Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Turkish Bath (Part I)

Mother's Day Overnight Getaway
12-13 May
Enjoy a train ride throught he mountains to the town of Ciftehan and stay overnight at Celikhan Thermal Hotel & Spa.

I want to preface this post by saying that I do know what a Turkish bath is. I also know what a Spa is. when JB heard about this overnight trip, he showed me the advertisement (above) in our monthly Base magazine. I read it. It sounded lovely. Perfect! We gals had taken a weekend trip to Cyprus last year. It had been an awesome day at the spa.

I recruited Stebbins and Linda to join me along with about twenty other women from the Base that signed on for the trip. We met at the Community Center at noon, took a bus ride to Adana, and then took a 2.5 train ride to Ciftehan. I'd never ridden a train in Turkey. They aren't very popular means of transportation here -- they are used more like they are used in the U.S. -- sparingly and only between certain cities. So I was delighted to have the chance to go.

When we arrived to the hotel, we signed up for our spa times. I was a bit taken aback when they said they didn't do pedicures or manicures or facials. I thought this was a spa? But that was okay. They said we could only get "the package." They called it the massage and facial package. I said that sounded fine but asked for a longer massage. They agreed but said I had to do it the next morning instead to fit it in.

Stebbins and Linda decided to take a 5:30p slot. This would be a huge advantage for me. They would be blindsighted. I would be prepared. 

I took the time that my suite mates were getting their massage and facial to relax. I swam in the heated  indoor pool. I got in the hot tub. The water was glorious, and I nodded politely as numerous Turks discussed the healing properties of this particular water in these particular mountains. I also took a scolding from two women that thought me not having a bathing cap on was incredibly dangerous. Didn't I know my head could get sucked into the drains? I nodded and every time they started using words I didn't know, I told them I didn't understand them and then just pretended I did when they began talking louder to try to get me to understand. I wondered when men got out of the hot tub if me having gotten in meant they could no longer be there? Normal Turkish cultural experiences.

I read and listened to music on my lounge chair and just relaxed. I went back to my room and took a little doze. Glorious!

The room was not an American suite. It was a bit on the dingy side. A bit rundown. I found a slug, yes, a slug, in my bath tub. But the sheets were clean and the room, on the whole, was clean enough.I had twenty-four hours to myself. I enjoyed some chocolate in the mini bar and relaxed. It wasn't perfect. But it was good enough.

When Stebbins and Linda returned from their adventure, they had trouble finding words for their experience. Stebbins was laughing nervously. Linda still had her facial mask on. I heard things like not a typical spa, topless, completely naked, large dancing women, singing, confusion, hot steam, etc.

We realized that what we thought was going to be a day at the spa was instead a day at a Turkish bath.

I have heard a lot about the Turkish baths. But I had never been to one. Some people love them. Some people despise them. Some Turks like them. Some Turks do not. I had heard rumors of large naked women rubbing your body and their body all at the same time. And so I had opted to not try one while I was here. Call me a prude. Call me modest. But large Turkish women and me, naked in a room together, just didn't stir up my desires to participate.

I'll be honest though. Part of me felt I was going to regret that. How do I live in Turkey for two years and not participate in a Turkish bath? It's a huge part of the culture. JB had done it while he was in Izmir. He really enjoyed it. (And he had men who were dressed by the way.) Was I going to live never having taken part?

I felt like I might have a bit of regret. I remembered when JB, myself, and our three friends: Tara, Ajit, and Kelsey, were standing on top of a bridge overlooking the largest bungy drop in the world. John was going to do it. Was I? "Is there not a tiny part of you that thinks you'll regret not doing it?" JB asked. No. There wasn't. Not even a slight part. I would never regret not jumping. And in the five years that have passed since, I haven't.

But a Turkish bath? Not exactly as difficult to muster up the courage for. Would I regret it when people asked me, "So what was it like getting a Turkish bath?"

I might.

And now, here I was, face-to-face with my Turkish bath experience. Would I proceed? I had been warned. Stebbs and Linda had not. They were moved from room to room with naked women dancing all around and no way to get out. I knew. Would I proceed?

I ate a wonderful dinner and listened as the rest of our group, having all gone that evening instead of in the morning like I was scheduled to do, used descriptive language to describe their experience. I couldn't really find anyone who enjoyed the process. The massage, a shorter version of what I had signed up for, was okay but the bath just had them all a bit shell-shocked.

I could back out. I had ample warning. But I decided to do it. I was going to go for it.

When in Turkey ...

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