My first hamam (turkish bath)

Trip Start Apr 14, 2006
Trip End Jul 2008

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Friday, December 29, 2006

When I was planning to visit Edirne I read up on the city in my Lonely Planet guidebook. It mentions the hamam (Turkish bath) and says "Some people might find a visit to the women's side a little too authentic for comfort." (Lonely Planet Turkey, 2005, p. 150) My first reaction was, what the hell does that mean? And then I immediately thought, well now I have to go there. So the next morning Volkan and I went into the center and had duners for lunch, which are sandwiches with shaved meat like a Greek gyro, only on a hoagie (sub) roll instead of pita. Volkan took me over to the women's side of the haman (there are separate entrances) and got me sorted out. Once we got started it was super interesting. I was definitely uncomfortable for most of it but it was a really cool experience. I was very naked, and at first I sat and felt uncomfortable for about 20 minutes in a hot room with hot water running into a large marble sink next to me, with other woman washing themselves from other sinks around the edges of the room. That was definitely the most uncomfortable time, because I was left alone. I realized later I was just supposed to relax, but I thought maybe I should wash myself, maybe there was a miscommunication when Volkan arranged the was for me. Also I didn't know if I should take my underwear off or not (I had already taken off the rest of my clothes) since I had read that in some hamams people do and sometimes you don't. And it was so steamy I couldn't see if the other women in the room had their underwear on or not. I actually did take them off for 5 minutes, but once my eyes adjusted and I could see the other women I realized that was a mistake and put them back on.

So anyway after awhile an old naked Turkish woman laid me out on a marble raised platform in the center of the room. Ok we were both wearing underwear. So she scrubbed me down all over with a rough cloth that was probably dirty, even pulling my underwear down to scrub my tushy, exfoliating all my skin. I felt like I was being rubbed raw. The weirdest part wasn't when she rubbed my front, including my breasts, but when she was doing my arms, because she was holding onto my wrist to move my arm around and kept knocking my hand into her breast. So that was weird. After that she brought me back to my sink and rinsed me off, then back again to the center to soap me up. She basically washed me and massaged me at the same time. After it was over I felt so relaxed and sleepy, it was great.

So Volkan met me at the entrance to the hamam and we went back to his place for an hour, and I got all my stuff together. Then it was time to leave for Istanbul. Volkan was so sweet to take me to the otogar (bus station) and helped me get on the right bus, which was great cause it was pretty confusing. Turkey has an awesome national bus network, but it's kind of confusing because there are about 10 companies all competing on the same routes. So just one last way Volkan was a great host.
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