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Visiting a Turkish Bath in Istanbul

ayasofya2

ayasofya2

I visited Istanbul with the idea that I would not do a Turkish bath. I stood by that decision simply because I figured it’d be a bit too touristy, and frankly, it seemed a little silly. I mean, who sits in a hot room with a bunch of middle-aged, incomprehensible men, sweating and unable to breathe? The whole idea seemed preposterous.

That was of course until the fifth of my six days in the city. I was dining by myself at a hilariously-named restaurant in the Sultanahmet called Doy Doy, which, surprisingly, had some of the best food I encountered in over the course of my stay””the Lavash bread and lamb casserole was freakishly delicious.

Across the cobblestoned street from the Doy Doy was an inconspicuous entryway with a sign overhead that read “Bath.” Turns out this hamam was unique in the city, one of the longest continuously operating baths in Istanbul. Established in 1673, the place topped out at a quaint 335 years old, instantly making any American business touting “Since 1973¨ seem kind of ridiculous in comparison.

Once dinner was fully imbibed and my hands were on my belly, I rather impulsively made the decision to throw my inhibition into the wind and remove myself from my clothes in the presence of strange Turkish men. The fact that I had nothing else to do that night was also a consideration.

I walked through the hole-in-the-wall entrance and down the long corridor, tentatively, but confident I’d made the right decision. The hallway opened up into a room set deep into the hillside, quite underneath the Blue Mosque perched on the hilltop several hundred feet above.

The proprietor stepped up at once and engaged me. He told me his prices along with a few quick details about the place. Yes, it was older than pretty much anything freestanding in my United States, setting my mind to consider how things must have been upon its grand opening.

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