A few days ago we both had a Turkish bath. It has taken me all of those days to get over it to write about what transpired.
Cinci Hamam in Safranbolu is one of the most renowned hamams in Turkey, so the book said. We headed our separate ways, Sharon into the red domed steam baths of the women’s bathhouse and me into the men’s.
Sharon told me later after she changed into a small towel, she was met by a large woman in a bikini who gave her the full treatment. I don’t know her full story so will have to relate my experience.
Wrapped in a Turkish towel, I was led through two large timber doors into a white marble floored and walled steam room. Four domed rooms were set off a large domed central area where a great slab of white marble was used as a seat. Four men, similarly robed in small red checked towels sat in the side rooms dishing water over themselves so I found a bench next to the stone bowl of hot water. The others eyed me and me them and I took their cue and began to douse myself with the hot water. A very large and hairy chested, bearded Turk with a large belly entered the steam room and beckoned to an even larger man who waddled into a smaller massage room for his treatment. I sneaked a look to see what I was in for until the only other person in the room, a bald round-faced gentleman, began to wander the room. He sat under an adjoining dome and made glances towards me, then rose and seated himself on the central marble slab. When he continued to make eyes I tried to ignore him by splashing the hot water over myself. I myself made hurried glances toward the treatment room where the fat man was being beaten into a soapy lather by the big hairy Turk. The bald man rose and sat on the marble seats opposite me. Now this was getting a little awkward. Either he is a friendly local looking for some international conversation or he had other plans. I casually drew my knees together to protect my dignity but the bald man spread his legs wide and revealed a not so bald package that Jacqui Lamby would be proud to announce on Turkish radio to call her own. I shot a hurried look to the adjoining room where the grunts from the fat man on the marble slab were continuing unabated as the hairy Turk beat his back and I wished I was on the bench and not he.
Baldy was making me feel somewhat uncomfortable and the dishing of hot water over my head was doing nothing to distract his silent attention. When his glances turned to stares I thought I should make some conversation so I began with, “Do you come here often?” but that sounded like a bad pick up line in a cheap haman, not the most renowned one in Turkey.
“I am from Istanbul,”he said in a Turkish accent, spreading his legs a little wider and placing one hand on his knee. ” I come here quite often.”
I’m not very good at conversation at the best of times. A couple of wines and I’m an expert and I’ll chat all night but facing a bald podgy man who has spent the last twenty minutes stalking the steam room and who is now sitting two metres opposite me with his legs wide open displaying a bowl of kiwi fruit and salami had me frozen into stupid silence.
“Beautiful building,” I tried. Just stares.
“Great country,” I ventured. No answer.
The red fat man waddled out of the room and plonked himself on the large central marble slab and to my untold joy the 120 kg hairy Turk beckoned me into the room for a joyful beating and a thumping and a soaping and a massage and a back adjustment thrown in for good measure.
“What happens now?” I asked the Turk as I slid off the soapy marble altar.
“Go to steam bath and stay as long as you want,” he said.
Thankfully, baldy had removed himself from my domed quarter of the hamam so I dished water over my head to remove the soap. When I turned away from the tap, there was baldy standing a non-metric six inches from my side. I stiffened then jumped as his hand lightly touched mine and I let out a little startled cry.
After my eyes had reached normal size and I managed to regain my footing after shuffling backwards across the marble, I forgot about international language and formalities.
“See ya, mate. I gotta go!”
Again, not a good line. I never want to see him again.