non Istanbul hamams
Last summer, I was in Çanakkale for one evening for a stopover. Naturally, I did what travelers have been doing since the beginning of bathhouse history – I parked my things in a lodging and promptly went to the hamam to wash away the long travel day. The hamam is in the older alley-riddled quarter of the town nearest the harbor. I went in at about 10:00 at night and no one was there. The bath is a standard hamam with modern embellishments: a large room, small compartment rooms around the side for changing, and a TV in the center for post-bath relaxing. Past this room is a narrow axially arranged area with showers, toilets, and a more secluded kese/massage area that is moderately heated, and then the hot room itself is of medium size (as far as these go) with a central göbektaşı and an installed “Finnish” sauna to one side, an increasingly popular addition. I was the only one there and found myself longing for at least one other person to observe/check out. Before long, I found the emptiness meditative and the heat just right. The keseci, not from Tokat but from Sivas and not burly and hairy but wiry and thin and graying, beckoned me to the ‘tepidarium’ area. He conducted the kese entirely with me seated rather than lying down, which I found refreshing. Maybe in Sivas they have a different style. As the Turkish elections were just around the corner, he also regaled me with his views on Turkish politics and American politics and I found them to be equally refreshing. He was cold towards Erdoğan, frigid towards US foreign policy (which he referred to as the ‘policing the world’), and lukewarm about Obama (not entirely convinced by what he has done). The kese was basic and fine. After I went back into the bath and a group of young men came in the bath, loud and boisterous, two by two. They, in fact, kept coming in, until there were ten or twelve, each sitting in their own area on the edge of the room near a basin. I would say they were around 18-20 years old, in the army. What I was first struck by was that young Turkish men still came to the bath at all. What I noticed next was that for them this was not a quiet peaceful moment to wash away the day’s toils but an evening in water theme park. They were cavorting, using the plastic hamam bowls to whip water at each other, and chasing each other as best as they could on the slippery floor. Their shouts reverberated around the hamam, the wet plastered walls amplifying, their voices bouncing off the walls.
İstanköy Hamamı. Izmir. 917 Sokak, behind the Sahlepcioğlu Mosque, Kemeraltı District
My first hamam experience was nearly ten years ago when a friend of mine took me to İstanköy Hamam in the city of İzmir. Until then, like many other Turkish city-dwellers being used to single bathing in bathtubs and showers in their bathrooms, communal bathing had been an extraordinary activity for me. Having been influenced by the Turkish idioms comprising the word ‘hamam’ I heard and the hamam scenes I saw in Turkish comedy films, travel magazines and other visual media, I was presuming the hamam a so-called ‘erotic’, ‘exotic’ and ‘authenticized’ space left in a mysterious past. This personal belief had mainly resulted from the collective cultural memory that considers the hamam as the only ethnographic figure representative of the Ottoman-Turkish bathing culture. On account of my preconditioned mindset, I was not only quite excited about what I would see and live inside İstanköy but also curious if the interior space is as mysterious as I imagined.
As we opened a short wooden door, we entered a square chamber, called soyunmalık or soğukluk, used mainly for undressing, keeping personal belongings, providing bathing equipments and making payment. At that moment, the hamam manager and employees stared at me strangely. My friend later told me that this was because I was ‘a new face’ in the hamam. The side walls of soyunmalık was plastered and painted in a light yellow color. The plasters had partially peeled off and the whole ceiling had darkened due to intense moisture. There were disrobing cabins all around, closed with translucent curtains and seemed to be added later to the original space. First, the manager locked our valuables into a small drawer and gave us its keys tied to a rubber wristband. Then, one of the hamam employees directed us to a cabin and gave each of us a piece of cloth (peştemal) to wrap around our hips. Except for beaches, I had never been such half-naked in a public space before. Yet in a public beach, sexual privacy is guaranteed with swimming suits designed to properly cover the naked body, while a thin and loose cloth is always possible to reveal it. Fortunately, my friend showed me how to wrap my peştemal tightly. Having been full of anxiety, I hardly realized how much small our cabin was for two persons to move and get dressed inside. Half of it was occupied by a wooden bed with a worn and pale divan and a simple coffee table. I had to wear one of several pairs of wet slippers which had probably been used by another bather before.
