I was told that a person can’t visit Turkey without going to a Turkish Bath. Well, I took the advice and the experience was quite interesting and something I will never forget.
First off, it is important that you do your research so that you find affordable, clean, and respectable places to have your bath. Most of the bathhouses (hamams) offer packages that range from 50 to 600TL ($25-$300). Choosing a place really depends on your budget and the services that you are interested in. I found that reading through TripAdvisor reviews was the most helpful way to pick a place.
I decided to try the bathhouse, Aga Hamami, near Taksim Square in Istanbul. This bathhouse was originally constructed in 1454 as a hunting house by Sultan Mehmed the Conqueror. It was later renovated in 1844 by Abdulmecid (the 31st Ottoman Padishah). It was used by the Padishahs and their sons until the final years of the Ottoman Empire. This bathhouse definitely had a historical character.
The Bathing Process
First, we undressed and went into a sauna-like room that had a huge heated stone in the center. There were several areas with water spigots that you could use to rinse off or cool down while in the hot room. This part of the bath was nice, but after a while, I got pretty hot and was ready to move on to the next portion of the adventure.
The next part of the experience was the actual bath part. This was a very interesting experience. My friend and I were taken into a room where a woman laid our towels down on stone slabs and we were told to shower. Once we rinsed off, we laid down on the stone and the woman took a luffa-like glove and rubbed down our entire bodies. This process removed a lot of dried, dead skin and left the skin fresh and smooth. After the rub down, she took a pillowcase-like cloth covered in soap suds, filled it with air and washed us down. This felt amazing. The air in the case made the cloth and suds feel so good. After this, she rinsed us and washed our hair, as we sat on a towel by the water basin. The process was like nothing I’ve ever experienced before.
Next, we went upstairs into a massage room. The oil massage lasted about 25 minutes and felt wonderful after the bath. I’ve had several massages in my life, and honestly, this wasn’t the best I’ve ever had, but it was still a great experience.
Finally, when our massages were finished, we went down into the sitting room and sat on divans and drank Turkish tea. We met some interesting travelers and had great conversations. Overall, the bath was a completely different experience and one that I will never forget.