Humankind has proven to be one truly extraordinary species throughout its existence. We are the least likely animal to be biologically fit to stand at the top of evolutionary chain, yet there we are. Homo sapiens is the only species that questions its own order, establishment and ethics. No bee would ever challenge the right of the queen to lead the beehive, no wild horse would ever contemplate the ethics of having a breeding harem, no she-wolf would ever dream of having equal rights to the alpha male, no lion would ever become a stay-at-home dad, so that the lioness can pursue her own hunting career, come to that, no lion would ever question the morality of killing other species. We do all these things. While every other animal can only behave according to what is encoded in its genome, we organize ourselves in complicated systems and then we challenge their legitimity. There is no biological reason to men and women being equal, yet most of the first world believes that both sexes should have equal rights and opportunities. There is no significant biological difference between a Czech, an American, a Chinese or a Nigerian, and there is none whatsoever between a catholic, a protestant, a muslim or a Jew. Nations and religions are all concepts that have no reason to exist outside our collective imagination, however the humankind deems these concepts worthy of fighting for, more often than not killing each other for, and occasionally also trying to find ways of coexistence in peace and mutual respect. Humankind keeps proving to be capable great discoveries and acts of exceptional empathy, but humankind has also proven to be capable of spectacular stupidity.
It is my belief that veganism is a prime example of the latter. I can understand that one choses to oppose the cruelty of modern meat production. Fair enough. I am also convinced that meat is an important part of our diet, therefore while I don’t eat much meat, I buy it in little butcheries that guarantee the provenance of what they sell. I can do it because I am rich, or richer than most people around the world, because let’s face it, most people around the world don’t have the luxury to worry about the wellbeing of what they eat if their most pressing problem is to make ends meet. As for excluding other animal products from the diet, we are entering the world of theological dispute, and I lack the strength to argue with zealots. Burning rainforest to make space for soy beans, drilling wells in California to plant almond trees and depriving chilean farmers of water to build irrigation systems so that the rest of us can buy fresh chilean avocados and asparagus all-year-round (and note that the 99p Tesco finest chilean avocados are 10 times more expensive on Chilean markets) is not very sensible for the planet either, yet there are only as many battles one can fight. And please, can someone explain to me what problem can there possibly be with eggs? A hen has to lay eggs, regardless if they’d been fecundated or not. It’s like a woman’s period, only edible. I bet you will never be able to look at your sunday brunch in the same way.
Please pardon the long introduction. I just spent 4 days in a detox resort that only prepares raw vegan food, and I have to come to terms with what I’ve just been through. Now why would I willingly put myself through something like that, you may correctly ask. Note it was a present that my dad gave to my mum and before moving abroad again, I proposed to tag along to spend some quality time with my mum. Before someone calls the authorities, the purpose of the present was not to starve me and my mother to death, the resort also runs yoga retreats, the primary objective was to dedicate ourselves to yoga two times a day.
But guys, vegan and raw? I mean, the combination? It’s insane. It’s like something Dante could have invented as punishment for the sinners in the third circle of his Inferno (the circle where Dante places those guilty of gluttony), had he been capable of conceiving a world where human beings only ate seeds and uncooked vegetables. Well, we now live in a world where people pay for such experiences. I can understand the ethics of why some people go vegan. I do not agree with it and I do not think it is a healthy choice, but I can understand their reasons. The raw ideology is a completely different matter though. That’s not only ignorant, it’s plain dangerous. If we made it to the top of evolutionary chain despite being the most vulnerable species, it is exactly because we stared cooking our food at some point. Cooked food is more nutritious, more digestible, as a result we have shorter and more efficient intestine than our closest-related species, our jaw is smaller and our teeth are weaker, which made space for more brains (in some people), our hands don’t need to be equipped with strong claws, which makes them more skillful. Like, try sending a dirty text to your lover with something that is designed to cut through someone elses jugular. Therefore, maintaining that aliments that were exposed to heat are unhealthy or even toxic is not a respectable dietary choice, it’s blatant ignorance. The only species that ignores the diet it was designed for are pandas and they are going for extinction, because they are too stoned from digesting cellulose to have any strength to even think about sex. Just saying.
So, let’s start from the beginning. Me and my mum went to this detox resort in Karlovy Vary to dedicate ourselves to yoga, spa procedures, and detox food.
