For anyone that says visiting the spa isn’t part of the “Turkish” experience, then they clearly haven’t done their research! I am sure you must have come across the phrase “Turkish bath” – well, one guess where it originates from?! Luckily, I had the opportunity of experiencing one myself. Now in my previous feel good post, I shared that my go to “treat” is getting a paraffin wax pedicure so having someone prod and massage me was definitely a “refreshing” experience.
I had the pleasure of staying at the Raffles Istanbul hotel, and visiting their spa. It was such a wonderful stay as both the hotel and the staff were truly accommodating. The spa was something out of this world, in fact, I felt so comfortable just sitting on their couches that I was automatically relaxed. On a serious note, when in Turkey one must definitely encounter their Turkish baths or as it is locally known as, a “Hamam.”
What is a Hamam? A Turkish bath is the Islamic variant of the Roman bath, steam bath, sauna, or Russian banya, distinguished by a focus on water, as distinct from ambient steam. For those who are shy to go commando then I wouldn’t recommend this but if you want to feel like a snake that just shed their skin, then this is truly the experience for you. Now my mind is a bit foggy with the details as I was half terrified and half unconscious from the scrubbing but let me try break down what happens. I experienced a “modern Hamam” so it was probably not as intense as the local ones but I will still share my experience.
For starters, you lie on a marble floor in a heated steam room, your masseuse will then ask you to remove your clothing and she will apply hot water all over your head and body. Secondly, she will apply this soft soapy liquid all over your body and massage it into your skin (I burst into laughter an incredible amount of times). Third, she starts the scrubbing process from head to toe. After working her way through your whole body front and back, she applies ice onto your body. Now my assumption is that the heat and cold aids in circulation. If it weren’t for my obsessive need to try every new cultural experience in a city I would have never agreed to being massaged with ice but in all honesty it wasn’t half bad. I was freezing at first but the minute your neck is massaged you’re sort of numbed. Finally, your masseuse washes off all your dirt and washes your hair and body once more with warm water.
By the end of it, you’re feeling somewhat disgusted with your dirty past self but you’re awakened with your refreshing new skin. It is sort of poetic in a way and as a first timer, I have made it my goal to come back for an authentic Turkish hamam. Excuse me while I vicariously live through my own images in hopes that I will feel some sort of relaxation from them!
Wherever you are in Turkey, a Hamam is part of the culture and I would definitely recommend a relaxing nap after having one. In fact, the Turks recommend it and who would say no to a nap? When in Turkey!