So there I was lying on a large circle of marble: naked, with several other naked women and scantily clothed scrubbers, splashers and bathers.
It was in the Cemberlitas Hamami – the oldest Turkey bath located near some of Istanbul’s greatest monuments. I found it by walking one hour and a half from the Fatih area to the hamami that is situated near a mosque, a school and some tombs.
I was greeted at the reception room and paid 70 lira’s for the traditional experience.
Then I was led through a door, where I was met by another lady who told me to go upstairs, take off my clothing and wrap myself up in a towel that looked like a dish rag.
I had been handed a chip with the selected service, and a bag with a scrubber and a pair of black bikini panties. Well, I thought the underwear was for later when I would be squeaky clean.
So when I got inside the steam room and was told to lie down on the marble platform, I couldn’t see a thing. My glasses were steamed up. So I just did as I was told and waited for the next request. A husky women, wearing a black bra and bikini underwear handed me some black panties and told me to put them on. I struggled trying to pull them up over my hips because by then my body was damp. She helped me pull them up; this is the first time since I was about three years old that someone helped me put my panties on.
Then she told me to wait for her. She proceeded to finish up with another woman, who knew that the panties were for the duration of the bath.
Then it was my turn. She pushed me and gestured for me to turn over, so I obeyed, and she splashed a bucket of hot water all over me, and a bit later she came back, and told me to lie down on my back. She put a layer of soapy bubbles on me and began to scrub me from neck to toes. It felt like sandpaper. Then she motioned for me to turn over on my stomach and she scrubbed me again from neck to the bottom of my feet and between my toes.
Sit up, she said and I obeyed. She scrubbed my arms and neck, and then told me to follow her. When she saw that I couldn’t see my way, she guided me to an alcove, and then poured water on my head and some shampoo and washed my hair, neck and arms. Bliss.
She finished up the process with cooler water, and told me to go into another room. There I received a large towel to wrap around by body and one for my hair. I sat and drank some orange juice and when I felt ready to hit the street and grab a taxi, I got dressed and gave the receptionist a small tip for the scrubber. I felt rejuvenated.
Now the taxi ride, the hotel experience, and where I am this minute.
Yesterday, you may recall I didn’t have a room in the hotel, but the owner made good and took me to another hotel owned by a relative of his. I woke up this morning, had an extensive breakfast in a garden room overlooking the bay, and then I was ready to go to the correct hotel.
“I’m going to walk around a bit, before I’m picked up,” I told the young man in the hotel.
While I walked I paid attention to the cars who were driving up and down the narrow streets, thinking I’d see someone who may be looking for me.
Back in the hotel, the reception man pointed to two men who were to take me to the hotel. I knew that one of my suitcases was extremely heavy, so this morning I took the computer out and the camera to carry myself.
Well, the two men pulled my suitcases up the stone street, while I followed with my computer bag, camera, purse and heavy coat. Up we went, up, up, up, up. “Where are we going?”
Ha, ha,they laughed, not knowing why I was asking. Finally, we were back at another hotel.
“What are we doing here?” (It was another hotel owned by the same man).
“Oh, you must wait here and a taxi will pick you up and take you to the Fatih Hotel.”
The taxi came, and loaded up my stuff, while one of the guys jammed on a helmut and got on his motorcycle. I thought he was leaving work.
When we got to the hotel, he was there waiting for us. I never knew what the heck was going on.
We got inside and guess what? My room wasn’t ready, so that is when I opted to take in a Turkish bath.
After the bath, I got inside a taxi, gave the driver the phone number of the hotel so he wouldn’t get lost as other drivers seem to, and I thought he had it all figured out. The traffic is horrendous, so when he said he would take a longer route to avoid traffic and it would save time, I agreed.
He was a flirty guy, kept touching my hair, lifted up my hand and kissed it. Laughed. Raised his hand for a high five, and flattered me to know end. I got suspicious of his behavior and looked down at the meter and lo and behold he hadn’t turned it on. That was a red flag.
“You didn’t turn on the meter.” I pointed to it. He had started it at 40 lira’s when the gentleman in the hotel told me it shouldn’t cost more than 18.
The driver laughed and told me it was okay because of the traffic. I didn’t say anything at that time, but worked up my nerve for the moment he would stop at the hotel.
He eventually stopped, told me to walk up the hill to the hotel and pay him 45 lira’s.
“No, I’m not going to pay you that much.”
“Oh, yes, you must pay me. The petrol is expensive, and the traffic is bad. I had to take the long way.”
“That is not fair.” I handed him 15 lira’s and he laughed.
“No, here’s 30.”
“Okay, I’ll take 25.” He laughed and tousled my hair. He learned he should not have lowered his expectations of the American lady. But he also showed a bit of character for his attempt at misleading me, by agreeing to a lesser amount.
It was half of his original request, but still over what it should have cost. Always check to see the meter is on before you get going.
When I got back to the correct hotel, a room was ready for me. It’s on the third floor up a winding staircase.