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Saturday, March 29, 2014

Bathing in History

Gourds are used as lovely, colorful lights on patios.
Today I decided to be brave and experience something unique.
Did you ever laid naked on a slab of marble, covered by 4 inches of foam and then they bring out the sandpaper to work on your body?
Today I took a Turkish Bath!
Pottery tea pot displays.

They advertised everywhere and, since I love Asian massages, I decided to give it a try. The bath people even offer a free ride from and back to your hotel. When the van picked me up, there were already two British ladies on board. I figured correctly that we would get to know each other intimately. The first half hour was spend stuck in traffic in the narrow streets of Sultanahmet, or old Istanbul. Fruit carts, delivery van and buses were stuck in a solid knot while drivers snoozed, honked or swore in Turkish.

The bath house, or hamam, built in 1475, was shaped like a mosque with many domes. The marble entry hall had two storey-high wooden change room structures for men. The women's bath was off through another hallway under another marble dome with similar change rooms. The two English ladies and I were ushered into a very small room and told to strip naked. We were each handed a cotton strip of fabric, which I hoped to be the size of a table cloth. It actually was the size of a small table runner.
We tried to pull and tug but it stayed the size of a small table runner.

Roasted chestnuts
We were then led into a sauna. A small, very hot sauna with cedar benches and a glowing fire. At first I didn't think I could breathe. But once I relaxed it was fine. I sat until sweat poured freely from my spontaneously opening pores.

'My' masseuse summonded me. I tried to look dignified, but all sweaty and wrapped in a handkerchief, this was hard to do. She instantly unwrapped me, spread my cloth like a place mat on a huge marble slab in the center of the room, and ordered me to lay down on it, much like a turkey on a dinner table.

She proceeded to pour warm water over me, before bringing out the heavy artillery in the shape of a sandpaper glove. It wasn't as bad as I had feared and actually felt quite invigorating.
Birdsnests made from pastry filled with nuts.

More warm water was followed by about 6 inches of foam, spread all over me. Soap crawled into my ears and mouth as I had a massage that was not as good as an Asian massage, but not bad. I flopped around on the marble slab like a slippery bar of soap, trying hard not to slide off and onto the floor. Then I was ordered through an arched doorway, up the steps and into another arched dome with a small pool.

"Swim, lady, swim!" my masseuse ordered. I flopped into the water like a slippery trout.
Cold! It was cold water. But once I decided to endure a Turkish bath, I think I resigned myself to accept my fate lock, stock and barrel - without complaining. So I swam.
After this I was invited back into the sweat sauna, or to take a nap on the slab of marble. I decided that clothes and tea sounded like the most attractive next step.

I'll have 2 warm breads!
On the way back to the hotel, and once again stuck in traffic, cars honked, tourists shopped for leather shoes and the driver mumbled many Turkish swear words.
But I just sat there, gloating. I felt very clean.
And very serene.
I had just had a Turkish bath!

I'm sure you will appreciate the fact that there are no accompanying photos for this story.

 
You want to go where?




2 comments:

  1. Thank you for sharing your experience with vivid description, Margriet! I think that's one I would forego. But now we both know!

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  2. I warned you Margriet, that you would feel like a slab of meat on a cutting block. But it does have its' redeeming qualities…modesty is not one of them. Good for you to embrace the turkish bath in all it's "rawness". HA HA

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