When you travel, you have to be a Plan B person. Stay flexible is my motto. The original round the world (RTW) plan was to hit the “hot and humid” countries first and then around late March, segue into the more frigid countries, which hopefully would be basking in early Spring like weather. My wardrobe choices such as t shirts, tank tops, and a couple of long sleeve shirts would be perfect for the weather I anticipated. In fact, I had been hauling around a fleece pullover, which I had worn on a cold freezing day in Denver nearly 3 months ago – to 4 countries before I dumped it in Chiang Mai, Thailand. Bye bye . . .
Boy, oh boy, did I mis-calculate. I’m not certain what the temperature was today, but I don’t think it got above 10-15 Celsius max. Oh, did I mention that it also rained? I had planned on going to the Hagia Sophia today, but the line was really long and I decided after 10 minutes of waiting in the rain and cold, that I would try again another day. I did get some excellent shots of the exterior though.
While walking back toward the Grand Bazaar and planning on buying a nice hoodie sweat shirt or fleece pullover, I saw this sign that said Turkish Bath. This was on my bucket list of things to do in Turkey and I said to myself, “Why not today?” The weather sucks and what a great way to treat myself. I went in and immediately was impressed with the family like atmosphere of the business. Not seedy at all. The “works” would cost 60 Lira, which is about $30 U.S. currency. This included a soap massage and bath, oil massage, hot sauna, and “Roman” swimming pool. I was down with that.
So what is a Turkish bath? First off, it’s called a Hamam and according to Wikipedia, “. . . it is a variant of a steam bath, sauna, or Russian bath, distinguished by a focus on water, as distinct from ambient steam.” The Turkish bath became popular in Western Europe in the Victorian era. The process to taking a Turkish bath is similar to a sauna, except that it is closer to to ancient Roman and Greek bathing practices.
When you take a Turkish bath, you first enter a “warm room,” i.e., a dry heat sauna (similar to a Swedish sauna with the hot rocks). I am very familiar with hot saunas and love to stay in them for a long time. This one was a bit overpowering with Eucalyptus scent, but I easily got use to it. The masseur assumed that I would only be in there for 10 minutes and I think he was impressed when I stayed in there for over 30 minutes. I met Fareed, a man from Saudi Arabia, who along with his family, was spending his last day in Turkey. Him and I chatted while we were par-boiled for 30 minutes.
After the warm room, we went into the main massage room where we laid down on this hot floor. I was already perspiring freely and this just accelerated the sweating. However, first I had to get used to the hot floor. It was extremely hot and it took me awhile to lie prone on the ground. Fareed was having the same difficulty, so I didn’t feel too much like a neophyte.
After the “hot floor” treatment, the actual soap bath and massage occurred. This lasted about 15 minutes. Damn, did it feel good. After the hot rinse, where large buckets of water are thrown on you, I received an oil massage. This lasted about 20 minutes. This felt wonderful, especially for my back and legs. Another hot rinse and once again, I sat on the hot floor for 20 minutes, before entering the cold “Roman” bath.
I really enjoyed my experience at the Turkish bath house and will probably return before I leave Istanbul. A couple of you have written me in emails (I wont say who) asking questions about the restrooms here and a couple of other countries I have visited. All of my hotels in all the countries I have traveled to, have had traditional western toilets and showers. However, most public restrooms have a flat porcelain toilet, where you have to . . . umm, kneel down to do . . . umm, number 2. As I have indicated previously, you should try to make damn sure that you don’t have to do anything involving stooping or using toilet paper when entering a public restroom. At my age, I have a difficult time, getting into the “catcher’s position” and I sure as hell am not going to demonstrate my ability to do so in a public restroom in a foreign country.