"When you go to Turkey, go to a Turkish bath. They have huge women there who beat the crap out of you while you're naked. It's awesome, I hear."
Someone said this to me when I told them I was going to Turkey. Someone who has clearly never been to Turkey.
Though the idea of going to a hamam in the ancient city did sound right up my alley. I loved the baths in Budapest. And I had been to a spa with a hamam in it in Toronto. And my favorite places at most spas and gyms is the steam room. I love the heat.
(I mean... Come on. I practice and teach yoga in a room that's heated to almost 110 Fahrenheit.)
But which one to go to in Istanbul? There were tons listed in the area I was staying. Some upscale. Some creepy. My hotel even had one, though it was out of order while I was there.
A quick glance at Trip Advisor gave me the name of one that had pretty good reviews...
It is a Turkish bath that has been around for about 430 years. It was on a busy street, about a 10 minute walk from my hotel. The Grand Bazaar is on the way to it. So it was easy to find for me.
The process was pretty easy... You go in. You select which services you want. You get shown to the locker area. You're given an oversized tea towel to wrap yourself in. You put on some rubber sandals they give you. You walk downstairs to the hamam. You go in. You lay down on the marble and stare up at the domed ceiling. The men are in a separate area from the women. There is no mixing of the sexes.
I wish I could have taken pictures. It was actually quite nice. But there are naked ladies in there. So it wouldn't have been appropriate.
I elected to do a "self service" washing. That meant that I could lay on the marble slab as long as I wanted (which was about 25 minutes for me), then I could go to any of the fountains just off the marble slab and use the copper bowls to scrub and rinse myself off.
The other option is to lie down on the marble slab and have these large women in black bikinis with large arms make you lay face up and scrub you aggressively with a sponge and bubbles. Then they rinse you down. They also aggressively wash your hair. Then they massage you.
It looked painful. But I am a wimp.
I did have them do a reflexology treatment on my feet. And that was awesome.
I loved the experience. And definitely recommend Cemberlitas. I'd absolutely go back again.