An essential part of any Imperial city is the Bath-house. The practice began far back in Imperial history in a city built near volcanic springs, but the technology of the Empire soon reproduced the effect and now hot water pools are available throughout the Empire.
The Bath-houses are large public buildings containing hot and cold pools, warm rooms and steam rooms of increasing temperature. There is also usually a gymnasium area too. Citizens of the Empire go to the bath-houses to relax, get a massage, get clean, exercise and, most importantly, socialise. Most important business is conducted in the steam rooms of bath-houses. High level bureaucrats and nobles take a trip to the baths daily. Lower level bureaucrats can usually afford only once per week. If the poorer members of society want to visit the baths they have to work there.
Both men and women are allowed to use the bath-houses, although since most activities are conducted naked (or wearing only the smallest of towels), Imperial Law decrees that only women may go in the morning and only men in the afternoon. Children of both sexes accompany their mother, but boys of ten years or more must go to the men's session.
Refreshment is provided in the form of various flavours of tea, served by a tea-seller who pushes a great urn around on a brightly decorated cart. Tea can be served hot, or sometimes iced (cooled by ice collected from up in the mountains). The common routine is to strip off, take a quick dip in the warm pool, then enter the warm room, progressing slowly upwards through varying degrees of heat. Some bath-houses have extra hot steam rooms that are generally only frequented by young men in displays of machismo. After the steam room comes a massage followed by a plunge onto the cold pool (or warm pool for the faint-hearted). This may be followed by a spot of wrestling or athletics before repeating the whole process again. Businessmen, and women, tend to omit the more strenuous parts of the regime, instead preferring to sit in the milder steam rooms chatting and sipping tea. Much of Teshnuvar's teaching was performed in a bath-house.
The use of bath-houses is considered by the Empire's rougher neighbours to be indicative of how soft the culture is.