Saturday, February 4, 2012

Turkish Baths

One of my favorite Turkish traditions which actually dates back a long, long time...let's see... the Ottomans had them ( Those Sultans knew their importance and built like a gazillion baths in Dolmabache Palace) and the Romans had them (most ruins make sure to point out the bricks and foundations of the baths) and now modern hotels and houses (Parade of Homes even has the best bath award) have them... the hamam or Turkish Bath. As a matter of fact, every hotel we've stayed at on this trip has some version of the marble steam room and separate sauna. From a simple visit to the steam/sauna room to warm up and relax weary muscles to the full blown massage, scrub, or many variations thereof, the Turks really know how to relax together in a warm room.

I have to admit I was really nervous to visit a hamamm including the sauna and steam rooms the first time. As a matter of fact, I was so nervous that I didn't even go the one time I really could have used it..after skiing. There is so much cultural etiquette that I don't understand and there is no guidebook to explain. Not being able to speak much Turkish is also a big problem. For example, when do I use the thin hamam towels and when do I use the thick bath towels. Is the fresh fruit on the table for everyone to enjoy including the cheapskates like me who use the free steam rooms and saunas but don't want to pay for a full blown massage or bath? Does "mixed" sauna really mean "men and American tourists only"? (I only see Turkish women when the hamamms are single sex.) Why, in today's hotel, is the shower that is located between the steam room and the sauna called the "Adventure Shower" or is that just a really poor translation for the Turkish word? (Why not call it what it is: the "ice-cold-take-your-breath-away-brain-freeze shower". There is no adventure about it!)

All kidding aside, these hamamms have become part of my daily vacation mode ritual. They are spotlessly clean, peaceful, beautiful, and wonderful places to unwind after a hectic (OK..not so hectic...I'm on vacation...but you get the gist) day. I can't wait to come back!

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