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.
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!
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…