|Elles in a turkish bathhouse
Today I finally came round to it. I, Elles, have been to a real Turkish Hamam, a public bathhouse to have a complete scrub. I was a bit afraid, although we went their yesterday already, just to inform anyway how the whole ritual would work. Today I finally did it and went on my own to the Ladies Hamam. The lady who had explained everything the day before jumped in the air when she saw me. She ran to me and gave me a warm welcome with two big kisses! I wondered where all this excitement came from. Should I have bargained a bit more (we are talking about 2 dollars) or was she excited to have a Dutch blond lady, as a change of the daily routine, in her Hamam.
I only have a towel with me and have, unfortunately forgotten to bring soap. Fortunately a Turkish lady offers the use of her soap. Okay, now what. Here I am in a Turkish bathhouse without any English speaking person to help me. I feel a bit lost to be honest. I am happy to receive help from the owner, a big mamma who could easily play a part in a soap opera. With lots of hand signals she explains what I should do; take off all my clothes and keep my underwear on. A little bit uncomfortable I walk into the bathroom. Itís a large round room with high ceilings with, a along the walls, a low stone bench. Every other meter or so there is a stone sink in which continuously water flows. Itís a nice warm and humid room. I can sit down next to the lady with the soap. A few older ladies on the other side of the room look a bit disturbed as if I interfered them in their ritual. Some younger ladies are giggling. I decide to copy the rituals of the other ladies and start pouring water over my body with a little cup. The owner had asked me to come early so the place would be empty. But, in contrast with yesterday afternoon, the place isnít empty and the place starts to get packed. Well at least not on my side, which stays relatively empty but on the other side. I guess the lady had called all her friends to come and have look at me, a Dutch blond lady. And they are now all on the other side of the room looking at me. Maybe itís because they donít dare to sit next to me or because they want a front row seat.
In the meantime, the owner has changed as well and starts washing the first lady. It is common to have yourself washed by somebody else. Reason for Michel to skip this adventure as it means that he is washed in menís hamam by.. guess what, a men. He doesnít feel comfortable with that and I am not sure if I do. The old lady, who is washed in front of me starts changing in one big foam bubble. From all sides, little buckets of water are poured over her and with lots of enthusiasm all dirt is scrubbed of her. After 10 minutes or so it is my turn. The lady starts with my head. After an enormous amount of shampoo is plunged on my head and the lady has grabbed two dots of hair, my head is literarily being scrubbed. With massive force she takes care of every single piece of hair on my head. Oh my god, I donít have that much hair and I hope I still have after this session. I reckon this is nice when you have a thick layer of hair like the Turkish women have, even on their legs by the looks of it. But I have to take it as it comes. I wanted to experience a hamam, even when it means I have to loose some hairs. After a large amount of water is poured over whatís left of my hair, this part is over.
A six year old girl runs around in the Hamam. After she has washed and combed the hair of her Barbie doll several times she notices my hair and me, being a real living Barbie, which is more interesting then hers. She comes to me and starts pouring some water gently over my back and then starts to comb my hair carefully. At first she just combs the tips of my hair and when I donít seem to bother she does the whole lot. The rest of my hamam adventure she stays on my side following me everywhere.
I thought I had seen the better part with my hair but this didnít seem to be true. Now, the real work begins. It is time for the full body scrub by Mamma! With force, using all her body to put strength to it (believe me she was huge), all dead skin cells and dirt is scrubbed of my body with a special scrub cloth. Apparently I had gathered some dirt in the last few months of travelling! But with the dirt, my bronze tint I am so happy about disappears as well, or was it dirt? Finally I am soaped with something that looks like ordinary green soap, smells like ordinary green soap and maybe isÖ. Green household soap! No pore on my body is spared. Now I start to look like a soap bubble. Within no-time I reach the nirvana of the Hamam, complete cleanliness!
I will always remember this experience in this lovely little hamam in Erzurum. The damp room with all the bathing ladies. Ladies who normally walk the streets completely covered sitting next to each other half naked bathing all morning. The wet strings of hair attached to their face, the huge white pieces of underwear, the large bellies of all the children they put on this planet and lots and lots of foam!
Proud as a lady I leave the hamam. Maybe Iíll go again as we have some time left in Turkey.