If you ever come to the Czech Republic, Karlovy Vary is definitely a place worth a visit. It’s a beautiful spa city set in the mountains among deep forests, known for (rather disgusting, but apparently beneficial) hot springs, opulent architecture and Czech Republic’s most popular bottled mineral water, Mattoni. It is also an interesting cultural reality, because just over an hour drive northwest from Prague, you’ll find yourself straight in the Soviet Union. I kid you not. The town has always been popular with soviet military officials during the regime, and not much changed, only instead of uniforms they walk around in designers outfits. Everybody speaks russian, every shop assistant, cafe owner, waiter, spa doctor or masseur either are or speak russian, every restaurant has a menu in russian, our hotel had spa procedures description in russian and russian receptionists, come to that, I believe we were the only clients who were not Russians. All the shops on the promenade sell big french and italian signatures, furs or jewelery (the tackier the better), every restaurant has a wine list aimed for people who would not recognize Chassagne-Montrachet or Romanée-Conti from british table wine, but know they are expensive wines. You also have to understand that since the revolution (I mean ours, there still hasn’t been one to this day in Russia), Karlovy Vary became a giant money-laundry. Popular with the industrial tycoons of the first republic, Karlovy Vary is full of breathtaking listed grand villas, all pristinely restored and converted into flats or spa hotels, no expenses spared (at the end of the day, the cash must be brought out of Russia in one way or the other). The city is an absolute jewel, safe for one building: the theatre (still being left to rot). Which is a shame, really, because although I do not really expect the oligarchs to indulge in such futile activities as going to the theatre, opera is still the perfect occasion to sport the expensive couture sold in the local boutiques and I am certain Anna Netrebko would manage to find a date in her agenda to give a couple of recitals if the price was right, plus there is quite possibly nothing as quintessentially russian as ballet and the locals (so to speak) would have enough money to bring Natalia Osipova over, if they wanted to. Oh well. Maybe one day.
The resort. I will not say the name, because it is not my intention to leave a negative review. At the end the establishment does not aim for people like me, and vegans would probably enjoy it. I am a better person than certain self-obsessed psychos who go to a steakhouse and then bitch on TripAdvisor that they don’t offer enough vegan options. We only went there for 4 nights, but the typical customer stays for 2 to 4 weeks. Imagine that. 4 weeks of detox stay typically includes full board, that consists of raw vegetables, seeds, nuts, almond milk and dodgy-smelling spreads reassembled (I cannot bring myself to use the verb “prepared”) five times a day. The place has no bar, sells no alcohol (they do sell an overcharged vegan alcohol free beverage that they call wine) and doesn’t make coffee. The kitchen does not operate above 42ºC, so I honestly think we were lucky to get hot water for tea in the morning. The kitchen also closes at 7.00 pm, so you need to have dinner before that ungodly hour. On the other hand, with the unappealing culinary experience and no booze, no one probably enjoys spending hours in their restaurant. Also, can someone please enlighten me about the purpose of having an expensively refurbished spa area in a hotel, if the hotel in question does not sell champagne? Isn’t it like one of the perfect pairings? Sauternes-foie gras, vodka-caviar, jacuzzi-champagne? No? Sounds perfectly reasonable to me.
However, let us have a closer look on what is a vegan raw breakfast. Fresh fruit and vegetables, and so far so good. Yoghurt alternatives: chia seed pudding that has none flavour whatsoever and coconut yoghurt that tastes like fizzy (I guess the added yeast misperformed) sawdust. Raw bread: desiccated sesame seeds mixed with vegetable juice, or some dodgy brownish gummy matter that smelled of Marmite. Served with some sort of kurkuma-spiced hummous, only not, because to prepare hummous, you need to cook the chickpeas. And nuts, literally everywhere. Everything is lactose-free (of course), gluten-free, pleasant flavour-free, but if you suffer from a nut allergy as well, you’re basically fucked. The funny thing is that the food leaves you feeling both heavy and without energy. I guess it’s natural, because your body needs more energy to process uncooked seeds than it can get from it, which is the reason raw diet works for weight loss, if you stick to it, but if you stick to it for too long, your period is likely to disappear, and I am certain you will also start having visions of San Francis of Assisi preparing tagliatelle al ragù from lambs he had slaughtered with his bare hands. I did not get that far. I refused to endure the full board in the establishment, so we went out every night for proper dinner. On a disgusting note: the diarrhea arrived on the second day, which I guess is part of the detox. FFS, I managed not to shit myself in Bolivia, where one could even expect it to happen, but I have the pleasure in a 5 stars resort in the Czech Republic?
The typical clientele: an unaccompanied russian lady of a certain age. My cynical guess: a desperate housewife who had been sold this fantastic experience as a luxury detox spa retreat, while the only person who is getting any detox at all will be the husband dedicating himself to something far more sensible, like shagging his young mistress. Thanks to the diet, the poor lady will probably be drained of any physical strength by the end of the day, so she’ll just pass out without even trying to argue with the husband over the telephone. Whoever thought of the entire concept is pure genius. My advice: ladies, spare yourself the humiliation of being parked in an establishment like this, don’t stay at home, pursue your career, keep yours what is yours, so one day when he walks out on you, you will not be left on the street with your bare arse. You will also not be tricked into a 5 stars gulag, forced to shut up and pretend you are grateful. Being your own person makes your relationship one between two equals, not a glorified prison. For either of you. Do I have trust issues? Oh my. Do I have my good reasons? OH MY!
Now, yoga was the best part of the programme (except for the daily 90 minutes morning session starting at 7.30 am), although as I mentioned my slight intestinal issues were making me a little nervous at times. You know, when they tell you concentrate on every bit of your body separately and relax it, I was thinking that if I relax a little too much, it’s all going to end in tragedy. So, yoga will not be becoming my favourite activity in the near future, but I can see how the entire breathing control and meditation can be useful. I also now discovered I have more chakras that I will ever know what to do with, and probably some of the utterly unnatural position I managed to fold my body into may come in handy at some point. When I tried to teach the downward dog position to my dog, he tried to have puppies with me, so if there are any unexpected benefits to yoga, I will keep you guys posted.