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Sunday, March 30, 2014

Naked Spas in Turkey

My German naked spa experience opened me to the pleasures of relaxing in the buff. Therefore, when the opportunity to do a naked spa in Turkey came my way, I couldn't resist. What I discovered, however, was that the Turkish hammam is a totally different experience in the altogether, so to speak.

Now, mind you, when going to these naked spas, I am simply doing my duty as your diligent travel reporter. The Turkish hammam, after all, is a cultural and historic experience. Taking a public bath is a Turkish tradition dating back more than 1000 years. So, if you want to soak up the history, you must do as the Romans did. And the Greeks. And the Ottomans. Because they all bathed here.

Going to a hammam can be somewhat intimidating for a first-timer, especially one not well-versed in the Turkish language. Here's a blow-by-blow.

Step #1: Find a hammam. Please do not make the mistake of knocking on someone's door and asking them if you can take a Turkish bath.

Step #2: Tell the hammam attendant the services you desire. You can select from a DIY bath; a bath with an attendant; or a bath with an attendant plus a massage. I opted for the latter.

Step #3: You will be given a little packet that contains a locker key, a loofah mitt, and a pair of panties. Undress, put on the panties, and cover yourself with the tiny dish towel (peshtamel) provided.

Step #4: Go to the bath area. At the Cemberlitas Hammam, this area was a large octagonal room, with a similarly-shaped marbled slab in the middle. Flop yourself down upon the gobektasi (literally, belly stone) as the warm air opens the pores. After a 15-minute light steam, a bikini-clad, slightly out-of-shape spa attendant (a natir) comes over and throws cool water over you. Next, she lathers you up, and, if you are lucky, she scrubs you silly (sadly, my natir was not a scrubber). Then, she throws warm water over you, shampoos you, and exfoliates you with the aforementioned little loofah mitt. After that, you are free to stay on the slab, or you can wander into one of the side alcoves equipped with a kuna, a marble basin with water taps. There, you can fill a tas (bowl) with water and pour it on yourself. Or you can opt to linger in the hot tub, which, at Cemberlitas, was rather tepid. The cost for the process, sans massage, was a mere $15 (plus tip). If you go to a non-touristy hammam, you'll likely find more authenticity for a lower price.
After the bath and massage
Turkish hammams are generally not co-ed, so the naked spa nature of things is not all that titillating, However, I can report that men do have a slightly different experience than women do. The male attendants, called tollaks, are likely to be burly and hairy. And when they scrub you down, they scour you (according to my sources). Apparently, the massage some provide can border on the sadistic, which, frankly, sounds better to me than the lukewarm treatment I received. 

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