“You’ll feel like a million bucks, trust me” (Day 736)

I had just met Joe the day before, a friend of a friend.  He was talking about the Turkish bath experience.  I had heard about Turkish baths and wanted to try one for myself.  An Istanbul resident, he took me to the one he goes to.  He gave the bath attendants some instructions in Turkish, and, just before leaving, gave me some last-minute advice: 

“Just let it happen.”

Huh.  This sounded ominous.  What exactly did I sign up for??

First, the attendant took me to a small change room.  I was given flip-flops. The room contained a few hooks for my clothes and a bed. I ditched my clothes and put on the cloth I was given.  I was then directed to a sauna. I sweated like a monkey for I don’t know how long.  So far, so good.

Then, a man, wearing only a cloth himself,  motions me into a marble room.  He speaks no English, but through hand signals and grunts he directs me to sit at one of the stalls.  This is where things get unusual for me.  He proceeds to pour hot water on me.  He then rubs me down with some kind of rough, leather mitt.

We then move to a marble slab.  I lie down.  He washes me and gives me a massage.  That’s right, imagine the scene:  Me, wearing only a cloth, being washed and massaged by a large Turkish man, also in only a cloth.  You see the situations I get into when I travel?

Actually, “massage” is putting it nicely.  He is actually beating me down.  All my muscles are stretched, every bone in my body is cracked.  It was brutal.  In some other context, like where I wasn’t a paying customer, some might say I was in a fight and losing badly.  But, in this case, it was awesome.   

After this, my muscles are jello.  I can barely walk.  I fisher-price my way back to my change room.  I realize then what the real purpose of this room is: to recover.  A recovery room, is what it is.  Physically beat, I lie down for a nap in the bed and reflect on the state I’m in.

Afterwards, another man comes into my recovery room and towels me off.  For the whole process I didn’t do anything for myself, except breath.  That was all I had to do.  The rest was taken care of for me.  The Turks are all about customer service. 

Later, I walked out of there… feeling like a million bucks!  This is the turkish bath experience.  You should try it.  You can feel like a million bucks, too.

Where it went down

A couple of highlights of Istanbul, the capital of Turkey, have been the impressive buildings and the food.

Aya Sofya, originally built by the Romans in 537.  That’s old!

Hello, tasty kebab

Chestnuts, roasting on an open fire…

I wanted to mention that, in travel, all kinds of weird things happen to me all the time.  95% never make it to this blog.  I just don’t have the time to write about all this stuff.  In “strange” parts of the world, strange things happen almost every day.  I wish I had a film crew following me around all the time — the things you would see…

As a quick example of something I wouldn’t nomally blog about, I got a haircut yesterday.  I gave the barber my now-standard “hand signals” description of how I wanted my haircut.  (Btw, for a fun exercise to the reader, next time you want a haircut, pretend you are mute and try to explain how you want your hair styled).  The cut went well.  He pointed to my ears and said something in Turkish.  I had no idea what he could be talking about.  Was there something in my ear?

He took out a metal wire with a cotton ball on the end and pointed to my ear again.  I shrugged.  Seriously, I don’t have the slightest.

Then, before I figure out what is happening, he sticks it in a jar of clear liquid, lights it on fire, and starts slapping my ear with it!  Holy shit!  What is going on?!?  I smelled something really bad.  Then I realize:  he is burning my ear hair.  He did the same to the upper parts of my cheeks.  I guess I had too much hair there, too.  It was odd and scary, but you should feel my ears now, they are as smooth as a baby’s bottom.

There you have it.  Yesterday I had my ear-hair burned.  Just another day in the life of a traveller…

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11 Responses to “You’ll feel like a million bucks, trust me” (Day 736)

  1. AK says:

    Not only are you an ueber-mensch, but I’m gleaming that you fisher-priced your way anywhere. At ease.

  2. Derick Lalonde says:

    In all honesty I’ve been slightly negelectful in my blog following of late. This posting almost made me pee my pants…and I have very good blatter control. Funny funny stuff, top form, full marks, all-stars in my row ;)

    Had a visit from Roger and Candis here in Ottawa a few weeks ago…your ears were likely burning then as well. All good things of course. Also, Baz is going to be a papa!

    You’re always missed back home old friend.

    Derick

    • smartelo says:

      AK — I had to look “ueber-mensch” up. I’m honoured.
      Yes! “Fisher-pricing”, I have been throwing that term around all over the world, and I want you to know: the people love it :) I need to send you some royalties, haha.

      Derick — From our many adventures, I know that you have one of the strongest bladders on the planet, so I take your comments quite seriously. Gracias. And, thanks for the news back home, I love hearing that stuff.

  3. smartelo says:

    For this post, I need to send a thanks out to Joe for putting me in this situation: If I didn’t have Joe, I wouldn’t have a story :) Teşekkür ederim/

  4. Joe says:

    Glad you enjoyed yourself, Shawn. This was an excellent recollection of the Turkish Bath experience. Regarding your haircut and flaming lobes… like everything here, yes, just let it happen. Enjoy the rest of Turkey and beyond. Let us know if you need anything.

  5. Kim says:

    Yes, yes,!! I’m so glad glad that you enjoyed you’re Turkish bath – that’s exactly what happened to me except it was a but weirder because I was a girl….but I can’t tell you how many layers of dirt they scrubbed off me, it was awesome-weird!

  6. David says:

    Sounds great.

    Did he turn you on your stomach?

    Did he stand facing your feet?

    Did he grab your feet and pull your legs back so that your face was ground into the marble floor and your spine bent backwards like a twig?

    Welcome to Morocco.

    • smartelo says:

      It’s all a bit of a blur now, but he I remember he turned me on my stomach pushed my legs up towards my ears, where they they definitely are not supposed to go. Haha, yes I felt like a twig… and a pretzel.

  7. Lauren H says:

    I’m so glad Joe hooked you up with the hamman…it’s pretty unique, slightly masochistic, and awesome, all at the same time.
    Hope you’re loving Turkiye! (and please, eat lots of börek for me…)

  8. Pingback: Summary and Best Of: Europe, the Middle East, and Africa | Shawn Was Here

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