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In Turkey - Türkiye'de

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True personal experiences of travellers to Turkey

In Turkey - Türkiye'de

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The Ladies Turkish Bath Learn Turkish Language from delightful Turkish stories -- Turkish bath for ladies

When I got to Turkey, I wondered what it would be like to go to a Turkish Bath (Hamam) . Most of my Turkish friends said, "Don't go!" Many under 35 had never been to one, except as children with their mothers or aunts.

In a discussion one evening with four rather upscale Turkish women, only one friend said that if I wanted to try it I should go to a good one -- in a five star hotel where I'd be treated like a Sultana. Basically, the rest of them shook their heads and asked why on earth I would want to do that!?

So the one brave friend and I went to Istanbul and I forced myself to sit by the pool all day at our 5 star hotel. After a grueling day in the sun and water, I got up the courage and decided to have that Turkish Bath.

Hee Haa, the things you learn in foreign countries. It was an incredible experience from start to finish. (But pricey...The Istanbul Swisshotel provided a lush warm room with a hot whirlpool, a hot steam room for the bath [with bathperson], and a relaxing room afterwards -- for slightly less than a box of emeralds...)

First, I was greeted by two women who helped me out of my clothes. Ever helpful, they took me to the hot whirlpool room. (The room was not just warm, but past that -- and just short of bake! )

Then they helped me step into the re-eally hot pool. (Getting into it was difficult and I am convinced they were afraid that I wouldn't get in if they didn't make sure... and they may have been right!) There they left me, and I simmered -- for about 15 minutes.

Just when I thought my body would melt like hot play-dough, my guides returned. They wrapped me in a linen sheet ('peştamal') that covers about as well as a wet T-shirt, and I was escorted into a round warm, slightly steamy marble room with a domed ceiling and indirect lighting.

There were little niches in the wall with marble shell sinks and brass spigots shaped like fish. In the center of the room was a large altar (or, marble table). They "asked" me to lie face down on a clean and dry linen sheet on this warm marble slab. And the wet linen sheet was taken away.

The Turkish bathperson (short Turkish woman, great upper body strength, no English, really sweet smile...) was wrapped in a linen sarong. She poured (using a special dish -- 'tas') cool water over me -- which felt wonderful, because it was as warm as a sauna in there! Neck, shoulders, arms, hands, back, waist, thighs, legs, feet...ahhhhhh.

At this point, she put on loofah mittens (kese), lathered them up with a large bar of creamy scented soap, and began to scrub every square inch of my body... leaving no crevice unscrubbed. (Disconcerting, was a word that came to mind.)

Then she motioned me to turn over. (It worked best for me, to just keep my eyes shut.) Basically, every millimeter of dead and dirty skin was scrubbed off, even between fingers and toes. Then, she took off the loofah mittens.

She helped me sit up on the marble slab and she started pouring what felt like buckets of cool water all over me from my head down. Soon after, she motioned for me to stand and started sluicing off all the dirt with her hands. (I remember cleaning a horse with exactly the same motions...) Then she changed the sheet and I lay down again on the warm slab.

She put a spongy mitten on one hand and took a bottle of unscented liquid soap in the other. She scrubbed and massaged all my muscles starting at my neck and working every muscle down the entire length of my spine to my feet. (This was an especially wonderful part... And after it, I truly understood the concept of bonelessness.)

Then it was time to roll over again, and she massaged and cleaned, starting at my throat, to my shoulders, arms, and hands -- as she worked her way down to my feet and toes... She helped me sit up and washed my face, ears, neck and finally my hair -- as if I were a small child.

Just when I thought I was going to dissolve, she pulled me up to a standing position and poured cool water all over me again and again. Little by little, the water got colder and colder, until I almost couldn't stand it. (In fact, the last bucket evoked a screech from me...and we both laughed out loud!)

Then came the lush Turkish towels, one for my head and a large fluffy bathrobe for the rest of me. The two women from the boiling pool came back and gently led me (staggering, slightly) to a room where I lay on a soft lounge chair and slowly came back to the real world. (The real world in this instance included a television set playing a Turkish version of MTV.)

Finally, it was time to go -- so I got up and dressed. And as I passed from the bathing rooms, I caught a fleeting glance of myself in the mirror. My skin glowed rosily (and felt as soft as a baby's). My eyes were bloodshot and my face was pink... Turkish people would know I'd been to the Turkish baths.

One caution. Having a Turkish bath with a sunburn is not the best idea.... JS (April '97)
In Turkey - Türkiye'de

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