Travel France

Istanbul: A Turkish Bath

Istanbul. A Turkish Bath

For the last few weeks, Mon Fils and I have been walking in the footsteps of the ancient Romans: touring Ponte Gard, Carcassone and the amphitheaters in Nimes, Arles, Orange, and more. So it’s only fitting that we would give ourselves a Roman treat while in Istanbul.

A Turkish Bath
There are almost as many Turkish baths in Istanbul as rug dealers. Choosing which “hamami” is the “best” is hard to do. One that was highly recommended is Çemberlitaş Hamamı. Built in 1584, it is one of the oldest baths still in operation today.

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My first
Having never experienced a Turkish Bath, I didn’t know what to expect. First of all, I didn’t have to take the swimsuit I’d carried along in my suitcase. When I checked in, these are all the “supplies” I was given.

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From the front desk I was told to walk upstairs into the “women only” side to claim a locker for my belongings.

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There I changed into only in the contents of the small bag; I wrapped the checkered towel around me; and I braved it back downstairs. A few of the lineup of similarly clad ladies sitting around on benches in a damp room motioned me to go through the big wooden door into the hamam. There I was not-so-gently grabbed by the arm by a little lady half my size. She pointed me to the huge, circular, heated stone.

Already there were a dozen or so mostly nude women stretched out on the stone. Most were positioned so they created a circle around the outside edge. Some were laying and some were sitting up towards the middle of the circle. Quickly I realized the women inside the circle were “resting” after their baths. The outside circle was in the “work zone.”

I lay flat on my back on my towel on the warm, wet stone for a few moments . Then I felt warm water being poured on my belly. My “attendant” was finishing up with another client and didn’t want me to feel abandoned.

While in this position for awhile, I marveled at all I heard around me in the mist-filled room: water splashing; tin pans clanging on stones and fountains; and the happy voices of women talking among themselves in many different languages.

I almost forgot I was waiting when a huge splash of water poured over my head. The little lady attendant was ready for me next.

The scrub
You’ve surely guessed the little lady with the strong arm gave me quite a workout. Not exactly a “massage, ” the treatment was about as rugged as I would like. The Turkish towel in her hand felt almost like Brillo. But then, it did as advertised and took all the dead skin away… almost to the bone.

Just kidding.

The Turkish bath was better than any facial, any massage I’ve ever had. And another reason to return to Istanbul.

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