Wednesday, April 02, 2014

How to Visit a Turkish Bath in Bodrum

Today was a real adventure! Rob and I got a late start this morning. Ten days in to the trip, we're at that second wave of "jetlag" that comes with feeling kind of gross and worn down from traveling. The cure? A visit to a Turkish Bath, or Hamam.
Several of the resorts in Bodrum have posh versions of Turkish Baths - but none seem as authentic (and somewhat terrifying) as the Tarihi Bardakci Hamam. This bathhouse has been in operation since 1749. It's quite unassuming from the outside.
The sign in front advertises "scrub, foam massage, oil massage, soap, shampoo, towel." When we walked in, a friendly short man in slacks and a collared shirt greeted us and showed us to a changing room with a locker. In a mix of Turkish and English, Rob was instructed to strip down entirely and wrap his waist in a small towel. I was asked to wear a bikini with the towel. We both wore plastic sandals. Next, we were shown to a heated marble slab in the middle of steamy domed room. (shown here, where I'm posing post-bath)
We lay on the hot slab in our towels for about 30 minutes. It echoes in the room. The muffled sounds of construction and a Turkish soap opera in the changing area combined with bright sun from the skylights above is pretty mesmerizing. It's important to note here that poor Rob has never even had a regular American massage or spa treatment before.
Suddenly, the same man who greeted us is back...but only wearing a tiny towel himself. A bit of a shock! He took me to a small room next door with a mattress-sized marble slab, marble floors and sink. Laying on my stomach on the slab, he scrubbed me with a rough sort of oven mitt. Flip over, more scrubbing. Sit up, careful not to slide off the slab and more scrubbing on my arms. Each time I lay on my stomach, he carefully unties my bikini top to scrub my back and then ties it again. A pretty impressive amount of dead skin is coming off me at this point. Switched to a different mitt and repeated the maneuvers. At this point, he asks if Rob is my husband and when confirmed, invites him in to watch the proceedings. Sitting again, he dumps buckets of warm water over my head to wash off the dead skin.

Now, it's time for the soap. He makes a soapy mixture in an empty yogurt bucket and dips a small pillowcase into it. Fills the pillow case with air and squeezes to make a riot of tiny soap bubbles. They're so soft! It feels like a cashmere blanket when I'm buried about a foot under the suds. More scrubbing, this time with a rag. Careful attention to in-between the toes and armpits. Flipping over at this point is a dangerous maneuver since I'm so slippery. Sitting up on the slab, he shampoos my hair vigorously and washes behind my ears and in my nostrils. Rob reported later I looked more poodle than human at this point.

Buckets of warm water dumped over my head while sitting and then standing to rinse off all the soap. I'm done!  Wrapped in a turkish towel and then a terrycloth towel, I'm sent out to the waiting area in while Rob goes next. I'm standing in the entrance more than a bit dazed at what just happened. A second Turkish man appears and we're off for the oil massage.
For another 30 minutes, I'm massaged with a lightly scented oil in a small wood paneled room. Maybe a mix of almond and lemon oil?  A great massage. This man and the scrubber both have a way of making their hands shake that is hard to describe and I've never seen in an American spa. He leaves me to rest under a towel and goes to give Rob his oil massage.

10 minutes later, I'm allowed to get up and change. I get a plastic bag for my wet bikini and the masseuse helps me take photos in the bath while Rob is on his mandated rest period.
The final total for two hours of washing and massaging at the Turkish Bath? 120 Lira, or just $30 USD each. A local man comes in for his bath as we are leaving. With strict instructions not to bathe for 2 days and lots of handshaking all around from our new friends, we head back out to the Bodrum streets feeling revived with our fresh skin.


11 comments:

Anonymous said...

Great post! Thanks! Always wondered what an authentic "Turkish bath" was like. This was a great description. Sounds like the perfect revamp.

Steph said...

So would you recommend it?

MrsEm said...

Yes, I would definitely recommend it as long as you know what you're in for. If you're a very private person or get nervous being touched - it might be too much "authentic" for you. I would go back in a heartbeat!

Roving Jay - Expat in Motion said...

This is my favourite Turkish Bath in the area. It does look a bit scary from the outside... but of all the Turkish Baths I've been too... this was the best. I highly recommend going here. I write a Travel blog about the Bodrum Peninsula -- so will be including an excerpt of this on my site, with a link back to your site ...so others can read about your experience... thanks, Jay

http://www.bodrumpeninsulatravelguide.co.uk

MrsEm said...

Thanks Jay! I'll check out your site. Anything important I need to see in Bodrum before we leave on Saturday morning? We're going to the castle and museum tomorrow.

Backto Bodrum said...

Make sure you don't forget the maritime museum opposite the PTT in town and take a trip up to Ancient Pedasa - above Konacik. It is a beautiful time of year to visit.

Annie said...

I have been loving reading about your travel adventures. Thank you so much for bringing an exotic flair to my New England life. Your blog is one of the highlights of my day. Stay safe and enjoy your journey! Annie

Patricia said...

Wow - did you know what to expect before you went in? I don't know if I could deal with it, but I like the idea of coming out so well-scrubbed and in a daze.

I love following along on your travels - so interesting!

MrsEm said...

Thankfully, I had read a blog post that described a lot of the experience before we went.

Kimberly said...

What a fascinating post! Thank you for it! This Turkish bath is now on my bucket list! Possibly dumb question: so you knew to take a bikini with you?

MrsEm said...

Not a dumb question! I researched online about taking a bikini before we went.