Turkish Bath Experience

I had heard that if you are in Turkey, you must try a Turkish bath, and so I did, along with my daughter.  We were only in Istanbul for a couple of days, staying at Agora Guesthouse, which was conveniently located in the historic district.  From the roof top you can see the sea and the Blue Mosque.  It's different from hotels, as they have some hostel rooms on the lower floor and some guest rooms on the upper levels.  It was quite affordable.  Like most Turkish hotels, they can make arrangements for you for all kinds of experiences.  The staff there made our Turkish bath appointment at Gedikpasa Bath, and a car even picked us up to bring us there, not that it was very far away- maybe a 15 minute walk.  It's near the Grand Bazaar, tucked away in a neighborhood.

The Gedikpasa Bath is one of the oldest and most historic bathhouses.  It was built in 1475, which seems impossible when one considers how young the USA is.  We had prepaid with cash through our hotel, so when we arrived, we were ushered into the women's changing area with small rooms which you could lock, so your valuables would be safe.  We weren't aware of the process, so it was a bit confusing.  Not everyone speaks fluent English in Turkey.  You are given a cotton wrap to use around your body, and you keep your underwear on, or better yet, bring bikini bottoms.  Whatever you wear is going to get wet.
Changing rooms are quite modern and lock
Wrapped in a flimsy cotton towel, we entered the women's bath section.  It's a gorgeous steamy domed room with skylights made of hand formed glass.  We started with 15 minutes in the dry sauna, just off the room.  You can stretch out on the cedar beds, or just sit.  The point is to sweat out any impurities.  When you've had enough, or when the masseuse comes to get you, you rinse off at one of the faucets surrounding the room, then lay flat on the stone in the center of the women's bath section.  At first it's a bit discomforting to be nearly naked in front of another woman who is washing you.  Most of us haven't had that done since we were small children being bathed by our moms!  She started with something like a loofah and SCRUBBED!  Everything turns pink!  That is followed by what feels like a soapy inflated pillowcase being rubbed all over your body.  Then there is the stretching where your arms are pulled behind your back and stretched, trying to get out all the knots.  I wouldn't call it relaxing, but when it's done, you do feel better.
domed skylight
When you're done with the soap massage cleansing, you head over to a bench and faucet along the wall where you wash off the soap.  The masseuse comes to help you and washes your hair, pouring buckets of fresh water over your head.  I might note that there was no way to get a comb through our tangled hair after the shampoo, so you may want to bring your own conditioner if you have long hair.  Once the rinsing is done, you can swim in a refreshing pool, that is in something that resembles a small cave.  I think that was the best part.  Then you shower and return to your changing room where you get dressed and collect your belongings.

If you like, you can also request a pedicure, complete with tiny fish who nibble at your toes!  Or sit, relax, and have a cup of tea.  Honey or oil massages are also available, but we weren't aware of that before we had the bath, or we probably would have tried it.  Overall, it was an unusual experience- 'weird' is how my daughter described it.  I guess we just aren't used to that kind of bathing, but at one time, it was the norm.  That was probably long before people had running water in their homes, and took daily showers.  Back then it was about getting together as a family of women to exchange gossip, relax, and get washed.  It's a Turkish tradition that I would suggest, in spite of being used almost exclusively by tourists now.

The women's bath house with a large stone table in the center
and faucets with benches on the walls
Fish pools for pedicures


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