Traveling Tales: A True Turkish Bath
My mom has informed me that the best way for me to keep up with my blogging as per my resolution is to tell stories from my travels. I think her reasoning is that 1) I have plenty, & 2) she thinks most people read my blog to live vicariously through my experiences. It makes sense really. I do have plenty of stories; in the 8-months since we have moved to England, I have traveled off the Island 5 times, which is a good enough start without considering all the new adventures to be had just in GB.
I think one reason I have yet to blog about these comes from knowing that the Monica in me would try to demand that I methodically start from the beginning, go in order, & not leave a single thing out – which makes this seem a very daunting task.
Another part could be that I am unsure how to go about it. I don’t want them to become methodical narratives of exactly what we did every day – that’s boring. But I’m also not sure how to transcribe my normal method of storytelling which would involve impressions, multitudinous hand gestures, and likely veering off topic a few times.
So, I’ve just picked an experience at random and am going to give it a shot.
Back in July, my friend, Katie, & I took a last minute deal through Thomas Cook for a 5-star resort in Turkey. It was a dual-purpose trip for checking Turkey off our lists & taking a beach vacation. Sun & relaxation were the only agenda – so different for our normal super-tours of the “see & do everything” mentality. Sun we certainly got, but to double-check the relaxation bit, we booked a traditional Turkish bath experience at the resort’s spa.
We had little information on what to expect beyond “scrub” & “massage” because at our resort English was the third language (German was actually the second language, apparently that’s what the majority of their visitors sprechen). We left our cover-ups in lockers, mercifully getting to keep our swimsuits & towels (so glad this didn’t turn into another one of those stories like when I got a “massage” during my Paris study abroad; I’ll tell that one another time). See, what did I tell you about side bars!
The bathing ritual traditionally involves getting sweaty in a hot sauna then getting good & clean afterwards. We put in some preparatory steam time before being retrieved by our attendants & taken into the main area which is a lovely round room of all marble-like surfaces, a ledge circling the wall interspersed with sinks, and a central platform. The room and surfaces are pleasantly warm. This is our bath room:
The attendants had us lay down on the middle platform and began rinsing us with water of varying temperatures. We were thoroughly cleansed with a coarse scrub front and back, and rinsed some more. Each time, they would walk the few steps between the platform & the ledge filling a small metal bowl with water that was sometimes warm, sometimes cold, sometimes hot from the taps. I found myself anticipating the next gentle dousing. There was something so appealing about the cascade of water over your sun-parched limbs. The sunburn did lessen the enjoyment of the scrub, but less so than I expected.
The next part will be difficult to describe as I have never experienced anything like it before, and I spent most of it with my eyes closed, just enjoying. They took strips of fabric that in size & feel I can best relate to if you cut a single leg off of a pair of hose, maybe just above the knee. They dipped the fabric in soapy water, then waved them around in the air so they expanded, somehow, to the size & shape of a small pillowcase. They then passed this soapy air-bubble over your skin, over and over, until they created a cloud of soap around you. It was like being cocooned in fluff. This must be what a latte feels like when it is topped with frothy milk. Or in Fantasia when the baby horses fly through the clouds or Zeus pulls up a bit of them for a blanket. It is its own singular sensation that is truly fantastic.
Rinsed again. The experience ended with covering the skin in oil through a light massage. We followed ours up with a not-so-light massage to work out the stress held deep in our muscles that our Type-A tendencies foster. Before our transition to that, we were re-wrapped in our towels, feeling fresh & new like a baby, shown to a room of lounge chairs and cool wall tiling, and served apple tea. Oh, apple tea! It can be served hot or cold and is delicious either way. The flavor is crisp and refreshing. I brought some mix home from one of the shops in the nearby village, but it just doesn’t taste the same as apple tea made by a local. It was the perfect closing note for our experience.
So, friends, if you ever find yourself in Turkey, I highly recommend a bath.