Running ten minutes late we burst through the door of the Turkish bath.
All that we three girlfriends knew about the Turkish baths was that there would be steam, possibly some scrubbing and massage…basically we were ‘newbies’ and not well researched on hamams. Our cycling guide had booked the appointment for us saying we would love it and Turkish bathhouse was an authentic experience.
The large Turkish gentleman ushered the three of us to a small change room. There he grunted and pointed to the cloths on the table and we gathered it was time to change. The image below gives you an idea of the material we had to work with.
The cloths it turned out were rectangular and about 6 feet long and 2 1/2 feet wide. The three of us looked at each other hoping someone had the answer to how to cover the necessary parts with this interesting garment. With wide eyes the three of us stepped out sporting our skimpy fashions. Our Turkish host in broken English growled, “First time?”
He didn’t wait for the answer. I think it was fairly obvious. He led us through another door and pointed to the door-less bathroom and grunted yet again. You may not be surprised that there were no actual toilets rather holes in the concrete. Yes keep in mind the precariously positioned cloth rectangles.
Out came the trio again with yet wider eyes, our guide leading us through a set of swinging doors. As our eyes adjusted to the dim lighting we found ourselves in the center of the hamam. A large dome shaped concrete building, the hamam’s ceiling is lined rings of circular holes to allow light to penetrate in a star like fashion.
Before us lay a massive octagonal marble table heated underneath by water. Lying on the marble, the warmth penetrates one’s body as the steam fills the room.
As we wide eyed cyclists, who were obviously lost, glimpsed the 30 foot diameter marble table we had a most unexpected surprise. Men lay sprawled across the stone with the same familiar cloths we were clinging to. The rectangle appeared to fit a male body more suitably.
With a more intense grunt from the large gentlemen he began finger pointing and arm waving and we obediently crawled quietly on to the marble table with our new Turkish men friends. I confess we soon succumbed to fits of hysterical laughter while laying on the stone. I do not think this impressed the large Turkish men whatsoever.
As we laid there not knowing what would happen next, one of the Turkish male scrubbers ( no idea what the appropriate title of this role would be) slapped a wet towel across my feet. This meant to follow him where a series of soaping and rinsing occurred. In between each scrub we were directed to the curtain-less shower for rinsing off with gruff one word instructions from the large Turkish men while trying to persuade the ever seeming-to-shrink-unccoperative-cloth that it should stay in its assigned spot.
In the two hours at the hamam we were scrubbed, soaped, rinsed, massaged, oiled and a few chiropractic moves thrown in for good measure. If you think of a spa in North America….it bore no resemblance whatsoever.
We told our cycling guide, after stumbling out dazed and extraordinarily clean from the hamam, that the experience had definitely been authentic.
What would you have done if you had the unexpected surprise of the mixed Turkish bath?
Photo credit image 2 and 3 Wikimedia Commons.