Between rock climbing and the freezing cold weather in San…
Today was a real adventure! Rob and I got a late start this morning. Ten days in to the trip, we’re at that second wave of “jetlag” that comes with feeling kind of gross and worn down from traveling. The cure? A visit to a Turkish Bath, or Hamam.
Several of the resorts in Bodrum have posh versions of Turkish Baths – but none seem as authentic (and somewhat terrifying) as the Tarihi Bardakci Hamam. This bathhouse has been in operation since 1749. It’s quite unassuming from the outside.
The sign in front advertises “scrub, foam massage, oil massage, soap, shampoo, towel.” When we walked in, a friendly short man in slacks and a collared shirt greeted us and showed us to a changing room with a locker. In a mix of Turkish and English, Rob was instructed to strip down entirely and wrap his waist in a small towel. I was asked to wear a bikini with the towel. We both wore plastic sandals. Next, we were shown to a heated marble slab in the middle of steamy domed room. (shown here, where I’m posing post-bath)
We lay on the hot slab in our towels for about 30 minutes. It echoes in the room. The muffled sounds of construction and a Turkish soap opera in the changing area combined with bright sun from the skylights above is pretty mesmerizing. It’s important to note here that poor Rob has never even had a regular American massage or spa treatment before.
Suddenly, the same man who greeted us is back…but only wearing a tiny towel himself. A bit of a shock! He took me to a small room next door with a mattress-sized marble slab, marble floors and sink. Laying on my stomach on the slab, he scrubbed me with a rough sort of oven mitt. Flip over, more scrubbing. Sit up, careful not to slide off the slab and more scrubbing on my arms. Each time I lay on my stomach, he carefully unties my bikini top to scrub my back and then ties it again. A pretty impressive amount of dead skin is coming off me at this point. Switched to a different mitt and repeated the maneuvers. At this point, he asks if Rob is my husband and when confirmed, invites him in to watch the proceedings. Sitting again, he dumps buckets of warm water over my head to wash off the dead skin.
Now, it’s time for the soap. He makes a soapy mixture in an empty yogurt bucket and dips a small pillowcase into it. Fills the pillow case with air and squeezes to make a riot of tiny soap bubbles. They’re so soft! It feels like a cashmere blanket when I’m buried about a foot under the suds. More scrubbing, this time with a rag. Careful attention to in-between the toes and armpits. Flipping over at this point is a dangerous maneuver since I’m so slippery. Sitting up on the slab, he shampoos my hair vigorously and washes behind my ears and in my nostrils. Rob reported later I looked more poodle than human at this point.
Buckets of warm water dumped over my head while sitting and then standing to rinse off all the soap. I’m done! Wrapped in a turkish towel and then a terrycloth towel, I’m sent out to the waiting area in while Rob goes next. I’m standing in the entrance more than a bit dazed at what just happened. A second Turkish man appears and we’re off for the oil massage.
For another 30 minutes, I’m massaged with a lightly scented oil in a small wood paneled room. Maybe a mix of almond and lemon oil? A great massage. This man and the scrubber both have a way of making their hands shake that is hard to describe and I’ve never seen in an American spa. He leaves me to rest under a towel and goes to give Rob his oil massage.
10 minutes later, I’m allowed to get up and change. I get a plastic bag for my wet bikini and the masseuse helps me take photos in the bath while Rob is on his mandated rest period.
The final total for two hours of washing and massaging at the Turkish Bath? 120 Lira, or just $30 USD each. A local man comes in for his bath as we are leaving. With strict instructions not to bathe for 2 days and lots of handshaking all around from our new friends, we head back out to the Bodrum streets feeling revived with our fresh skin.
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