Hamam – source of joy and relaxation
I was tired, exhausted and little sick when I arrived in Istanbul approximately a week ago. Pretty nasty headache was torturing me. Probably the consequence of long working days before my little Turkish holiday. Thus, the prospect for coming free days wasn´t that bright because I wasn´t feeling good. Fortunately, I know what is good for my run-down body and mind.
In Estonia we are very fond of sauna, also called Finnish sauna (which is quite hot, usually 80-100 degrees Celsius). Taking a sauna begins by washing oneself up in the warm room and then going to sit in the hot room for some time. Water is thrown on the hot stones and that produces steam and moisturizing heat in sauna. One can also use leafy boughs of birch to gently beat oneself. This has a relaxing effect on the muscles. After sitting in the hot room one can jump into cold water (lake, river, swimming pool etc) or take a refreshing shower. Then one can rest for while in the dressing room having soft drinks. After resting the hot room cycle can begin anew.
Sauna helps you back on feet when you are sick and tired, gives you both physical and mental relaxation, is good for you blood circulation and lifts troubles off your shoulders.
Thus, hamam shall it be. I decided to go to “my hamam” as soon as possible. Preferably next day.
I must admit – though I have been to hamam several times, I have visited to two hamams only. In Istanbul and Bodrum. I have hesitated to try other hamams because it feels the same like with a dentist – you keep returning if you are satisfied with the procedures.
My hamam is Büyük Hamam, tucked away in a quiet corner of Kasimpasa which fortunately has not been discovered by tourists. Usually I walk there from Taksim or take a bus. First I´ll go to the supermarket or a shop and buy some fruits and drink. After the hamam one can get quite thirsty and hungry, definitely unable to wait until the dinner or lunch time.
In hamam I´m always greeted by joyful women who tell me that all-in-one hamam treatment will cost me 30 TL. That means scrubbing, full body wash and soap foam massage. I take my personal belongings to a small cabin. I can leave all my things there without a problem. Then I get a wrap and rubber footwear. In the warm room I lay down on a warm marble slab. High above me is the dome with small round windows. I lie on my back and can see the clear blue sky of Istanbul. The air in the room is very moisture and not that hot, maybe 50 degrees Celsius. Nice warmth begins to crawl up along my spine. That´s the feeling I come for here. Total relaxation. About 20-30 minutes. Until the washer woman comes and slaps me gently, so we start the scrubbing-washing procedure. She is very joyful, singing and speaking to other women in the room. Scrubbing and soap foam massage are my favorites, washer woman is working very thoroughly. I leave my old skin with a great relief. After these treatments I sit for a while and just pour water over my head. Just to cool down. I would like to stay longer but I am too thirsty and feel pleasantly tired. Thus, I take the bath-towel and drag myself back to the cabin. Washer women are chatting, drinking tea and eating. Smoking is not allowed but everybody smokes here. Women offer me everything they have on their table. Full of gratitude, I join them at their lunch table and have some dolmas, bread and tea.
What a life! Isn´t it just wonderful?!