What do I tell and where do I begin when describing the experience of a Turkish bath, or hamam. I spoke to several locals who actually go to turkish baths and recommend it, enough encouragement for me!
After sorting through luxurious and touristy hamams in sultanahmet, I found a discreet, inexpensive (20USD) hamam on the Asian side of Istanbul, Üsküdar çinili hamam. The hamam has separate entrances and sections for men and women. It was built in 1640, really old and the walls and sinks are made of stone and marble.
An eccentric English-turned middle eastern woman helped me to locate the entrance. I was first guided to a small room where I found an orgy in full swing. No, just kidding, i was led to a room to change and then shown to the inner bath that was circular with small alcoves of sinks surrounding a hexagonal marble platform. Both the scrubbers and bathers were just in underwear, topless.
I kept looking around, trying to figure how the entire operation worked without seeming like a staring pervert. A woman eventually motioned for me to lay down on the marble slab, my turn! In sequence, i received a whole body exfoliating scrub, soap and massage, then rinse. I was able to relax and enjoy the massage but of course how strange to be soaped by another woman after the age of 8.
I would go again, too bad Chicago doesn’t have them…