We arrived at the Turkish Bath (Hammam) in the early afternoon, both of us looking forward and wondering what it entailed. There are many Turkish baths in Istanbul of course but we decided to try one of the more famous ones the Cagaloglu Hamam which was recommended by many travel guides and apparently is one of the 1000 places to see before you die (which they constantly reminded you of). Upon entering the facility you choose which type of service you want and we decided to go all out here since when are unsure if we ever going to find ourselves back here in Istanbul. We were lead to a private changing room where I removed everything and put on a pestemal towel which is a cotton cloth you wrap around the lower half of your body and were then lead to the main bath area.
The hamam itself looks like it’s out of the pages of ancient history. Built in the mid 18th century it was one of the last hammans to be built during the rule of Sultan Mehmet I. Inside the chamber is a large stone slab sitting in the middle of the room with bathing stations set all around it. In the ceiling is a large dome with star shaped cuts in it. The only other room was a small hot room attached to one of the sides.
The attendant did not speak much English, but his simple instructions were easy to figure out. He came in with a small pillow and had me lie down on the large stone slab. I could see other bathers lying on their respective parts. He then proceeded to “massage” me in a less than relaxing manner. Using his entire upper body he kept pushing down on my back, chest, arms, and legs along with quick slaps and hard grasps. I just hope that in the end here I feel better afterwards than I felt during. I was then lead over to one of the bathing stations where I was doused over and over again with water.
Everything was done in a rather forceful manner. He then proceeded to scrub me with a cleaning mitt which probably took off more dirt and dead skin then I had even known I had on me. I wonder if I had ever been cleaner. He constantly showed me the mitt to display how good of a job he was doing or possibly to laugh at how dirty I was. Don’t worry they make sure to give you that mitt as a souvenir at the end of it. I think I threw mine away as soon as I left, couldn’t really imagine taking home a wet, dirty, scrubbing mitt. Then the “foaming bath quickly followed” with another dousing of water and then being lathered up with soap and foam. Again it seemed that I was more manhandled then massaged here. I had seriously worried if I lost some hair after this whole affair. Lastly you are lead over the hot room where you sit and relax for a while until you are ready to leave.
So how did I enjoy it. Well honestly it was an interesting experience. I probably never felt cleaner in my life and it was good after several days of wandering around Istanbul and Cappadocia. I would probably do it again if I find myself in Turkey however probably would try somewhere else. This location was really expensive and touristy of course given its location and fame. So it would be good to try another place and see how they compare. Also I would highly recommend going if only to see the beautiful hamman building.