Catching the midnight express
18.11.2007 - 18.11.2007 11 °C
Last weekend we took the plunge and visited our first Turkish Bath. We had convinced The Canadians to come with us and the four of us ventured into Sultanahmet and the famous Cagaloglu Hamam.
This particular Turkish Bath House has been regularly frequented by the rich and famous and appears in everything from local soap operas, video clips, advertisements and even an Indiana Jones Film.
So on a cold and wintery wet day the four of us ventured in. To set the scene try to imagine a vast cavern of marble, dripping water falling from the domed ceiling, the room full of steam, a huge marble plinth in the centre of the room, a hot room set off to the side, steam spewing out into the main hall.
Before you reach the internal areas of the Hamam though you check in through an opulent lobby area. You pay your tourist prices and are shown through (men to one side - women to the other) to the changerooms, individual cubicles - unchanged in 100 years. Disrobed, you then try to cover what you can with your insufficient tea-towel-of-modesty, and make your way through to the main arena.
Meaghan tells me that her experience was one similar to a harem of naked women, lounging around washing, moisturising and generally lazing around awaiting their turn to be pampered, washed, exfoliated, massaged and rinsed - gently. Well I can tell you that the men's side is a little more... Masculine.
On arriving at the main hall, Joshua and I were immediately confronted by 3 things - the heat, the nudity and the constant and somewhat concerning sounds of violence. Being new to the experience we were ushered through to the hot room, where we sweated it out with a few local guys. We commented on how loud it was, the sounds of slaps, moans and at times shouts of pain. We didn't have to wait too long though until our assistants came in and lead us off to the main arena.
For the next 20 minutes I was rubbed, slapped, hit, pulled, bent, kneaded, elbowed and squeezed until I was supple enough for the wash. Massage over I was dragged up to the wash area and sat down next to a vat of boiling water.
The next 10 minutes made the first 20 minutes seem like a walk in the park, I was drowned in boiling hot water, soaped up and bashed around - modesty was not even the slightest consideration as I was pushed, pulled, sat on, speadeagled, exfoliated, stood up, sat down and generally beaten up, in front of my newest friends - all enduring their own special brand of torture.
Then as quickly as it had started, it ended and I was left feeling somewhat vulnerable. My incredible (possibly violent) physical massage ended with another drowning with boiling water and I was left alone for 10 minutes to gather my thoughts. Just in time to see my comrade in arms - Joshua commence his ritual flogging at the hands of a guy that looked a lot like Magnum PI.
We steamed ourselves for another 10 minutes or so and left. On arrival back at the arrival hall, we were stripped of our tea-towel-of-modesty and wrapped up like a donor kebab in fresh towels to dry off.
Returning to gather our belongings we made our way to the café and awaited the girls. A beer to too later, we were feeling pretty good about the experience and even before the girls arrived half an hour later, we were talking about the next time, and looking forward to it.