When we were both ready for the hamam ritual, we moved out of our cabin under the curious eyes of the hamam attendants. The same employee gave each of us a small bar of soap and another piece of cloth (çıkma) which has a different texture from that of peştemal and worn on the way out. After we were provided with all these ritualistic objects, my friend quickly moved towards a steel door not to get cold and I followed him. The door was a bit shorter than average human height so one had to watch his head while passing through it. This door took us to a smaller chamber, ılıklık, sheltered with two vaults and a dome in the center. A white tiling had been applied up to the mid-level of the walls and the moisture had deteriorated nearly all plastered surfaces over this level. In one of the vaulted corners some bathers were smoking while some were seated on a tiled platform in the other one. The bathers were staring at me with the same strange look but I was rather interested in the spatial ambience created with steam creeping into the space each time the door was opened and smoke mixing with light beams running from the small openings on the dome. This sublime picturesque in such a small dimmed space impressed me so much that my anxiety and stress turned into a peaceful mood after a while. I realized afterwards that this space was connected to a musty toilet area by a narrow corridor on which a small space for shaving (traşlık) was located. We spent some time in ılıklık standing and chatting with some bathers whom my friend knew before.
There was another short steel door opening to the main bathing section, sıcaklık, of the hamam. As we entered sıcaklık, I came across with the typical hamam scene I had virtually been familiar before. But this time, instead of plump ladies playing saz, singing loudly and making belly dance, there were a crowd of gay males in different states. Some were sitting next to marble water tubs (kurna) and cleaning themselves. Some had lied down on the central marble platform (göbektaşı) resting or having scrubbing and foam massage. Some were circulating around göbektaşı and some had leaned on the side walls and sending sexual invitation messages to others by bodily gestures. Sıcaklık was lighter and hotter than ılıklık, and the picturesque of steam and light were further strengthened by wet male bodies of the bathers shining under the dome. The space was divided into areas of different sizes: a central area sheltered with a big dome, four corner areas with smaller domes and four side areas with vaults. All the corners and two sides were sub-divided into smaller private bathing chambers called halvet by half-height walls. These corner halvets were busy with partners in casual sex and the others had to wait for their turn to use them. They were closed with curtains on some of which a peştemal was hanged. I learned that this was a sign to highlight privacy, thus to prevent some thoughtless bathers from entering halvet without permission. If anyone was accepted to enter, another pestemal would be hanged as an indication of a ready-to-start sexual activity. I tried to adapt myself to this social environment; spilling from head to foot some warm water in a kurna, lying on göbektaşı and watching the light beams creeping into the space from the big dome, but making no sexual activity. I also remember myself passing to ılıklık section every fifteen minutes since the high temperature in sıcaklık was too sultry for an amateur bather like me.
This first visit of mine did not take as long time as some bathers being used to spend all their day in the hamam. Although time had little relevance in sıcaklık, I realized that we had been in İstanköy for two hours by looking at the wall clock in soyunmalık through the blurred glass on the steel door in ılıklık. I told my friend that this introductory visit was satisfactory enough for me and asked if we could leave. We entered one of the halvets in sıcaklık to take off our wet peştemals and wrap our dry çıkmas instead. As we got back to soyunmalık, the sudden temperature decline made a shock-effect on me, since my skin was not adapted to such a difference in temperature. I remember myself trembling and running to our cabin. We got on our clothes quickly and came to the manager’s desk to get back our valuables and pay the fee which, I thought, was not too expensive for an ordinary hamam like İstanköy. However, every bather in Istanköy was traditionally supposed to leave a tip for the service given by the employees. After we checked ourselves in the mirror, we got out the hamam from the same wooden door into the street. As my friend asked me if I was satisfied with my first hamam experience, I was in complicated feelings. Although only one visit to a hamam (and only to İstanköy) was inadequate to answer his question, I shared with him my impression that hamam was ‘a space of extremes’: hot and cold, dark and light, sublime and ordinary, peaceful and depressing, spacious and narrow, charming and musty, lively and tiring, noisy and acoustic, etc.
In the following two years, I visited İstanköy every month, occasionally with my friends but mostly alone. The more my skin was getting adapted to humidity and temperature difference as well as the social atmosphere, the more time I was spending inside. The strange looks of people dwindled in time so I was able to make many friends there. However, I rarely had sexual activity in İstanköy, only with bathers who were (or seemed) trustworthy. After a certain time, I found myself guiding the inexperienced bathers and introducing them the details of a typical hamam ritual. I also learned some of the terminology of a gipsy-origined language peculiar to gay culture. It was obvious that not all the bathers were visiting İstanköy for bathing. This obviously made sense to me since the physical conditions of the hamam was (and still is) not appropriate for a full cleansing and detoxification ritual. Nonetheless, there were people telling that they were addicted to visiting İstanköy every week since they had no other chance and venue in their daily life to satisfy for their sexual demands; but at least two hours to visit İstanköy and get relaxed.
