A Hamam also known as a Turkish bath comes in two forms. The first offered by many hotels is geared towards tourists, at tourist prices and men and women are all together.
The second is cheap and authentic and separates men and women into different rooms. The idea of a big hairy Turkish man rubbing down females is totally unacceptable and women will be scrubbed by a female albeit a big hairy one!
No holiday in Turkey is complete without experiencing a haman so we again went on our tour guides advice and opted for a fully-fledged and socially accepted establishment, which is used by the locals in the town of Bursa. It was exactly as I had imagined an ancient bathhouse to be, old photos on the walls and display cabinets filled with old Turkish bath utensils.
Once upstairs it is ridiculously hot, you are given a cubicle so you can change, fortunately you can wear a swimming costume otherwise I would have been out of my comfort zone. Then grabbing my towel and a set of clogs to prevent slipping on the wet floor, I braved it into the main room that was full of half-naked women all gossiping under the star-shaped roof. Around the sides the steam rooms, which were very small. Next to these are sinks and taps and when it becomes too hot, you douse yourself with cold water.
After 30 minutes, the masseur (tellak) walks in and motions you to lie on the slab in the centre of the room. I don’t know if the male tellak is like an Adonis but the women are hairy, overweight and old enough to be your grandmother. She lifts your arm and begins to scrub with a rough glove. She covers every inch of your body and the dead skin starts to peel off, only the deepest nooks and crannies remain untouched. Then the loofah comes out. The masseur soaps you from head to foot with something that resembles a pillowcase that produces an unbelievable mountain of bubbles. The whole procedure takes place in silence and when eventually finished, I don’t think I’ve ever been cleaner.
I was wrapped in a towel and then led into the lounge area to relax with cup of apple tea before my massage. For 30 minutes my whole body was worked by strong, professional hands. The massage was a mix of vicious and lovely. There were bits of brutality that I perversely enjoyed and others I didn’t.
By the end of the session after being cleaned, rubbed, scrubbed and massaged, I felt I was floating on air. It’s a great experience; very relaxing and so cheap that everyone should try it at least once.
Because of where we were I didn´t take a camera so the picture is courtesy of Google.