The words “Turkish Bath” never used to mean anything to me. They do now.
Certainly, one of the “don’t miss” experiences when visiting Turkey is the famed Turkish Bath. At least, that is what the guide books say. My best description is that it’s something between a steam sauna with no steam, a “spit bath” with a lot of spit, and a sitz bath without the water. Put that all together and I’ll guess you don’t have any better idea than before.
Even after reading the guide book’s description, I was pretty clueless as to what to expect. Fortunately, the non-English speaking attendants managed to guide me through the ordeal in pretty good order. After disrobing and putting a towel around myself, I was led into a room with a raised, warm marble floor. Not having my glasses on left me both clueless and blind as to what to expect next. The attendant motioned for me to lie down. I could see that much, so I obediently did. He then left me lying there and started scrubbing the guy next to me. I was pretty attentive to what was happening–well, as attentive as one can be with 20/400 eyesight!
After about 15 minutes he finished the fellow, turned to me and slapped the marble nearer the edge of the raised platform. I scooted over. Immediately I was doused with warm water. Then he took out a cloth with a texture that was a cross between sandpaper and a plastic Brillo pad and started rubbing me down on my back side. When he had scrubbed every bit of skin on my back side, he slapped my back. I had a hunch that meant turn over. I did. He then started on my front side.
Then he must have thought it was time for us to have a stab at a conversation. He asked something that sounded to me like, “You Teeklish?” “No, I’m not Teeklish,” I said. “You Spaanish, then?” he said. I was confused, and he saw it written on my face. “You Eeenglish or you Spaanish?” he asked again. “Oh, uh, Eeenglish,” I stuttered, realizing my error. “Ok, sit!” he commanded. It was a good thing we figured out what language I spoke, or I might have still been lying there with him telling me to sit in Spanish. So much for the small talk.
I sat. He then doused me with cold water, brought the soap, patted the marble (the international sign for “lie down”) and started soaping me down. This went on for about 15 minutes as he washed and massaged me. “You sit!” he barked. More cold water. Then the shampoo treatment that was a cross between my regular shampoo when getting my hair cut and a chiropractic neck adjustment.
“Finished,” he said. “Was goot?” “Was good,” I replied with a smile and a handshake.
Mark that down to an experience in living