In the tradition of communal bathing, here are several experiences from Bursa’s fine and venerable Eski Kaplıca.
From the male side, accounts from four bathers, all non-Turks, some experienced bathers, some new bathers, some return customers to the bath itself…
In Bursa we visited a very old bath, it was early in the morning, yet it was nicely populated by the time we entered. This was a huge building, impressive from the outside, and upon entry the building had domed ceiling entirely. This time we only opted for the bath experience – no keseci, etc. we were shown to a changing room, we changed, and with wooden shoes walked into the bath. We entered the first room – it was large, but barren, there were some benches on the side, but not much else. If one was to walk to the adjoined room on the right, there was a place for bathing (seating, basins) but I did not enter, so I could not write much more to that room. Walking forward, there was a door we passed through into the room that had a large pool and further basins. The room was nicely heated.
It was spacious and featured a beautiful octagonal pool in the hot room where one could swim. The pool was fed continuously by a stream of water cascading and creating a wonderful sound.
This was my first hamam experience, and what a better place to do it than Bursa’s finest. My reluctance to bathe naked with other men, was soon turned into an absolute enjoyment, partly because we were covered with thin towels, which minimizes the impact of the ‘first sin’ (you Jewish and Christians out there, know what I mean) and partly because the whole atmosphere made you relaxed. It felt so natural, as if men (and women) were meant to enjoy bathing not in the solidarity of their homes but rather in the company of others. Will I do it again? Most definitely I will! PS: Good company might be the key for a good first experience.
The mood of this bath was very nonchalant; in the past I had been able to keep account of time (for example, how long I spent in the complex, etc) but in this one I have no idea if I spend 30 minutes of 2 hours. The water was a very nice temperature; the room was very light and had a nice presence. There were about 7 men inside, all keeping mostly to themselves, however they seemed to know one another and at times would wash each other or have small conversations.
One man asked me if I could kese his back for him, which I did. He bade me to do it harder than I was. I’m not sure if I was the perfect keseci stand in. Certainly I was excused for not being Turkish. Which, I think, may have trumped any underlying eroticism intended. He also then did me.
We eventually left, passing back into the first, plain, room and changed into dry wraps. It was nice not to be handed the clothes, they were on a rack and there was a partition to change behind – the “nice” part of this was that it was entirely up to the bather when he wanted to leave the baths, there was no one handing you the towels and dry clothes signaling when you should leave, or you didn’t have to walk outside and ask for them.
The changing/lounging room was a vast domed bricked cavernous and beautiful space with beach lounge chairs and a bar and little cabana like dressing rooms.
We stopped by the “bar” – I had an ayran, which was very refreshing after the bath (it may be my favorite drink, after a bath or not) and relaxed a bit on the stools. Many men, most of whom we saw in the bath, were reclining on chairs in this area. Eventually, we made our way back to our shared changing room and relaxed a bit in there before leaving; I could have almost fallen asleep.
I had been to the Bursa Kaplica before by myself, and found the employees to be hostile bordering on the sadistic. But this time around, surrounded by a cohort of 10 friends, I loved it.
We left, returned our key, and were given lemon cologne for our hands (a smell I definitely recognized from having been in Turkey, yet not one that I had been given yet.) I feel that I could have spent many more hours in the bath, maybe all day with intermittent food, drink, cigarettes, etc.
I think this bath, in the Cekirge district, might be my favorite in Turkey currently. It was beautiful and clean, without being kitschy or swarming with Istanbul tourist groups.
And now for something completely different, from the women’s side (written by a Turkish woman)…
The women’s side in the bath was very small. I had a kese and massage. It was very similar to the ones I had in Ulus in style. There were only two spots for women to get kese or massage. Also unlike the hamam in Ulus, this one had a small pool. It was nice, but I really prefer a larger bathing area than a pool. Also there was no gobek tasi. The other thing that I found different was that we had to pay (including for kese and massage) beforehand. Also the entrance area was looked like an entrance for a gym rather than for a hamam. There was no place to hang out. The staff was not very helpful or talkative either. In general it was more professional, touristic and less friendly than my hamam in Ulus. Also it was not very impressive in terms of architecture, no dome or anything like that. But as I said the women’s part was very very small… it seemed like an appendix to the building was converted into women’s bath…
For a little history check out:
Sokullu Hamamı, Edirne; 30 TL for the full works; Men’s morning-10AM, Womans’ 10AM-5PM.
