“You don’t leave Turkey without going to a hamam.”
I was told by everyone from travel guides, hotel staffs to newly-made friends that a hamam (Turkish bath) experience is not to be missed. It’s a cultural thing—some of the hamams in Istanbul even date back to the Empire days.
Sadly, I missed the historical hamams in Istanbul. But I quickly made up for it with not just one, but two Turkish bath visits in my next Turk cities.
What to Expect in a Turkish Bath
I can’t speak for the ladies (and the greasy horny men who’s there for the ladies). Most hamams separate men and women into two different sections, for good reasons. But if you’re a decent man looking to have a peek into the local cultural experience, then this recollection of my Elis Hamam experience in Goreme may be for you.
First, you strip…
Yes—that escalated pretty fast!
You go to the receptionist desk, pick your services and is then led to your changing room. You leave the changing room awkwardly with nothing on you but a locker key, a pair of slippers and a small towel which barely covers your… you know.
Then, you get dirty…
An attendant took out a paintbrush and began to apply this thick dark green substance on my face, which I soon learned is mud! Once he’s done, he escorted me to a sauna room to relax and sweat. Everything’s great up to this point. But at one point or two—maybe the heat caused me to imagine things—I swear the mud mask was about to melt into my face. Eek!
That was the longest 10 minutes of my life. I breathed a huge relief when they called me.
It’s bathing time…
Sweaty, dirty and covered in mud, I’ve never wanted a bath so much in my life before!
I walked hurriedly to the bathing room, but paused in awe when I finally saw the beautiful marble-made chamber.
[Image Credit: Sari]
I don’t have a picture of Elis Hamam, but it does look similar to the above hamam.
For that brief moment, I felt like I’m living the life of a wealthy sultan…
I lied down on the marble octagon and stared at the gorgeous roof. Holes have been cut out into various interesting shapes to let the sunlight through.
A personal bath attendant came and poured warm soapy water, followed by another round of cold water. Brrr… He took out an exfoliating glove (kese) and began scrubbing the dead skin cells away. He quickly rinsed me and just when I thought it’s over, the best part began.
He poured soap into this long plastic-looking thingy and started to squeeze out more and more bubbles. First on my chest and stomach, then on my legs and arms. Within minutes, I’m fully covered in the awesome bubble bath.
Oh my gosh… life is wonderful.
Done with the bath, I was ushered into a warm jacuzzi—where I took a quick 10-minute dip before moving into a lounge with soft exotic music playing in the background. They wrapped my brand new, smooth skin in a fluffy towel and offered me a complimentary warm apple tea.
I was thoroughly enjoying my newfound sultan life, socializing with two tourists while waiting my turn for an oil massage. The massage was more casual and not on the rough side. But it was relaxing, comfortable and the masseur gave a good conversation with a funny broken English.
I left Elis Hamam with a huge smile on my face, ready to enjoy my last night in Cappadocia. And I’m happy to join the chorus of praise:
Seriously, you don’t leave Turkey without going to a hamam.
[PS. I also went to Kaleici Hamam in Kusadasi. It wasn’t bad but let’s just say the experience was shorter and I didn’t enjoy it as much as Elis Hamam. I’ve heard some of the more touristy Turkish Baths in Istanbul can feel a little rip-offy as well, so make sure you read up on the reviews and select the right hamam to visit.]
Have you ever taken a Turkish Bath? Share your experience in the comment box below.