A sultan's bath

Trip Start Apr 19, 2009
Trip End Dec 20, 2009

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Flag of Turkey  ,
Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Imagine if air was suddenly made warm and liquid. Then imagine somebody pouring this wonderfully light and bubbly mixture over your body and starting to massage all the tension you ever experienced or ever will experience away. Then multiply this wonderful sensation by ten and you might come close to what a Turkish Hamam (Turkish Bath) feels like.

MM and I chose the Süleymaniye Haman, built 1550 by Sultan Süleyman. Tones are hushed and the ambiance is warm and pleasurable. First you are asked to change into comfortable cotton pants/bikini and then instructed to lie on a hot marble stone and – surprise, surprise, RELAX. The big marble slab is situated in the middle of a huge, domed, temple-like room. On all sides little alcoves give way to water fountains and further marble slabs. The warmth of the stone and soothing sounds of splashing water; soon have me drifting off to another world. Once thoroughly heated up, two wash masters approach you and ask you to sit next to a basin. They then proceed to pour huge quantities of water over your head, whilst vigorously scrubbing you down with a loafer (exfoliation heaven). Thoroughly clean, you are now guided to one of the marble slabs and the wonderful liquid air (i.e. the bubbles from a bubble bath) is poured over you. I once opened my eyes and looked over to Marvin. All I could see was the top of his head sticking out from a nearly one meter high bubble cloud. I quickly closed my eyes again and focused on the massage instead. Clean, relaxed, scrubbed and kneaded you lie down again on the warm marble stone before being given dry cotton cloths to dry off and some tea to finish the bathing experience. And what a great experience it was (especially after 7 months of roughing it).

Exploring Istanbul the next day is another highlight of our trip. The buildings are beautiful and built on a scale fit for giants. The bazaar, bursting with stalls, is a kaleidoscope of colours and scents – and the many Döner restaurants keep you going during long shopping and sightseeing excursions. No wonder Constantinople was (and is) such a metropolis all through the ages.
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