Sokullu Hamamı in Edirne is one of Turkey’s largest, and built by master hamamcı Mimar Sinan. The entrance sports a double-height, triple-vaulted portico with once-ornate columns. This directly refences the Üç Şerefeli Camii (three-vaulted mosque), a major architectural landmark in Edirne. (Sokullu Hamamı is sometimes referre to as the “Üç Şerefeli Hamamı”) Walking in, one might call the entrance a fitting welcome to the central hamam of the Ottoman Empire’s pre-Istanbul capital. The interior and seemingly obsequious keseci inside likewise uphold the pedigree this hamam’s history commands.
Prelude: I went to Sokullu Hamamı immediately after attending Kirkpinar, which means watching hours of (continue reading…)
Ali Paşa Hamamı
I went to the Ali Paşa Hamamı, otherwise known as the ‘Yeni Hamam’ by the locals in Çorum in late February 2009. This is a 16th century building renovated recently. It is in the heart of the old and present town center, right by the clock tower and other historical buildings.
I must admit that I did not pay much attention to the exterior of the building –the façade is sort of hidden between shops selling nuts along with hamam utensils like soaps and kese and the like. On the interior, the main room had a special feature, which I had not seen in other hamams before. Around the göbektaşı there were four niches on the sides and four rooms at the corners, each room with a different temperature on the inside. These rooms did not have doors but were semi-private, separated from the main room with brick (presumably) walls with marble coating. Above the threshold of each room was a sign indicating the temperature level in them, but with names of the four seasons; yaz, bahar and so on.
I visited the hamam with one of my best friends, who is from Corum –but lived in Ankara most of her teenage and adult life- and lives there now, and her mother. Her Mother Emel is a regular hamam goer, but my friend prefers more of the spa type new hotel complexes when she feels like a long relaxing bath. Emel, though, is almost a profi –she was a regular to the neighborhood hamam when she was a kid and she is obviously still very much at ease with the excess of steam inside.
This hamam experience was my sixth or seventh time, so I knew more or less what to expect, but as the admin points out, every hamam has its own peculiar little traditions. For me, this one in Corum will be memorable with its length. The whole waiting-kese-massage procedure took more than 3,5 hours! The kese lady seriously took her time and told me that the “Corum ladies can’t get enough of kese” and she added, “if we keep it too short, they ask for more”. I think my 15 min kese experience at Cemberlitas the previous year did quite the same effect.
And at this hamam, I noticed women tend to interact with strangers more easily and often: After all Corum is a small city and it is certain that so and so’s father-in-law or some other relative used to hang out at the same coffee shop as your brother’s uncle. But they also like telling you their life stories and ask you personal stories. Here it was the first time I heard women talk about their unmarried sons –what movies always tell us what hamams are all about; about finding appropriate brides for sons, nephews and the like.
Overall the hamam was extremely clean. It was cheap. We paid 10 TL each for the whole thing. It was a cold Sunday –the perfect day in my opinion to spend in a hamam.
Denizciler Caddesi, Acıçeşme Sokak 3, Ulus, Ankara
This sixteenth century building is located in the old part of Ankara, Ulus. It is located just off of Anafartalar Caddesi. There are few tourists in the hamam. It is fairly well attended most days of the week, but especially on Sundays. I have visited this hamam quite regularly (once a month when I was living in Ankara at least) during the last 25 years. In my childhood, we used to go to this hamam with my family (my grandmother and my mom) and sometimes with our neighbors, generally on Sundays (since my mom used to work). We would take some snacks with us and stay for at least 4-5 hours. We would not stay inside the hot room during all these hours though. Actually, the part I liked most was the waiting/changing room which actually is a covered courtyard as big as the hot room (closed dome) where there was (and still is) a large table and a stove. There were (and still are) always a few women sitting around the table, chatting and eating. This is really the main part where everyone hangs out. Whenever I go to this hamam, a few vendors who sold food (gözleme) and some home textiles (çarşafcı) would be there, also in this courtyard. There too, one could get your hair dyed. You can bring your own dye and then ask for one of the women working there to dye your hair for a few YTL. This courtyard was surrounded by rooms –there were around ten rooms on the ground floor and 5 rooms on the second floor. On the second floor, you could get your legs and other body parts waxed, either in the small rooms or in the area open to the public upstairs. This service was cheaper for those who used the hot room and paid for it; if you came only for waxing, then you had to pay a higher price (For instance, today full-leg waxing is 10 YTL for someone who has also paid to use the hot room (15 YTL), but for someone who doesn’t use the hot room, the price of full-leg waxing alone is 12 YTL. Kese and massaging is another 15 or 20 YTL). The price lists are posted on the walls. One changes in the side rooms but you don’t get a key. Instead you can deposit your valuables in a small corner “security room” with a woman attendant.
