I had an experience today that could rival my experience in Japanese onsen…
The girls were weary.
But every guidebook said it was the “quintessential” Turkish experience…
Thus, we decided to risk it.
What better way to spend a post-night out than in a traditional Turkish bath in Istanbul??
We picked one of the oldest baths in Istanbul, a marble structure that’s been standing since 1400. We didn’t know what to expect, and so we did some reading in advance about the process: you are given your own little room to change & lounge if you like; once ready, you enter the sauna to warm up. You then experience a Turkish scrub & massage before entering the “cooling room” to wind down. A whole 1.5h process.
Amy and I were the only ones who chose the bath & massage package. The rest of the ladies just paid an entry fee to check out and lounge in the baths. After we all emerged changed from our little assigned rooms, we crossed the archway leading to the baths and I don’t even know how to describe what we saw (obviously no pictures allowed).
The perimeter of the room is lined with marble sinks overflowing with water. Women are sitting around them either cleansing or relaxing. The most overwhelming site was the huge circular marble platform in the center of the room. Elevated from the ground, it’s bathed in light from the cut-outs in the dome ceiling above it. On this platform are several women laying on towels being rubbed down with soap by hefty Turkish women.
We entered nervously, sitting by one of the sinks thinking we were glad we didn’t pay for a scrub (thinking, man that would be awkward) and waiting to be called into a room for our massage and for the other girls to head over to the ‘actual bath’.
After 15 min Amy and I are called up – to our surprise – to the altar to lay down. There we undergo a completely unexpected 30 minute soaping and massage by these ladies. I couldn’t help but laugh as the other 4 girls just had to sit and watch us be cleaned… as it turned out there was no further room to enter: this in itself constituted the bath!
The massage was wonderful, but the experience weird and interesting in that I definitely never expected to receive such a rub down from another person! I was rinsed with basins of water after the massage, covered in hot towels, and lead back go my little alcove for some lounge time. Such a strange (but worthwhile) experience.