Monday, 14 April 2014

Visit to a Turkish Hamam(bath house) and smoking apple tea.

A trip has to be about experiencing the culture and not just about looking at the sights so there we were, in fear and trembling, stripped down to our knickers in a Turkish Hamam or bath house.  I had been quite looking forward to a good massage after many hours travelling in our mini bus and also a lot of hiking and walking making old muscles ache somewhat.  Others in our group were a little more nervous about the Hamam experience but everybody decided to give it a go.  This was a traditional Hamam, about 600 years old,  located in the centre of the town of Selcuk. 

After stripping down, the first step was to lie on a huge circular marble slab heated by a fire beneath.  We all lay there like spokes in a wheel,  giggling, joking and gently roasting. Great brawny Turkish men, clad only in cotton towels wrapped around their waists, barked orders at us in a no nonsense kind of way. After a long slow roast we were taken one by one to be scrubbed within an inch of our hard I thought my skin would come off.  This was followed by a good dowsing with buckets of cold water.

Waiting for our massage...(I'm 2nd from left)
and the only picture taken in the bath house...for obvious reasons!

We were then wrapped in towels and waited our turn to be smothered in oil and massaged by these powerfully strong men. Written down like that it doesn't sound like a fun activity but I assure you it was well worth it.  We came out sparkling clean, relaxed and all pink and glowing. In fact we all felt marvellous. I would highly recommend a visit to a Hamam while in Turkey but suggest, perhaps, steering clear of the more famous ones which may be a bit touristy.  As we left the Hamam an American couple were passing by.  The woman asked us in an incredulous voice "Did you just go in there?"  We said we had and she put her hand to her chest and said "Oh my!"  We told her it was wonderful and she should try it.  She didn't look convinced.

Our hookah coaches 
I get the hang of it...eventually!

The next evening it was time to hang out in a Turkish restaurant and smoke apple tea through a nargile or hookah.  I have not been a smoker and had never tried a hookah before so this was going to be another  novel experience.
After coaching by two young men who told us they were hookah teachers we set to and had a go.   The air around us was filled with shrieks of laughter as one or other of us forgot to inhale/exhale, whatever, but we finally got to master the technique and eventually sat there like old hands merrily puffing away.  Fortunately this cafĂ© was familiar with tourists who don't know hookah etiquette.

Apparently part of the etiquette is to keep quiet and low key, which we certainly weren't, embarrassingly. I can understand why hookah smoking is popular in Turkey, it is very relaxing.  I have no idea whether this type of smoking is a health hazard but figured that once in a life time is not going to hurt.

Hils puffs away in style.

So there you are, two Turkish cultural activities, both heaps of fun with a feel good factor. If you're going to Turkey make sure you enjoy both.