To conclude our perfect Turkey trip we decided to join C&K in a must-do Turkish experience…the Hammam. So the girls and guys split up to compare our treatment at a very local Turkish bath.
K and I were a little unsure of Hammam etiquette, specifically, what, if any, piece of clothing does one get to keep on, and who is doing the scrubbing and massaging.
Pretending it was no biggy, we walked past scantily-clad men in order to get to the women’s section, I guess that’s better than the other way around.
The cashier with the constant cigarette hanging from her lips pointed us to our change room.
The hand signals from our 30-something, very-buxom attendant, could only have meant “take it all off and use the towel”, so we reluctantly bared all. When our pleasantly smiling masseuse escorted us into the hot, marble bath area and and tore off our towels we found out that towels are just for drying, not for hiding. She pointed to the marble slabs where we were to sit and wait for our next round of charades.
Once we got over our North American female angst and allowed ourselves to relax, we really enjoyed the wonderfully luxurious Hammam experience. Very warm room, just enough moisture, a mix of clear running warm and cool water to pour over ourselves, a good scrubbing from head to toe, massage and thorough and gentle hair wash by a capable and caring woman.
Oh ya, did I mention she doesn’t wear much?
Hammam for Him
When Cory and I returned we were given towels, told to strip down, were directed to a steam room and were told to sit there – all of this in broken English and me with zero comprehension of Turkish. This steam room may have been the hottest place I’ve ever been in my life!! Within two minutes sweat was streaming from pores I never knew I even had. It took mean, lean Cory about five minutes to be pouring sweat so I didn’t feel so bad. Still not sure where all of this was going but unable to stand the intense heat of the steam room and thinking I was going to pass out I left for the room adjacent to the sweat box to cool down. Here you lay, yah right, on heated marble slabs before your treatment begins. Best I could do was sit on them. Was actually feeling somewhat cooler. Saw a thermometer on the wall and asked Cory to check the temperature – 104 degrees!! Thought I was going to die. All of a sudden, a huge and I mean 300 plus pounds huge, hairy, sweating Turk with a towel loosely wrapped around his enormous waist walks in, points to Cory and gruffly says “Come”. About three minutes later I hear Cory scream from another room. Now I know I’m going to die!!
Next he returns for me. Takes me to a marble shower stall, motions for me to sit on the floor, proceeds to remove my towel and starts dumping tubs and tubs of cold water on me…now I know why Cory was screaming. Starts soaping me down, not too gently either, then pulls out his secret weapon…his scrub pad. Proceeds to rake this thing over every part of my body and I’m thinking I must be in a Turkish torture chamber, not a Turkish bath. Now for the massage. He hands me over to his counterpart, a 275 pound hairy lightweight who introduces himself as Mamed. Asks for my name, Ros is as close as he gets. Tells me to lay on the marble slab face up, crosses my arms, pushes down on my chest with all his weight and breaks my back. At least it feels broken. After working me over, none too gently, for 20 minutes of so he drags me back to the shower stall where he tells me to sit and proceeds to dump gallons of water over my head.
Tells me to stand up, says “finished” but stands in the doorway of the shower stall not allowing me to leave. Here I am, a broken, drowned rat with my towel hanging somewhere around my thighs and Mamed looking at me, almost affectionately, smiling and repeating, ”Ros… Mamed”, “Ros… Mamed”. “What the hell is he looking for?” I wonder somewhat uncomfortably. Finally one more “Ros… Mamed” as he rubs together his thumb and forefinger and it hits me…he’s looking for a tip which I’m relieved to provide. After cooling down and changing, Cory and I locate Mamed and his sidekick sitting in their towels, still sweating, chain smoking and drinking apple tea. We thank them, offer some Lira and leave them to treat their next victims. As we meet Vera and Kristin and wander into the night looking for a restaurant to celebrate our last dinner together I can’t believe how refreshed I feel. I think of the experience and think of Mamed, almost affectionately, and smile.