Cleaned to Death!

Trip Start Apr 09, 2006
Trip End Jun 09, 2007

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Flag of Turkey  , Istanbul,
Thursday, April 20, 2006

A very short walk from my hostel brought me to one of the many old hamams (a Turkish bath that has been common here since the Romans). The pleasures of the hamam are famous: soaking in the steamy heat, getting kneaded and pummeled by a masseur, then being scrubbed squeaky clean and lathered all over by the attendant before emerging to be swaddled in warm towels.

I chose not to have the massage since I was going to one of the more touristy hamams. A colleague from Lowe's (Rich Gonzalez) gave me a book called 1000 Places to go Before You Die and this place was on the list. It was also mentioned in my Lonely Planet guide.

So, I walked in the place and paid the hefty fee of 24 Lira + tip for a soak & scrub. I was brought to a small private changing room in a room full of such rooms and handed a small thin cloth to wrap around myself. After stripping and wrapping, I stepped out and was ushered into the steam room.

The main steam room of the Cagaloglu Hamam is built entirely of white and gray marble. Picture a large domed room surrounded by pillars with smaller domes surrounding the main one. There are holes cut through the main dome in the shape of stars that allow sunlight to stream in. The center of the room has a huge octagonal raised surface that you can lie on to really feel the heat. Massages are also done while lying here. Surrounding the raised area are a number of wash basins that are carved right out of the marble walls. All the fixtures were very old brass (I notice such things since working for Lowe's). Each has hot and luke warm water where you can wash up a bit yourself (you know, the bits you don't really want the attendant scrubbing). I was lucky to have about half of my time there completely alone to walk around and look at the place.

So I walked in a laid on the elevated surface and started sweating it all out. Just when I thought I would really sweat to death the attendant came in with a bowl of supplies and pointed to one of the side wash basins. He instructed me to sit beside one of them while he was putting on his exfoliation glove. I didn't notice at first, but this was the same guy who showed me into the changing room. He had changed into a wrap as well.

First, he poured several bowls of water on me and then started scrubbing. Scrubbed to death nearly! As he scrubbed he tried to find out where I was from but he only understood that I only spoke English and, of course, must be British. I tried to explain to him and he knew he didn't get it. I mean he was really going to town on every surface not covered. I mentioned that I was wearing a thin cloth, but there were a few men who just went naked. No biggee...there are separate facilities for women. Of course, after the first bowl of water was thrown over me, the cloth was soaking and basically falling off. As soon as he saw my (circumsized) dick he said 'OH - Jewish!'

After a bit of laughing I still couldn't explain it to him. Why are most Americans cut ANYWAY?? I don't think my son will be a freak like me.

After the scrubbing came the near drowning. First in suds and next in water. But, I somehow survived the whole thing and must say I felt quite refreshed after my 2 hour ordeal. I hope to repeat the process in a smaller Turkish city to get the real experience.

I've also wondered around the Grand and Egyptian bazaars - craziness! All vendors that sell a particular product are set up near each other. I don't mean clothes or food, I mean categories as small as belt buckles and sunglass cases. Vendor after vendor after vendor of belt buckles. Who knew?

A ferry ride across the Bosphorus to the Asian side is a must for any visit here - check! The city is beautiful at night.

Tonight I'm headed back to Taksim (the party district) to find trouble!!

XOXO to all and Happy Belated B-Day to Ms. Kynleigh Rose. Four years old!
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lawjdml on

...ever been to a turkish prison?

sabarod on

No, I haven't but it sounds wonderfully exotic. Wouldn't THAT make a good entry?

lawjdml on

Re: prisons...
Just to make it clear! I am not responsible for the comments that my husband makes!!!

travelingg on

Careful, S-Rod, you don't want to end up like Brad Davis in 'Midnight Express'....

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