Saturday, August 13, 2011
Turkish baths are something that have always intrigued me, though for some reason I have never actively sought out experiencing one.
Today, however, I was invited to go...and, having been given Owen's blessing, happily took advantage of a much-needed break from 24/7/365 mothering and a chance to pamper myself in the company of friends.
It did not disappoint.
After stripping down to the bare essentials, you pass through a small doorway to enter the baths. This first step is amazing, especially if it's your first time experiencing a Turkish bath, because it transports you to an era long ago...How do I describe it in words when it's all about atmosphere?
Here's my best shot: There is one central vaulted ceiling, pierced by a scattering of small stained-glass skylights, which highlight the alluring, lighted, raised stone hot tub below it. The tub, filled with warm, crystalline, turquoise waters, practically glows, as if it's perfectly aware of the beautiful union unfolding above it...the union of its own warm, rising mist intertwining itself with the soft green, red, blue, yellow lights sifting down through the stained glass above. The sight is mesmerizing. Surrounding this central focal point are numerous other sections, the whole room open yet separated into cozy areas by a series of arches and vaults (though none as high as the central vault). These areas house marble slab tables for exfoliation and massage, showers, a warmed marble bench, and saunas. The entire bath is dimly lit by ornate hanging iron lamps (which I am desperate to get my hands on!), which play off the flirting steam and cast patterned shadows to dance upon the walls. The focal point of the whole place, by layout as well as by lighting, is the warm pool in the center.
The way it works is this: You first rinse off in the showers, then head to the sauna to relax. There are 2 levels to this vaulted, stone sauna--an upper and a lower. The upper section has a visible steam cloud that descends lower as it gets hotter, and is at least about 20 degrees "warmer" than the lower section. Being stone, the steam collects on the ceiling as condensation, and drips extremely hot water periodically, which keeps you alert! After a few minutes, a lady brings a tray of iced hibiscus tea to aid in hydration.
A soak in that glorified hot tub is next on the agenda...after which they call you out one by one for a full-body exfoliation. This was a new experience for me: they have you lie down on an un-padded marble table (we decided it kind of felt like laying yourself upon an altar), then don their exfoliating mitts and scrub away, with intermittent rinses from water that runs nearby (in troughs? I'm not sure, I forgot to look). It was shocking, really, what came off! But boy, was our skin smooth afterward!
The highlight came next: a full-body olive oil massage (again on one of those marble tables, but this time padded). At the end, we showered off, received a Dead Sea mud mask, and finished it off with another sit in the sauna.
I so badly wish I could have taken pictures, but due to the nature of the baths, it just isn't...well, modest...to be taking pictures. It was interesting to me, however, to discover that there is just one bath area, and they have separate hours for men and women. I assumed they would have 2 sections and be open to either gender. At the place where we went, the women's hours are in the day, and the men's hours are in the evening.
I envision another Turkish bathing experience in my future.