Originated in Greek/Roman culture, a Turkish Hamam (i.e. bath) is a must-do for any traveler to the nation of Turkey. Offered on every block of every city throughout the country (a slight hint to popularity), a Hamam is a great opportunity to relax your muscles after a weary day of sight-seeing (and by relax, I mean approach the barriers of heat exhaustion while a young Turk fondles your body).
Expecting this "bath" to resemble more of a "bath," (I know, crazy notion), our Hamam experience was definitely an eye-opener as to what ancient civilizations considered a "cleansing process." Closely resembling the experience of a sauna (I can only assume, as I am not a fan of submitting myself to prolonged periods of discomfort), a Hamam apparently utilizes the more "religious" notion of cleansing yourself from the inside out (cleansing = testing your bodies limit of sweat production). Add to that a sud-filled massage of every inch of your body, and you have yourself quite the early evening activity. Without further ado, I present you with the officially unofficial guide to the Turkish Hamam:
1. Select a Hamam - A very difficult and cumbersome process, the selection of a local Hamam involves much research, a well-stocked wallet and of course a nationality that is anything but that of an American (our Hamam's website automatically declined reservations made by US citizens... bastards!).
2. Changing Room - Upon arriving to the Hamam, you are escorted to a private changing room in which bathers strip down to their "birthday suits" and then wrap themselves in Turkish towels. Wooden clogs are also provided as to complete the ultimate fashion statement.
3. Entry Room - After a brief overview of the following 90 minutes, bathers are clearly provided with two pre-Hamam options: "Pee Pee" or "Kaka" (noting that "Kaka cost extra"). Julie and I both opted for el numero uno (just in case your curiosity was burning to know).
4. Hot Room - At a searing "too hot to be comfortable" temperature, the hot room, or Caldarium, provides bathers the opportunity to lay on a large marble slab, while the heat takes them into a mild state of hysteria. Once this point is reached, several cold water faucets are available throughout the Hamam, offering "mini cold water baths" in which bathers can splash themselves back to sanity. This occurs on an occasional basis during the first 30 minutes of the Hamam, and then almost in successive repetition during the final agonizing 15. As a note, do NOT walk barefoot to these faucets without your clogs, as you will experience what is like to have your feet heated to approximately 150 degrees.
5. Massage - The "fun" part of the Hamam, a full-body massage is provided as who doesn't enjoy having their entire body "probed and prodded" when it is already overheating? Thankfully for us, our masseuses were two young Turkish boys, who possessed what I can only describe as "wandering fingers." As I gritted my teeth everytime the "inner thigh" was targeted (Do not ask me why I thought of an episode of Friends during this experience), Julie seemed to have issues with her "side boob" being the destination of choice.
6. Refreshment Time - With the Hamam finally complete, the entrepreneurial aspect of the experience comes into play, with bathers now forced to sit down in the "Drying Room" and enjoy overly-priced beverages as to help quench what-is-now an insatiable thirst. I will be honest though, a $5 can of Fanta has never tasted so good. Why yes we did!
7. Changing Room - Now, the experienced bather will probably come prepared with a clean set of clothes, as to take advantage of the cleansing in which they just partook. However, those new to the process most likely are dressed in clothes in which they have been traveling the past 15 hours, and of course, negate the entire process. Smart smart smart smart smart.
And that my friends is your officially unofficial guide to the Turkish Hamam.
Onto the pics (several "borrowed" as cameras do not hold up very well in 150 degree steamy rooms):