Rub-a-dub-dub, thanks for the... scrub???

Trip Start Feb 17, 2012
Trip End Feb 26, 2012

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Saturday, February 25, 2012

If you've ever to Long Island, you know that there are mini malls everywhere you turn. I thought we had a lot of shopping on Long Island, I was wrong. Every street I turn down has shops and people trying to sell items. It's crazy. Even I could only stand so much. One custom in Turkey is to drink tea and lots of it. I swear eta must be a national drink. Store owners drink tea every few minutes especially now since its winter. People deliver tea to shops and don't request money. I'm sure their has to be an agreement somehow. Tea is usually served in a small glass.

The majority of the day, I ended up just walking around. Unfortunately cigarettes must be really cheap here because so many people smoke. It is illegal to smoke in restaurants but you're most likely to inhale a whole pack just a few minutes of walking on the streets. Today I indulged an ate stuffed grape leaves and drinking lots of hot apple tea. Something else really cool they sell fresh fruit juices on the street. You can get a cup of fresh squeezed orange juice, pomegranate juice or grapefruit juice for 3 TL or $1.50 USD.

After doing some research and a helpful push from Ahuvah my best friend in Israel, I ended up going to a hamam (Turkish bath). I ended up going to Cagaloglu Hamam which is a 2 minute walk from my hotel and one of the oldest still working hamam in Istanbul. The Cagaloglu hamam was built in 1741. There are many hamam's in Turkey and all of them are a lot cheaper than what I paid. However there is something magical about to a hamam thats over 300 years old. 

 Hamam is not a spa. It smells like hundreds of years of humidity and heat; a little on the musty side. There is a separate section for men and women; the men's entrance is almost opulent with two marble columns with classic stalactite capitals on both sides and facing the main boulevard. The woman's entrance is around the corner, hidden down the alley. Men still rule in Turkey.

There are five bath options, which are presented on a menu card, in Turkish, Spanish, German, French, Japanese and English. Your choices range from a self-service bath to the "Sultan's Special". I opted for the exfoliation besides who knew what i was in for. Once I selected the treatment, the receptionist handed me a thin, woven-cotton towel called a pestemal, and motioned to the changing rooms. 

These rooms overlook the central lounge area, where women relax on padded benches before and after their bath. The lounge area is not particularly inviting as it is lit by fluorescent light fixtures and looked about as plush as a Communist-era Soviet hotel. The changing rooms were equally sparse, lit by a single bare bulb and furnished with a rickety chair and a bench, topped with a mattress and pillow. This is where you leave your clothes-all of your clothes-as well as any other personal items like your purse and jewelry, and lock the room. 

Everywhere, wood-and-leather sandals of various sizes littered the floor. I was motioned to take off my shoes and put on a pair of their sandals, which were stiff and unyielding. I thought I was going to break my neck shuffling and clomping around on the wet marble floors...but, when in Rome...

I shuffled along on wet marble until we entered the main room or Haraet-the large, white-grey marble domed area, with chunks of star-shaped-glass in the ceiling to allow natural light to penetrate, takes your breath away. I was motioned to the side of the room and a masseuse, using hand gestures, told me to hang my towel on the hooks over the marble sink. She then motioned me to sit. I was handed a bowl and told to dip the bowl in water and pour it over me. Then she disappeared. I continued to bathe myself and wondered what the next steps might be while taking in the incredible marble structure.

There was a large octagonal marble slab in the center of the room called a goebektas, and the diffused light from the dome transported me back to a time no longer-a room filled with women taking an entire day away from the home to gossip and relax, without a care in the world: no working in the fields, no meals to prepare, no children to mother, no men to tell them what to do. If only the marble could talk. 

The steamy room was completely lined with heated gray marble, and I sat at the side of the room, dousing myself with cool water-waiting. Slowly I acclimated to both the warm temperature and the relaxed vibe of the place. There is no rushing when you enter the bath.

My masseuse gestured to me to come over. She grabbed my hand and brought me over for more washing to make sure I was completely wet. The only part of the scrub was a hearty scrub with a loofah-type mitt. My masseuse would simply push my body around if I wasn't situated to her liking.

After my rinse,I was reluctantly rejoined the world again. My skin felt clean and tingly, my muscles were relaxed, and the last thing I wanted to do was leave the womblike atmosphere of the bath and put on my clothes. 

After going back to the changing rooms and getting dressed and dried my hair. Then I stepped back into the honking taxis, internet cafes, and cell phones of the twenty-first century. For a brief couple of hours, however, I'd been transported back to the days of sultans, palaces, and harems. 
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Mom on

So, are you prepared to take Ahuvah's advice more quickly the next time. Sounds wonderful. Your writing actually took me there! Sounds much better than sitting in my office doing tax returns!

jo.christophers on

Are you ever in NY?
That sounded so amazing, all I want now is to have a massage, my whole body aches after reading that post.

Leigh Golby on

Someday, over a bottle of wine, I'll tell you of my experience in the Turkish mixed company with a handsome young stud doing the scrub -a-dub-dub! And Corinne, rolling on the floor, laughing at my total humiliation as my thin cotton wrap slowly slithered down the drain!

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