During my stint in Turkey I tried to partake in every traditional cultural activity – from the food to the relaxation.
One of the things that I (and 3 other girls) tried was the Turkish bath. Also known as the Hamam, it is a place for relaxation or cleansing.
We walked in to the change room to be greeted by another English speaker who advised us to take the plunge and partake in the bath in the ‘traditional’ way – that is, get down to the buff – or our undies would get saturated and you would get wedgied.
Seeing as I only had the one pair of knicks on me that day, I got starkers, wrapped around the ‘towel’ they give you, slipped on my thongs (flip flops for you non-Aussies) and headed for the first room. We were greeted by a lady who didn’t speak much any English, but she gave us each a glass of apple tea. Apple tea is a delicious traditional Turkish drink that you can get just about anywhere – and sometimes even for free!
The lady then lathered face masks over us, it was a lovely puke green colour.
Once we were all covered, we were directed to the steam room where we waited for 15 minutes then hit the showers to wash it off.
Walking through the next door we were greeted by the sight of bush. Bush was everywhere (no boys, not in a lesbian porn movie good kind of way). I didn’t know where to look! So I checked out the architecture instead.
In the middle of the room was a hexagonal bench/table. On the edges were naked women being soaped up and massaged by the ladies in black bathers. The walls of the room were lined with benches interspersed by water taps. It wasn’t overly hot as it was in the steam room, but it wasn’t cool either.
We four sat lined up on the wall bench awaiting our turn. There were a few ladies in front of us who were participating in a cross country bike ride. It took us 12 hours on a bus! I couldn’t imagine doing it by bicycle!
I was lucky enough to be first up in our posse.
The bathing lady instructed me to lay out my towel on the seat behind me. I was standing the butt naked while she proceeded to throw a few buckets of water of me before I sat down on my towel. Then she got out the exfoliating cloth and started rubbing me down, she was extremely gentle of my epic sunburn from 5 days previously and pretty much missed my whole stomach.
More buckets of water to wash away the dead skin before being directed to the bench on the other side of the room to await my massage.
Finally, a happy looking blonde lady was waving me over. Again I was instructed to lay out my towel except this time I was to lay stomach down on top of it. I did see her bending knees with previous ladies so I made sure to let her know about the old broken leg (read that little adventure here).
She started wacking me with a pillowcase full of soap bubbles, then proceeded to massage from my feet up till my neck – there ain’t nothing better than a bum massage! – before telling me to flip over.
There’s something just a tad awkward about laying naked on your back in front of strangers, but my massage lady soon had me covered with bubbles from her magic pillowcase.
All too soon, it was over and she was washing away my bubbles by throwing buckets of water on me and directing me back to the shower.
After the shower you exchange your soaking wet towel for some dry plush ones and relax on some loungers with another apple tea.
It was a wonderful experience and one I would recommend to anyone. I would definitely do it again if i had some spare coin.