The 300-year old Cagaloglu Baths
As the poster outside the 300-year-old Cagaloglu baths (Prof Kazim Ismail Gurkan Caddesi 34; 522 2424; open daily) states: “If you have not been here before, you cannot be clean.”
We entered, chose from the 'carwash menu' - we all got executive cleans!
We were shown into a small changing room for clothes off, and then on with a towel and a pair of wooden clogs.
Our topless Turkish mama shows us into a vast grey marble hot chamber with niches in the walls where there platforms to sit on and overflowing water basins. We sit/lie down to relax, chat, pour water over ourselves and sip our apple tea
Here, shafts of sunlight pierce the hot, damp haze near the cupola roof, and drips of water resonate in sync with the masseurs’ smacks.
Our own washers enter, they force us to do the walk of shame - naked and hobbling across a wet slippery marble floor wearing our clogs - one person at a time.
We lie on a huge circular marble dais, with our heads on cushions. The washers start scrubbing our skins with special gloves that feel like sandpaper, the objective being to scrub away the layers of dead skin: it's embarrassing to see how much dead skin comes off. After a thorough rinse, and more water pouring with your mates. The masseur then soaps you all over and start kneading your skin and muscles, twisting and bending our arms/legs into every direction and shape, etc. After this the washer takes each of us over to a platform where they sit down behind you, and massage with shampoo your head, face, chest, basically whatever parts of you they can reach, while you try and keep shampoo out of your eyes, nose and mouth, while at the same time trying to inhale enough air to stay conscious.
Just when you think it’s all over, they try and do it all over again. And then precede to try and wrench a comb through your matted hair. You stagger back to your platform and rinse off all the soap/shampoo. When you feel sufficiently rinsed. You grab your towel and hobble off to get dressed.
But you know what......I'd do it all over again!