There are around 6 or 7 women working inside the hamam for kese and massaging. One thing that was striking to me was that there were always minor frictions among these women about the use of kese space and their customers. Usually, most customers of this hamam are regulars and they prefer (or are supposed to prefer) the same person for kese. There is kind of a deal among kesecis about not stealing each other’s customers. So you’re supposed to wait longer if your keseci has a lot of customers, even though some of the other kesecis are available. For instance, I haven’t changed my keseci for the last 25 years –she was also the one who scrubbed my mom and grandma. Some of these women are related by kinship (three sisters working as kesecis) and have been there most of their lives; at least for the last ten years I have seen only one or two new women in this place. Most women who work in the hamam I know (at least 3-4) are Kurdish origin. There are only three or four women for waxing, they are generally upstairs or around the table. They also have their regular customers. There are no appointments made for their services. A few years ago they hired someone new for waxing (actually it shouldn’t be called hiring, because I think the woman pays them and rents the space she works). She is the only one who does the new-style of sugar-free waxing.
Between the hot room and the main social room there is a warm room where kesecis compete to use the two big marble benches that can fit two people each. They don’t want to scrub on the navel stone inside the hot room because it is too hot in there. Inside the hot room, there is a navel stone surrounded by around 15 marble bath basins (kurna). Generally two women share one basin. Also there are two small alcove rooms in the corners with a few other basins. Ten years ago they converted another corner small room inside the hot room to a dry sauna. They lost some space in terms of the number of basins, but I guess the customers are happier that there is a sauna in the hamam. Normally, I enter and change. Then I either get my hair dyed or go upstairs for waxing. Then I go into the hot room and say hi to my keseci so that she puts me in her line. Then I sweat for 20 minutes until called. Then after kese and massage, I return to the hot room, bathe, and leave.
This is a very traditional and old hamam. It is visited by many people from different parts of Ankara and from different socio-economic classes. In this hamam, I came across women working as prostitutes, teachers, cops, basketball players, college students, but rarely tourists. Women tend to socialize more in the large social space rather than the hot room, although conversation can happen between women sharing the kurna basins or between kesecis and the women being scrubbed. Also there is some gossiping and even ‘nasty’ chit-chat between kesecis. Bathers rarely wash each other unless they are family or came together. Sometimes if I went alone my keseci would help me wash or wash me. My keseci, who is now almost 70, always tells me stories about the people I see around, or complain about other kesecis in competition with her. People generally go around in their underwear (mostly topless; except the scrubbers who have their tops on most of the time). There is a notice on one of the walls telling that full nudity is not allowed (something like “hamama çamaşırsız girmek yasaktır” – bathing naked is forbidden).
