of water and mud baths and a salt chamber.
Relaxation, it seems, is hard work.
"Although it might seem that these treatments don't take much time, people wake up early, they go to swim, eat and have treatments and move from here to there," said Ilmi Leesman, manager at Estonia SPA.
"Before you know it, it's already evening," she added.
Parnu has a long history as a resort. The first spa in Parnu was opened in 1838, but it didn't really attract anyone. In 1889 the Parnu government decided to develop the town as a spa resort. The beach Salon (Kuursaal) was completed in 1891.
Parnu became an important resort town from about 1926 onwards. Parnu became the summer capital 's an official title 's in 1996 and since then the city has won the title each summer. This summer Parnu will get the title on June 21, when the summer season opens.