I really wanted to try the fabled Turkish Bath. In Göreme, Cappadocia there was a Hamam there that was supposed to be quite nice, though geared for tourists (but then, all Cappadocia is, but that hasn't spoiled it yet). So the day after the amazing tour of fairy chimney monasteries, I was ready to wash away the ochre dust and experience something luxurious.
I choose the traditional package with the exfoliation and massage. It cost me 60 Turkish Liras, which is not cheap for Turkey. I didn't know very much what to expect when the attendant led me into the Hamam. Here is what happened:
First I got some kind of clay mask pained on with a silicone baking brush (a brill idea to use that, btw). Then I undressed and got a towel which was so narrow I could barely wrap myself with it (tall or busty ladies beware!). Later on I learned that I should have kept my undies on, but as all the tourist women I saw there were butt-naked as well, so I guess I didn't shock anyone. Anyway, it was the women-only section.
I was led into what looked very similar to a Sauna, but mildly warm and not very humid. I lay there remembering the blazing heat of the Saunas in Germany and doubting the point of being in a lukewarm Sauna. Suddenly near the end of the 15 minutes I was supposed to be there, my body broke out into rivers of sweat. Honestly, I can't remembering sweating so much, ever. There was a Japanese girl lying next to me, she didn't have a single drop of sweat on here and that made me feel like a sweaty pig. I made myself stay in there and sweat a bit more, then escaped into the main hall which looked like this. I got water to drink and was told to spread out my towel on the marble block in the middle (it was hot!). I relaxed there for a while, listening to the musical plunking of water drops into the pretty sinks. After a while the Japanese girl came out of the Sauna -- I guess she hadn't read the don't stay-longer-than-15-minutes warning: she looked very red, and yes, also very sweaty.
Then the Hamam woman came, and the fun part began. First she splashed me with bowlfuls of cool water. Heavenly, I could do this for hours. After that she got a cloth bag, dipped it in soapy water, then swung it to an fro to fill it with air. Then she proceeded to squeeze amazing quantities of foam all over me. (I was thinking that the kids will love me now that I possess the secret of making foam!) Meanwhile the lady started massaging me, a very smooth and relaxing massage. Then she grabbed a mitt and proceeded to scrub me down, from neck to feet. The mitt was very mildly rough and felt really nice, and the lady used quite a bit of muscle-power while scrubbing. When she told me to turn around, I threw a glance at my body and got totally shocked by the black rolls of dead skin all over me! Eeek! Apparently I should exfoliate more often. The Hamam lady grinned at the face I made, she probably gets that with every client.
After the scrub was over I was once again doused with water, and to my dismay that was the end of it. Now I could shower, go to the pool and maybe back to the Sauna. BTW a Turkish girl I talked to told me that women often go to the Hamam with their friends --- I imagine sitting around with your besties in your birthday suits might be awkward at first, but very liberating. The closest I got to that was playing catch with a ball in the pool with the Japanese girl (the one that got cooked in the Sauna). I also discovered that the changing room was also a lot of fun --- girls moisturizing every inch of their skin, peeks at each other's exotic beauty products (all the east-Asian girls had these face masks from Hongkong that come out of a sachet and look like cut out of tissue paper. Wanna try!) After that I decided to meet up with the rest of my family and eat something. I walked on air --- I felt amazingly fresh and relaxed.
I wanted to go to a Hamam again later on in the trip in Safranbolu, since that is supposed to be one of the nicest ones in turkey, but unfortunately I was low on cash and time. What I did do is buy some Hamam scrubbing mitts and olive oil soaps. I also wanted one of those beautiful Hamam bowls, but they were a bit too heavy!
In retrospect, I wish I had also gotten the oil massage --- the skin really gets dry easily after such an intensive exfoliation. At least I should have been more diligent in moisturising for a week after the Hamam. Oh, well, the next time I am in Turkey I will know. Oh, you bet there will be a next time in Turkey. I mean, they cook so good, they have amazing baths, cats everywhere, and something to explore everywhere you turn -- what more could a girl want?
* The glass bottles light up inside, just like in this video.