I had two eccentric bathing experiences while in Turkey. First was at a Turkish Hamam in Cappadocia and the second was a Mud Bath in Dalyan.
Bath #1: A trip to the hamam
Visiting a hamam was high on my list of things to do. After talking to a couple Turkish friends and reading about famous hamams in Istanbul, I knew it was an integral part of Turkish culture and tradition that I had to experience.
My first night in Turkey I had an Aussie roommate who told me about her first visit to the hamam:
They scrub you hard ALL over. I can’t say it was exactly pleasant, but afterwards I was the cleanest I had ever been in my life.
It sounded interesting.
My second day in Turkey I took an overnight bus from Istanbul to Cappadocia. Upon arrival the next morning, I went to Elis Turkish Bath. After the 8+ hour bus ride, I was very excited to be “the cleanest I had ever been in my life.”
Everything seemed pretty normal at first. I had a Turkish towel wrapped around my body. One of the Hamam employees applied a mud mask onto my face. I sat in a sauna with some other women for 15 minutes. I took a quick shower to rinse off the mud mask and sweat from the sauna. All good.
Then, with the towel wrapped around my body again, 4 female clients and I entered the main bathing chamber together:
We were each paired up with a Turkish Bath Lady (I’m going to call her a SpaStress*). My SpaStress ordered me to take off the towel wrapped around my naked body and lay it down on the marble platform. She signaled for me to lay down on top of the towel. The other ladies in the room did the same.
My SpaStress then scrubbed me down and exfoliated my entire body with a cloth. After that, she poured a mountain of bubbles on top of me and proceeded to massage the bubbles all over my entire body. Thanks to Google Images, here’s an idea of what it looks like:
This picture is a bunch of dudes but the concept is spot on:
The verdict? I would do it again. It was a bit awkward but highly amusing. And I have to say, I did walk out very clean!
*The term SpaStress was actually coined by Lizz Winstead. She has a great audio story on the Moth called The 25 Cent Spa where she recounts her experience at a Moroccan Bath.
Bath #2: Bathing in Mud
For 6 Lira (about $2), you can temporarily look like an avatar descendent and have moist, sulfuric mud bake dry onto your skin by the hot sun. After rinsing off, your skin will feel tight and silky smooth. The mud is nutrient-rich and is said to have healing powers. The only downside is that the place smells like sulfur which kind of sucks. My skin felt great afterwards though.Dalyan, Turkey is known for sea turtles and mud baths. In fact, Dustin Hoffman, Jack Nicholson and David Bowie have all visited Dalyan to bathe in these famed mud baths.
A lot of tourists (myself included) make a day trip out of it by taking a river cruise through the turtle-filled waters of Dalyan. In addition to the mud bath visit, my river cruise stopped at a little island called Turtle Beach for a swimming session and included a fresh blue crab lunch. I ended up sacrificing most of my fresh blue crab to lure in my hard-shelled friends.