A chronicle of Alison and Ron's trip around the world in 2009-2010.


"Not all those who wander are lost"
- Tolkien

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Alison takes a Turkish Bath

Likely my #1 reason for coming to Turkey was to experience an authentic Turkish Bath because of its exoticness, richness of history dating back to when it was the only way Ottomans bathed, and just because I can’t pass up anything that resembles a spa experience, as a true Taurean and comfort glutton. I was tempted by a few local hamams but then decided to go big and visit the 300 year old Cagaloglu Hamam with its exquisite Ottoman dome with small star shaped skylights. It was about $86 (including tip) for the Complete Oriental Luxury Service which sounded really good on paper. Something to the effect of me feeling like a sultan, and I say sign me up! It was definitely worth the experience but was not exactly luxurious in western terms nor all that relaxing.

I come in to the hamam, no one is particularly helpful or welcoming probably because they are already in “1000 Places To See Before You Die” and don't need my word of mouth. They give me a little wooden room on the first floor off the marble courtyard. The room has frosted glass up to the neck to give privacy while changing in to a mini plaid towel wrap and ridiculously oversized wooden clogs that make walking on the wet marble floor a slow and humiliating affair, trying not to slip and break my hip like in the medi-alert commercial.

I’m led in to the hamam which is sauna warm with a octagonal marble slab in the middle of a large domed room to sit and relax. After 15 minutes or so my masseuse, or Greldur the Gargantuan as I come to lovingly refer to her, comes in and leads me to the marble slab to lie down. She is a big lady and speaks little English, not enough to chit chat with me (thankfully). Instead she jibber jabbers in Turkish to the other masseuse almost nonstop.

There is only one other women on the slab so naturally I lay down one spot away facing the other direction to give us a little “space“. Greldur doesn‘t like this, she wants me right next to the other women for no apparent reason, my feet to her head so she has an extremely intimate view if she looks up and I can inadvertently kick her (which I do twice).

First up is the loofah exfoliation which is quite the experience with layers of dirty skin pealing off my body like I’m some sort of filthy snake. (Yes, I do bathe regularly.) She rubs my décolletage area so hard the skin turns raw. HEY I’m fragile here Greldur! When my front is done I turn over as carefully and gracefully as you can on a wet slab of marble which isn’t careful or graceful, more like a beached whale coming about.

Then I’m led by hand to the corner of the room where I try to act nonchalantly standing naked being doused with bucket after bucket of freezing cold water with a dozen onlookers all waiting their turn, now a bit pensively. I chuckle a little out loud. What else to do?!

Next is the dry massage which is the most like a standard Swedish massage with glimpses of deep tissue torture like an elbow digging into your spine bone because Greldur isn’t exactly trained in the finer details and structure of the muscular-skeletal system.

The wet massage portion involves a lot of foamy water and more scrubbing with a washcloth. This is definitely when you start to feel about 5 years old and you are getting a bubble bath from grandma. I was just waiting for her to start cleaning out my ears while humming a nursery rhyme.

Last was a hair shampoo and of course more buckets of water. I have to say that I did feel really clean and the most relaxing part of the afternoon was sipping apple tea afterwards in the coolness of the café area, basking in the glow of my smooth skin.

If only momentarily, five minutes into my walk back to the hostel I was dripping sweat and smelly all over again.

2 comments:

Danni July 31, 2009 at 3:34 AM  

hi guys! i found your blog through some other travel blogs and love reading your adventures! i laughed out loud at your description of the turkish bath experience! i was in turkey last october and had a chance to experience the urkish bath in a less 'touristy' hamam.. i think all hamams must be good for hilarious travel stories! you can read about my experience if you want here: http://thosegirlstravel.blogspot.com/2008/09/clean-is-new-dirty.html

anyway, thanks for writing! looking forward to your future adventures :)

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