One thing I was both excited and worried about upon arrival in Istanbul was the hamam. A Hamam is a tranditional Turkish bath. On our first night, after dinner, we decided to scrape off the travel (literally) at Çemberlitas Hamam, one of the oldest baths in the city. It is, admittedly, very touristy and probably more expensive than other, lesser-known, baths. We went around 10pm, however, and had the place to ourselves. All of us opted for the full bath experience. It was around $60 and included a bath, a scrub-down, a massage, and a shampoo. Seems simple enough?
Not so much.
First off, the bath is not a bathtub. It's a giant cavernous room with sinks along the walls and a big heated rock in the center. Kind of like the Chamber of Secrets. I expected a giant basilisk to appear at
First, you strip down and "wash, wash, wash." Then you rinse. Next, you lay on the giant rock platform in the middle of the room. I felt a lot like a lizard. Once you've sweated out, you "wash, wash, wash" again and rinse. Then you repeat. (I couldn't take photos for obvious reasons, so here are some from the website. They don't show how giant the place is in reality. You can see more photos at the site.)
Here is the ceiling of the room.
This is where you "wash, wash, wash!"
This is where you sweat on the warm rock.
After about half an hour of this, the real fun begins. The bath assistants come in and, while you lay on the platform, soap you up and scrub you down with a mitt. And they scrub everywhere. This is not an experience for the faint of heart. After you've been scrubbed, they take you to a basin to wash and rinse you. Then you go back to platform and get a massage. It wasn't the best massage I've had, but it was a good part of the experience. After your massage, you sit near a sink and have your hair shampooed. Next is a rinse. (My lady was quite clinical and simply dumped a bucked of water over my head and tossed some water in my face.)
And it's over. The whole thing takes about an hour. You go back to your little room where you left your clothes and dress. They had hairdryers in the room, which was good since it was chilly outside and I didn't want to walk back to the apartment with a wet head.
I was worried about my sensitive skin, but the bath products make me break out or anything. I do recommend taking body lotion with you since the soap is not moisturizing and it's good to moisturize having your skin scraped off.
This bath had separate areas for men and women. Some baths are specifically for couples and families. It was a great experience and a great way to bond with the other girls at the start of our trip. It's hard not to be friends with someone after you've seen each other spread-eagle on a giant warming rock in the middle of the Chamber of Secrets.
This post is brought to you by "I'm Going to Wash that Man Right Out of my Hair."