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Turkish Bath

Suleymanyi Hamam

sunny 26 °C

We thought it would be cheaper to take the bus to Fethiye from Istanbul, so, despite being told that it would take between 12 and 14 hours, we did it. It actually ended up taking about 16 hours all told, and I don't think we'll do it again! It actually wasn't very much cheaper than flying, and my ankles swelled to twice their normal size and started to hurt from sitting for so long. Quite the adventure. We're definitely going to fly on the way back. Anyway, I said I'd write about the Turkish bath in a previous post, and I haven't done it yet, so here goes.

I read reviews on tripadvisor.com, and decided that, of the tourist baths in Istanbul, Suleymanyi Hamam sounded like the best. Turkish baths usually have separate sections for men and women, but at this one we were able to go in together. The hamam provided shorts and a bikini top for me, and a cloth around the waist for Jason. It was apparently the place where Suleyman the Magnificent took a bath 500 years ago or something - an octagonal marble room with a domed roof and a large heated marble platform in the middle. Around the outside of the octagon were four partially walled-off cubicles, each with two person-sized marble massage tables. It was 38 degrees C in there. We lounged on the central slab, got too hot, poured cool water over our heads, did it again, were still too hot, and sat next to the cool water taps dousing ourselves until our attendants showed up to bathe us. They were two young men, wiry and strong and very good at what they did. They took us into one of the cubicles and sat us on either side of the tap, pouring water over us and scrubbing us with rough cloth mittens. Then it was on to the tables, where we were covered in foamy bubbles and massaged all over. The attendants were extremely professional and mine kept asking me, "How are you?" The massage was great - I like massages that aren't too gentle, and I find that often massage therapists are afraid to hurt me and just can't seem to do it as hard as I would like. These guys were, as I said, very strong, and definitely not afraid to do some crunching and slapping and kneading of muscles. After being soap-bubbled and massaged, we were rinsed, shampooed, rinsed again, and left to hang out for as long as we liked on the hot marble. When we emerged into the slightly cooler drying-off room, our attendants came back to wrap our heads and shoulders in cotton cloths and lead us to another room for drinks. It was the kind of thing where afterwards you feel like you'll never be able to move again, so we sat around drinking water and waited for the free shuttle bus to take us back to our hostel. Unfortunately Istanbul has some of the most awful traffic I've ever seen (although maybe not quite as bad as Bangkok), and we waited for quite a while. When the shuttle finally arrived, we only got about halfway back before getting stuck in some kind of giant tour-bus gridlock. There were four of us in the bus, and we all decided it would be faster to get out and walk. We apologized to the driver and left him to fend for himself.

I think the Turkish bath would be best appreciated in cooler weather - it was probably around 30 degrees outside and we'd walked to the hamam, so we were already too hot when we got in there. If it had been chilly outside and we'd come in to lie around on the hot marble platform it would have felt amazing, but it was so hot that if there hadn't been cool water to pour over our heads I think I might have passed out. It was a super relaxing experience, though, and I loved the massage.

Now we're in Fethiye, and it's hotter than Istanbul, and we might rent a motorbike and cruise around town, which will be great fun as long as Jason does the driving!


Posted by arwyn 23:49 Archived in Turkey

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Turkish baths, young Turkish men giving me a turkish bath/massage - sounds heavenly! :) Glad that you're enjoying the local culture & sights outside of Istanbul....

by andy

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