Termal Pool and Hamam. Yalova. 15 pool, 13 hamam, 20 together. 8AM-10PM M-Fri, 8AM-6PM(?) Sa-Su. On our way to Bursa, early January, we stopped at Termal, an operational sulfur spring bath since the Roman period. We took a dolmuş in, my first, from the parking lot just right of the Yalova ferry terminal (having taken the ferry from Yenikapı in Istanbul. We stopped on a whim- we knew that this location was known for its sulfur springs, and it turned out that it was a tourist destination for those living in other areas of Turkey. I can't quite remember the prices, and also, the services for this establishment was a little different than we had done previously- we decided to pay to be able to use the outdoor pool/spring and the interior bath. That day was very cold – I would guess low thirties (F) – and I was apprehensive as to how enjoyable the outdoor pool would be. We were given a room for changing (it was outside, they were lining the pool area) and changed into bathing suits that we had brought. The outside pool was busy, a “typical” sized pool with probably 30 people going in and out, swimming, playing, or lounging (cooling off) on the reclining chairs. Entry into the pool was difficult – it was so cold outside, yet, the pool was so hot! Eventually, upon a cautious entry, the pool had a delightful heat – scalding at first, but one gets used to the temperature eventually. Your body temperature would rise so much that it was comfortable to sit outside of the pool for at least ten minutes before becoming cold. It seemed that one person overheated and was feeling dizzy. An EMT came and she checked him out amidst a crowd of concerned bathers. He was covered in towels but fine. Eventually, we made our way into the hamam. It was a quite different style than I had encountered in Turkey thus far. It was posted for one to shower before entering the bath (we obliged) and after you passed through the door, you entered into a room that surrounded a warm-hot pool of water, oblong, about 25 feet long. This water was very tolerable, not too hot to be enjoyed, and the ambient temperature caused us to be sweating nearly the entire time. In the rear there was a smaller room with a central basin with only a little water and corner basins that were cold plunge pools. The last room was a (wet) steam room, with benches on the sides. This room was the hottest room I have ever been into, in Turkey or elsewhere, and I could only endure the heat for short turns. (I came back to the room multiple times.) Returning to the original room, there was a room to the side for bathing (seats, basins, etc.). Some young and middle-aged men were scrubbing each others; everyone seemed to know each other and be in good spirits, joking around, etc. They were giving each other keses and soapdowns in what was at times a scrub-chain. It seemed as if they were enjoying getting into the role of "keseci" and slapping the kese on each other's back in the usual fashion, then imitating the movements. There was another room off of the group scrub room marked for families which we did not go into. We returned to the outside pool- apart from the steam room, I enjoyed that the most. Overall, this was perhaps my favorite, only because of the pool – It was so nice to be in the heated water, outside, in the middle of the winter. The sulfur smell not offensive, in fact it was almost enjoyable. Leaving this bath/pool I was entirely exhausted and relaxed- my best experience yet.
Dort Yol Otel Hamam, 1715 Sokak near Dort Yol, Batman. Hours: see below. 10 YTL, didn’t try the keseci.
To be fair, this is not Batman’s only Hamam. It may be Batman’s only hamam which cleverly blends the Turkish spa experience with a roadside motel aesthetic. Even down to the intermittent hot water! In other words, it’s an amazing miscegenated facility of blue tile and combi-units which may get you hot and will leave you curious. Not that I would recommend going except for the cult value.
Just to be clear, this is a short post because 1) it’s unlikely you’ll be ever be in Batman in the first place. And 2) even if you are, you shouldn’t go to this hamam ever. You should buy four portions of Batman’s delicious borek instead. The pasthanes next to the hamam are AMAZING.
The story: I inquire at the Dort Yol hotel’s desk, and even that slight hesitation, a raised eyebrow at another dumb yabanci, could have tipped me off. It was already 9:30 pm. The receptionist led me outside, around a corner, and down the side street to the basement entrance. Low ceilings and rubber slippers greeted me, as did a thoroughly disinterested looking Kurdish dude who went for the towels, silently. I dress in the adjoining divan/locker room under bright CF lighting. Then into the hamam’s main chamber. A stunningly bland, blue-tiled bathroom of a thing with a ledge around the outside, detached stone basins that slide, and a drain trench making the rounds. It’s pretty cold. The sauna’s not that hot either. I wash, scrub, get cold in the sauna, say hello to the two guys in gym shorts scrubbing each other down, and get out. Sure, I was relatively clean, and watched Saban movies in the divan room with the three guys afterwards. But this hamam experienced was only salvaged as a foil to the superlative options in Istanbul and Kilise, and I wouldn’t recommend for the unitiated.
Kilis Tarihi Hoca Hamamı
Mahmet Pasa Sokak (Behind the Paris Hotel), Kilis. 348 8138618. Males 7-11 am and 5-11 pm. Females 11am-5pm. Not expensive, but you’re in Kilis anway, so just go. Designed and built by Canbolat Bey in 1545.
You might cry Stockholm syndrom, but as I lay on the warm stone, waiting for the medieval exfoliation experience, the keseci’s focus impressed me. He only stopped twice, once to grunt at the 15-year-old boy doing a pull-up on the sauna door lintel, much to the dismay of the cheering onlookers, and again when the kids stole his soap. We needed that soap. The keseci needed it to swirl around the plastic tub with hot water, into which he would dip a cloth bag, blow into the bag, and wring an unimaginable amount of soap suds over my prone body. I needed it because I’d spent the last few days on a fantastic jaunt around south-central Turkey, and I’d haggled with just enough hoteliers and fruit sellers to seek out a good scrub-down in a strange town. Jeff, Steph, and I found ourselves in Kilis. If you ever do the same, go to the Kilis Tarihi Hoca Hamamı. (continue reading…)