The Ins and Outs of a Turkish Bath
On a particularly lazy day in Istanbul, I decided it was time to try a Turkish Bath. To be totally honest, I had no idea what I was in for. I’d seen pictures of people in bath robes, looking relaxed, and that was enough to convince me. I asked my hostel for a recommendation and just a few hours later I was off to be bathed.
After undressing and putting on a light towel, I was shown into the hot stone bathing area. At the time, it was only me and one other young guy in there. Both being novices, we left our towels on. I think you’re meant to go in naked! But regardless, we lay there sweating it out for twenty minutes or so.
Then a woman came to get me and took me into a women’s only area. We were the only ones in there, but I’m told that often there are multiple people being bathed at the same time. Upon entering the room, she undressed me… And then undressed herself… This, I thought, was odd. Sure, I need to be naked to be bathed – but did she need to be naked to bathe me? Who knows. The Turkish way, it seems.
First, she scrubbed me down and then covered me in bubbles. I got a nice little (somewhat invasive) massage and then when I was sufficiently clean, she threw a few buckets of water on me to rinse it all off.
She asked if I wanted shampoo, to which I said yes. I’m pretty sure the bubbles used for soap were the same as the so-called ‘shampoo,’ but nonetheless she poured it all over my head while I crouched down naked on the floor. A quick head massage and a few more buckets of water, and I was done.
Outside the bath, I sat and relaxed in my dressing gown while I was served tea. As an optional extra, you can get a half hour massage too. Of course, already in full relax mode, I was keen for the massage.
The lady who gave me a massage went hard; a little painful at times. But better that than too soft, I say.
By the end of my Turkish bath, I felt properly refreshed and relaxed. An odd experience, but one I would probably do again if I came back to Turkey – and I’d definitely recommend it to anyone visiting. I think it’s a great cultural experience, but you just need to be prepared for a lot of nakedness and bit of invasive touching!
Note: While I wish the Turkish bath was full of these beautiful tiles, they’re actually from an assortment of places around Istanbul. I wasn’t allowed to take any pictures in the bathing areas.