Searching for a tourism lure: Russia's $42,000 golden enema sculpture

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It's interesting to think about how cities compete for tourists. Apart from spending billions of dollars on advertising, fighting to host World's Fairs and the Olympics, and desperately organizing major events, almost every aspect of a city's infrastructure could be seen as part of a bid for the tourist buck. Police? Handy for keeping the tourists safe. Public transportation? Offers a cheap way for the tourists to get around. Sports teams? Keeps the tourists happy while they're here and gives them handy souvenirs to take home!

I thought about this recently when I read about the town of Zheleznovodsk, Russia. Home to the Mashuk-Akva Term spa, the town seems to have long been casting about for a sense of identity. On the one hand, it is noted for the healing powers of its mineral springs; then again, so are many other towns in the Caucasus Mountains region, where it is located. Not long ago, it hit on the idea of using the iconic enema, the delivery system for many of its healing mineral treatments, as a sign of its civic pride. The first step was posters that stated "Let's beat constipation and sloppiness with enemas!" The signs hung in the local spa and garnered a fair bit of attention.

Buoyed by the success of their enema poster campaign, the spa commissioned a sculpture. Costing $42,000, Mashuk-Akva's enema statue shows an 800-pound bronze bulb-style enema being carried by three Botticelli-esque angels. While the sculptor admits to a certain irony in her finished work, the director of the spa considers it to be an utterly non-ironic symbol of the region. It remains to be seen if Zheleznovodsk's new sculpture will become a cultural icon or will end up being a washout. Regardless, the next time I take a trip, I'm going to give a long, hard look at Russia, the land of the golden enema!

Bruce Watson is a freelance writer, blogger, and all-around cheapskate. The more he thinks about it, the more he's impressed with Zheleznovodsk. Come to think of it, maybe New York needs an enema!

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