Turkish baths, although sharing certain Roman historical connections with their Hungarian counterparts, are far different.
First, I entered, having left Trina at the women’s portion. I walked down into a smoky room, was given a key and with much charades was shown to my room and told to take off all my clothes and wrap myself in a sort of table-cloth like towel.
The bath was, well, old (over 500 years). And I’m into history, which is nice. It had some nice architectural elements, but it seemed a little grimy. Fortunately, I knew it was authentic. It was in a neighborhood away from tourists (no English menus) and the only other clients were Turks. Our hostel had recommended it.
Anyway, so I eventually come out in my sporty kilt. I ask where to go to the bathroom and get shown the squat toilet room. Fortunately, I’m a guy, and I didn’t need to do the squatting thing. Afterward, I wandered out into the room next to the bathroom, unsure of where to go. So I went back into the first room. No, no, no, I was told, this, room. It seemed they thought I was stupid. Anyway, so I’m shown to the central room, and told to cross it into the sauna.
First, let me describe the central room. It was very large, a steam bath of sorts, with a massive "table" in the middle. The table was marble (well, so was most of the room) and it didn’t have legs; it was solid. Like some sort of alter, only huge. There were a few guys laying on it, kilts on, thank goodness.
I went to the sauna and stayed as long as I could handle it. I’m pretty good with saunas, but I was starting to think I might die of heatstroke, so I left the room, worried that I’d get in trouble for being stupid again. I found one of the many sinks with washbasins on the side of the giant room (which also had other smaller similar rooms (minus the altar) for washing on its corners).
I stood there for a minute, and then went back into the sauna. An unfriendly looking guy came in, and I left again, too hot to handle it. Turns out that was my "bather". Granted, I knew this was going to happen (that I’d be bathed by another man), so I didn’t suspect foul play, but I had no idea what I was in for.
He yelled a t me. I don’t think of people as yelling unless they are yelling. Like a gruff old drill sergeant he just kept yelling at me, in Turkish, and pointing wildly (which made it very hard to understand what I was to do). I eventually sat down on a side bench. Another client leaned over to me and told me in very broken English that I was being teased. I had suspected as much, thinking I hadn’t probably offended anyone (although my kilt was a little short), but I was relieved to know this. The guy came back and yelled a bit more. Then he hit me on the back, like a pat on the back, but with a big, old man burly hand against my soaked back. The noise echoed through the room and was far less significant than the string.
And so began the fun. Woosh. He dumped like a gallon of water on me at a speed that was certainly greater than gravity afforded. What? Woosh again! Then he pulled out this glove and started scrubbing me. Hard. He did things hard. Yelled, washed, scrubbed. I figured it would be worth it when the massage came, since I like a firm rub.
After my washing, he took me over to the altar stone. Lay down (in Turkish)! Which way (in English?). This way! Not that way! This way. Another slap on the side. He got out this girly looking poof thing and started exfoliating me, I think. There was lots of soap. Lots of twisting my arm until it almost broke. This sudsy torture thing soon morphed into my massage. Some of it felt good. Most of it didn’t. He curled my biggest three toes under on each side until they pointed farther than I knew they could. He dug into my calves and quads in a manner that made my whole body jerk. He whapped me again. On the butt (in a sportsy way, nothing else).
After yelling some more, he started rubbing my spine. Not next to my spine. My spine. The whole lower half of my back I think he might have been knuckling directly on my spine. It hurt. Really hurt. If it hadn’t been so quick I would have turned around and yelled at him. But usually when I get a massage, I figure the pain is good. It took me a second to realize why I hated it. He was bruising the bones. They hurt for days.
But before I could realize that was what he had done, it was time to head back to the washbasin for more whooshing. And then he threw a bucket of water across the room at the altar and in one fell swoop washed all my suds off it. He managed one English word the whole time. Tip. Tip. Tip. Then he told me to go back into the sauna.
After nearly passing out in there again, I finally worked my way out to the front room, where they took my towel, re-covered me, and then toweled the rest of me off. This was done by the first gentleman who had shown me where the bathroom was, and it was done vigorously, although by no means as roughly as the old guy.
Anyway, I ended up in the front room, waiting for Trina, given some cold water, and it was time to pay. Suffice it to say, grumpy old man came out and acted all friendly like we were old war buddies or something, and hung over me while I paid (basically with his hand out). I did tip him, although I’m still not sure why. I kind of want to go back and beat him up.