Personally, I think that people in the West are way too modest, myself included. We encounter so many depictions of model-like bodies that it’s difficult to simply enjoy and embrace the skin we’re in. I try to push myself to do some of those uncomfortable activities, which I think will help me align my personal philosophy with my mindset.

So even though I knew it would be weird, I was looking forward to visiting a hamam, or Turkish Bath. Lots of people just getting clean. However, I was really worried about the whole “scrubbing” portion because I have very sensitive skin. (I also talked with another traveler who reported that the “peel,” as it was called, was torturous to him.)

I went to a hamam in Antalya on an off day, and I was pleasantly surprised to learn that I could pick which things I wanted to have done. There is a steam, scrub, soapy massage, and oil massage. Thankfully, I was able to avoid the scrub!

After paying, I went into the women’s portion of the hamam, where two women were waiting. I went into a changing area, coming out in a towel and clogs, and then the nice lady, who didn’t speak any English, led me to the steam room. She took my towel and dumped small buckets of water over me. Then she showed me how to lay down on the marble, to embrace being naked in the steam room. I was both thankful to be alone but a little disappointed not to see lots of women gossiping around me. After the steam, I had the most interesting soapy massage. First, soap is slippery enough without trying to lay on a marble table while a woman is pushing and pulling you. Second, it was by far the most thorough massage I’ve ever had… Then she dumped about 10 buckets of water over me and then motioned for me to continue with another 40 or so. Then she led me to the outside area where I had a nice cup of apple tea (cider). By this time, I’m feeling pretty ok with removing my towel and getting onto a normal massage table for the oil massage, but I’m still confused by the fact that she never shut the door of the small massage room (which opened to the entrance of the hamam). I suppose it was  so she would know if someone came in, but somehow naked people seeing me seems very different than clothed people.

Overall, it was a great experience. I was there a little over an hour and came aware feeling extremely relaxed and just a little bit more comfortable in my own skin. I will definitely try it again!

Note: after my experience and talking with others, I encourage you to definitely go to a smaller hamam outside Istanbul to have an authentic experience, to avoid paying exorbitant rates, and to avoid being pushed for extra services and tips.

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