Day Twenty Four – Wenceslas Square
Sitting patiently, staring passively at any passersby, the woman’s feet twitch every now and then, fascinating curious onlookers who want to take the time to watch a stranger’s feet be eaten alive.
The controversial practice popularized itself in the early 2000s in Europe and Asia, when spas imported these mainly middle-eastern native “doctor fish” (or garra rufa) to clear away dead skin cells on feet, leaving spa-goers’ legs fresh and smooth.
For about $11 USD, the public can pop into this Thai massage parlor and pay to have these toothless carp eat away the dead skin from the bottom of your feet.
Banned in most of Canada and parts of the U.S., these fish aren’t actually born craving dead human skin cells. Doctor fish survive on algae and other small marine life usually found on the edges of rocks in either fresh or salt water. When these fish are taken in to be a part of this luxurious spa treatment, they’re underfed, so when humans deign to put their feet in the tank, the dead skin serves as a perfect replacement for the ravenous aquarium inhabitants.
Another problem with the practice is the sanitary side of things. With traditional tools, they’re swapped out between clients, scissors being sanitized, that aforementioned dead skin being thrown away. Doctor fish aren’t nearly as disposable, which means any diseases or infections someone pays to have eaten away can easily be transferred to the next unlucky client.
Nevertheless, the novelty of the treatment draws tourists to any number of massage parlors around Prague, leaving them walking away with smooth surfaces and questionably clean interiors.