After I graduated from college I took a month holiday to celebrate in Greece and Turkey. While in Istanbul, we were lucky enough to visit a traditional Turkish Bath House or Hammam and it was experience I will never forget! The history of bath houses are so rich and interesting (learn more here), and if you travel to Turkey it is a must.
The beginning of the treatment begins with elevating your body temperature through alternating the sauna and steam room a few times. The next “step” is a plunge in cold water-where every few minutes we could hear a splash followed by sounds of a screeching woman! The point of this process is to strengthen your immune system and invigorate your body. After the rather shocking plunge, I was lead to a warmed marble table while I rested and waited for my scrub master/masseuse to bring me to the next station I like to call the scrub down table. I had never been so vigorously cleaned (this was prior to my visit to the Olympic Spa in KoreaTown LA-more on this later) and although not a soothing body scrub as I was used to in the West, my skin felt amazingly smooth.
After the scrub I put on a robe and we drank tea. This was not optional. People do not rush out of the spa there as they do here, in fact, it is considered part of the treatment to continue to relax. Otherwise the point of the process would be lost. Although the experience on the whole was rather un “spa” like according to our standards, I rarely leave as relaxed and completely re-charged here as I did that day. In Turkey this is a ritual that is experienced by many of their people on a weekly basis, because they know it is a crucial restorative practice, and also because it is tradition. Also you can’t beat the price, cheap! Here is a link if happen to be in Turkey:
If not, don’t worry, this worldly art has become quite popular recently and there are many Hammams popping up. Expect less traditional and more expensive but usually an absolute treat.