Yesterday I experienced my second Turkish Bath – Hamam. Sometimes travel is stressful and a sauna, soak, scrub, and massage sounded soothing. Hamams in Istanbul are inexpensive, and the one I visited – historical Vezneciler Turkish Bath in Fatih District – is said to have “curative water” – yeah!
Vezneciler Turkish Bath
Ottoman Ruler Sultan Beyazid II built the small traditional Hamam in 1481. It was renovated in 1950 when the private bath opened to the public to help provide income for the madrasa.
Why take a Turkish Bath?
The many benefits of a Turkish bath include:
- Deep skin cleansing
- Discharging toxins from the body
- Accelerating blood circulation
- Stimulating the immune system
- Improving muscular and arthritic pain
- Helping respiratory issues by expanding air passages
- Diminishing inflammation
The woman who helped with my Hamam was gentle, but the vigorous process is explained below. I recommend Hamams, but parts of the procedure are slightly uncomfortable. The result – feeling rejuvenated and clean – is well worth any discomfort.
Turkish Bath Procedure
The first step is relaxing and “loosening up” your body. It’s important to sweat during this part of the process. After undressing and wrapping myself in a Turkish towel, I proceeded to the Hamam room and its heated central marble platform. No one else was there, and it was totally silent. I laid flat on my back on the heated platform for about 15 to 20 minutes – looking up at a large circular ceiling dome with small holes where the sun shined through in golden beams. For me, this part of the process was meditative and special.
“The loosening up part of the Hamam process is a perfect time to explore the architecture of a Turkish bath. In most cases, it’s an impressive room covered in marble featuring a big dome, decorative water basins, and an impressive göbek taşı – the central, raised marble platform above the heating source.”
As I slowly “baked” on the marble slab and wondered how long it would take to become well done – the attendant magically came back to save me. She led me into an adjoining room with a sauna where I remained for another fifteen long minutes. If the marble slab seemed hot – yikes for the sauna!! I tried to relax, but just as I was about to wimp out and escape, the attendant returned again, handed me a cool bottle of water, and led me to the “scrubbing” room for the next step in the process.
Soaking and Scrubbing
The soaking, scrubbing, and washing part of the Turkish Bath process took place in a small room off the göbek taşı next to an ornate marble water basin called a kurna. The attendant soaked my body with soap and warm water. While slippery and wet, I received a “peeling” with a rough cloth mitt (kese) used to scrub and exfoliate the skin. A less-abrasive mitt is used for the face and neck.
Washing, Rinsing, Cooling Down, Oil Massage
The vigorous scrubbing was followed by a second more thorough lathering with a sudsy cloth swab and a wet full-body massage – head, face, and hair included – then a refreshing but somewhat startling rinsing with cold water! After the bath, I sat in the tea room covered in Turkish towels and sipped a cup of green tea followed by a 30-minute oil massage – absolute heaven!
The Hamam sends a driver to pick you up and takes you home afterwards – an excellent idea, since at the end of a Turkish bath you’re a bit spaced out and your body feels rubbery. Forget about maintaining your coiffure or makeup during the process…
There was no opportunity to take photos, so I’ve attached media shots from the Vezneciler Turkish Bath website. In comparison, the experience was similar to my Hamam in Cappadocia several years ago. It’s a lighter version of massages experienced at an Ayurvedic spa in Kerala South India ten years ago. Those intense cleansing treatments and deep tissue massages have no rival!
It sounds an amazing experience. I am not sure I would handle the sauna though. My normal blood pressure is low, and I get light-headed in that environment. I suppose there is not the option to skip that step though.