In the name of cultural discovery, amusement, and relaxation, I convinced Jed we should go to a hammam. Hamam has been around since the Greeks and Romans, however the Turkish bath style is still popular and many of the old baths, set in beautiful buildings, are still in use around Istanbul. Different from the public baths we visited in Budapest, the Istanbul-style hammam involves time in a hot chamber, a scrub, a wash, and a cool down. Many hammams have become more spa-like, offering various deluxe treatments. This was not one of those hammams.
The descriptions of the massage part I read were described as "perfunctory" so I thought it might be a quick shoulder rub and that's it. Oh, no. Starting with the back, working down to the legs and feet, this was the fastest, deepest of tissues massage I've probably ever had. I don't mind a hard massage but this was fast and furious. Is this how the Sultan's liked it? I have no idea. I would be lying if I said I wasn't in some pain at certain points. As he went for my feet, I immediately tried to look for Jed, who does not like his feet touched in any way. Just as I did I heard his masseuse make a strange sound, something like, "eeeeeeeooooowwweeewww!" Basically he had registered Jeds discomfort. He would make this noise many more times before the end. I was caught between stifling laughter, sympathy for Jed, my own pain like when he twisted my arm round my back to dig into my scapula, and trying to relax and enjoy the experience. I think the whole massage/wash part lasted 15 min but it felt much longer.
Next was the rinse off, one final splash of shockingly cold water and we off to the cooling room. But not before another man dried us off and wrapped us in fresh towels like a baby out of the bath.
At this point, we were glad it was over, a little light headed from the heat of the sauna and dying to discuss it with each other. I was praying that Jed wasn't furious at me for making him go through with it.. The cooling room is another architecturally beautiful room with couches to lounge. We sipped fresh pomegranate juice, a Turkish tradition, as our bodies returned to normal temperature, and I decided I liked the whole experience and would do it again. At least it was a good activity to do before catching an overnight bus to central Turkey. I think I slept pretty well that night.