Guys, who loves getting naked and letting old women touch you!? Not me.
That’s actually how someone described a hamam experience to me.
She said, “If you’re comfortable getting naked and having old ladies touch you, go to the hamam and get a Turkish bath. That was the worst sell ever, but it’s great.”
At the recommendation of several people, my friend Chelsea and I decided to just do it during our first day in Istanbul.
I hate nudity. I hate being naked. I hate looking at naked people. I just want everyone to keep their clothes on. But everyone talked about going to a hamam while visiting Turkey so I felt I had to check it out.
Before running water, hamams were very popular. Now that people have their own showers, the Turkish bath isn’t really necessary so it’s more of a tourist attraction these days.
Here’s how you can expect it to go down…
First of all, Istanbul in the summer is unbelievably hot and sticky so by the time you get to the bath house, you’ll be ready for a bath!
They asked me to change into just my underwear and to wear the sandals provided in the bath house.
Side note – women are allowed in the hamam at one time and men another. No co-ed here. At least not at the one we went to.
First a Turkish woman had me sit down and poured warm water all over me. She literally just dumped giant buckets of water over my head while I sat there silently in my underwear.
“Is this what waterboarding feels like!?” I thought.
Next I laid on a large, warm stone in the middle of the room for about 30 minutes. This part was actually amazing and I almost forgot I was naked for one and only one second.
Then it was time for the real bath. A giant Turkish woman named Charlela (Yeah, I’m definitely not spelling that right) brought me to a stone step next to a sink.
Charlela started dumping more buckets of water over me (yay, more waterboarding!). She then got out an exfoliating glove and scrubbed the dead skin off my entire body.
But let me remind you, all of this is going on in a room with about 10 other women in it and I’m just in my underwear, topless. They all have smiling, relaxed faces and I’m over here feeling tortured.
Charlela was sweating so profusely while scrubbing me I wasn’t sure if it was my sweat I was tasting running down my upper lip or Charlela’s. She was panting so hard I almost told her she could stop. Thank god some masked woman (ok maybe she wasn’t masked and I just imagined that?) brought her an ice water.
Charlela got a soapy towel and squeezed lavender scented bubbles all over me. I was so covered in bubbles I could barely see the rest of the room. I was starting to think I was going to suffocate and die from soap bubbles when Charlela started washing me.
It was awkward. She massaged my back and my scalp and it felt very nice but I’m just so uncomfortable with being touched that I didn’t enjoy it as much as I probably should have. Damn you women who are able to actually relax on a spa day!
Charlela then dumped more buckets of water over me to get the soap off. I got so much soap and water in my eyes I couldn’t open them so I never knew when the next bucket was coming. I was gasping for air but I didn’t want to offend Charlela so I just stood there and took it. I am the champion. Where’s my medal!?
OK, so I did feel incredibly clean at the end and I smelled great! My skin felt so fresh and light! Even though my WASPy self found it a little uncomfortable, it was worth it.
After the bath, we laid on huge, plush couches in a lounge area and sipped coffee. Finally I was alone!
So I can officially say I’ve had a Turkish bath. It was definitely an experience and although it’s not really a “local” thing to do anymore, the bath houses themselves are beautiful so I would say it’s worth it. Especially if you’re OK with being naked and looking to relax. Because I think it is relaxing…for most people.
Just be ready to rip off your clothes and shout, “I am comfortable with nudity!”