When in Turkey- Turkish Bath House!!
In researching Turkey and Istanbul for our trip, we read all about the Turkish baths located throughout the city dating back to the early Ottoman Empire. Each promised something different to lure in travelers looking for a unique experience, but after our hotel recommended the Suleymani Hamami, constructed by Sinan, architect to the Sultans, we knew we couldn’t pass it up.
A driver picked us up from the hotel and nonchalantly navigated the narrow roads, nearly taking off the rearview mirrors around every turn, before finally skidding to a stop at the bathhouse. We popped into the reception area and were abruptly ordered to a small private room where we changed into our bath house garb: a sarong-like wrap for me (above) and shorts with a one-size fits all bikini top for Brittany (below). No matter how much we adjusted our attire, mine wanted to slide south and Britt’s top wanted to open up for all to see.
After slipping on traditional wooden clogs, I clutched my sarong, Britt tried her best to conceal her upper bits and we click-clacked our way into the heart of the bathhouse.
The first step was to ‘cleanse from within’, aka sweat, in preparation for the cleansing bath. We entered a sauna-like room made entirely of marble and stone, lay down on the central marble slab which was heated from below by a wood stove and proceeded to sweat out all the local beer we drank over the last few days.
You should note that this was not the dim, hazy, cedar sauna you may be used to-this sauna had high stone walls and ceilings which were accented by multiple bubble-like skylights!!
After about 30 minutes we were summoned by two male attendants in sarongs and they started by rinsing us with bowlfuls of cold water. Then they covered our bodies in soap and scrubbed us from the neck down in the most intense 15 minute massage ever.
One of the most interesting parts of this ‘man-handling’ was the ritualistic rhythm kept by both attendants during the treatment. They were completely in synch with each other and simultaneously interspersed the massage by slapping our backs and pouring more bowlfuls of cool water over our heads.
Soaking wet and more relaxed than after any 60 minute massage I’ve ever received, we were directed to remove our clothing and given a dry head and body wrap to wear while we rested. In a stupor, we made our way to the ‘resting room’ where we sipped Turkish apple tea, marveled that we were surrounded by over 400 years of history, and came down from the whole experience.
During the walk back to our hotel we had an extra bounce in our step and relaxed smiles on our face...I can’t wait to do it again!