This floating castle appears to be from an enchanted fable, but in actuality it is Europe's best preserved Renaissance water castle.
Sila Sandunov and Elizabeth Uranova found themselves in quite the predicament. Both celebrated actors in the court of Catherine the Great, the two were very much in love. However, Elizabeth had also caught the attention of a powerful noble who wanted her to become his new mistress.
Desperate to stay together, the lovers turned to the Empress Catherine for help, as Elizabeth was favored by her majesty. Like an ending to a Shakespearean comedy, the Empress not only took the actors under her guardianship, but she also arranged for their marriage and presented them with diamonds as a gift.
With some business savvy, Elizabeth and Sila used the money from the diamonds to construct a bathhouse in Moscow in 1808. The Sanduny baths were born, becoming the place to be in the city, housing elegant furnishings and even silver bathtubs for the elite.
By the end of the 19th century, the luck of the forbidden lovers appeared to have run out. When Russian heiress Vera Frisanova and her husband inherited the property, it had fallen into disrepair. Seeing an opportunity, this new duo decided to give the baths a palatial facelift. By 1896, the renovation had restored the Sanduny Baths’ status as Moscow’s elite bathhouse in a mix of baroque and rococo style.
Elizabeth and Sila may no longer be alive, but their love story lives on in the many couples and visitors that continue to frequent the grand baths. As patrons relax in the heated saunas, the story of the founders can perhaps give them hope that if they ever run into trouble, all they need to do is visit an Empress.
Written By: Seamus McMahon
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