24 April 2015

The Gülhane B-Roll and a New Hamam Experience

My previous post about the Lale Festival pretty much covered everything I know or frankly care about tulips. But I have more pictures to share! So here's a completely unrelated hamam story.

As mentioned previously, there is no gas in my building this week. As part of the building renovation all the pipes are being replaced. Which really makes me wonder why someone went to all the trouble of repainting the stairwell walls already because now said walls and fresh paint are covered in scorch marks and drill holes. It wasn't that good of a paint job to begin with but now...

Anyway, no gas means no hot water which means no showering. I could handle it if the water came out tepid but it's fracking ice cold. And to illustrate the vagaries of an Istanbul spring...it hailed today. A couple times. So I'm not ready for ice cold showers. This is a perfect excuse to go to a hamam. Normally I go to Çemberlitaş Hamamı but last night I went with E to a place both closer to home and cheaper. It wasn't horrible but I'll stick with Çemberlitaş Hamamı.

Ağa Hamamı is a mixed hamam so the relaxing and hot stone areas are common space. Bathing suits are recommended but I believe the hamam keeps spare bikinis on hand if you don't have one. Men (wrapped in a towel) are bathed in the common area but there is a small (space for only two) side room where women are bathed in "private". Although leaving the door open is rather counterproductive. I wore my one-piece suit which was fine in the common room but the woman who bathed me stripped it off completely. And since my marble slab was the one in front of the door I really rather did want the door closed. However while it wasn't exactly as private as advertised it was a pretty good scrub.

Next, wrapped in about 3 different towels (one of which the bath attendant tied around my head making me look somewhat Bedouin) we were "invited" to relax with some apple tea in the common area/entry way. It's a lovely entry way but it is still an entryway and towels do not clothes make. I would rather have gone straight into the massage but they seemed pretty insistent that we relax first.

When we finally got to the massage...I wouldn't have minded skipping it actually. My what was supposed to be 30 minute massage felt like it was over almost as soon as it started. Which, considering it consisted largely of just having oil rubbed on me versus and actual massage and that it was on the most uncomfortable table. Which was not only uncomfortable but about four inches too short. And once again privacy did not seem to be a big priority. I had to ask that sh close the door fully because, for a hamam that really seems to like to cover you with as many towels as possible (I left the massage with three new ones) she didn't cover me with anything while I was actually on the table. And the oil they use...I'm sure it was supposed to smell floral but I was picking up essence of Hubba Bubba.

This hamam does not have a shower for post oil massage cleaning. They do allow you back in the hamam/hot stone area unlike some other hamams but it is somewhat difficult to bathe if you have to put a swim suit back on. Ağa Hamamı does not provide soap or anything either which is the one thing both E and I neglected to bring. She forgot hers and I just didn't think to bring any since my regular hamam provides things like that.

We got more towels again after our ineffectual bath.

I'm not saying Ağa Hamamı is bad. It's a pretty decent deal at 90TL (50TL sans massage) an it's great if you want to experience a hamam as a couple or family. But I'm pretty sure that I will continue to trek the 40 minute walk to Çemberlitaş Hamamı where, for 60TL extra, I get (I think) much nicer service. Plus the ladies there mostly remember me and I get to jump queues if it's busy! And I don't leave smelling like Bazooka Joe.

PS-the hyacinth at the park smelled glorious. Far far better than did the massage oil.

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