Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Pragurkreece: The Turkish Bath

Because there are no photos to accompany this post, for reasons that will become apparent (i.e. rampant nudity), here's an unrelated picture.

So.  Turkish bath.  We had been in Istanbul for maybe two days by this point, which is long enough to build up a second skin of sunscreen and dust.  We asked around for the least-touristy Turkish bath place, and boy howdy did we get it.

Leah and I were separated from the boys, told to strip down, and offered tiny plaid towels to wrap ourselves before being led to a massive marble room full of marble sinks and a giant marble slab.  There was no one else there.  Our babushka guide turned on our marble faucets and gestured that we should splash ourselves, and then vanished.  We stood there for maybe ten minutes, dumping water over our shoulders and being all, Hmmm, I guess this is Turkish bath.  I thought there would be more scrubbing involved.

I also thought the most awkward thing would be how naked I was, not how enormously, hilariously naked our babushka would be when she came back in.  Upon further reflection, this makes eight kinds of sense because if you're scrubbing people down you will get your clothing soaked, so it's best to preempt that by not wearing any.  But there is something inherently amusing about semi-public nudity, and it was all Leah and I could do not to guffaw our way through our bath.

Least touristy = zero English, so the babushka tapped Leah on the shoulder, snatched her towel, and pointed her to the marble slab.  I stood there, splashing myself and giggling, until my shoulder-tap came.  She has this coarse glove that she scours the hell out of you with, and she is not shy.  It is the exfoliating of a lifetime.  I thought I was the cleanest I'd ever been until she came in with a bucket of soapy water and scrubbed me down like I was an old car.

Then she gestured that I should let my hair down so she could wash that, too.  With a bar of soap.  And a vigourous, circular motion.  It took two days and most of a travel bottle of conditioner to get the enormous dreadlock out of my hair.

After we were led, still chortling, back to the change room to get dressed, the babushka brought us into what was essentially the men's change room, to sip tea and wait for the boys.  We were the only two ladies there, but apparently bathing is What Turkish Men Do In The Evening.  Men came and went and dressed and undressed in the individual but completely be-windowed change stalls (we did much averting of eyes) and sat, wrapped in towels, while they strummed sitars.  You cannot make this shit up.

This was my experiential highlight of the trip.  If you are ever in Istanbul and have no problem being very naked and no aversion to having your ass scrubbed reasonably hard, it's called Kadirga Hamam and it is very, very Worth It.

1 comment:

Karen said...

This is my favorite thing I've read in a very long time.