Nur Hamamı. Hamalbaşı Cad. No. 14. Beyoǧlu, Istanbul. (0212) 249 81 12. Men: 7am – 12 am. 16 YTL plus 5 YTL for kese, 5 YTL for massage. [or more...see below]
The Second Visit:
The second time i went to this great hamam was a month later, I was in Istanbul on business and my colleague wanted to “experience” Turkey – So I took him for a Turkish coffee, we had a Turkish shave and then there seemed only one last thing to do – a Turkish bath! There was only one hamam I was prepared to go to
Now, to set the scene, it was a very hot and humid day in the city, we had a long morning meeting, we had a fish sandwich under the bridge for lunch with a lovely Efes beer before we decided to take the longish walk to the hamam. We walked in and was again welcomed warmly and led to separate changing rooms. We met up in the main heated room and there were two keseci working. I recognised the older more burly gentleman from my visit the month previous but there was also a younger slimmer guy working, perhaps the reason was because it was a bit busier. There were 5 young american lads in there with us (we guessed army) and the two keseci were working like a factory line. The younger man was doing the soap suds and cleaning side and then you were passed off to the old man for a good rinse, scrub and massage.
We had to wait a little while, while the two men dealt with the 5 squaddies so I took refuge in the sauna, coming out occasionally to douse myself with cool water. The longer we waited, the longer it took to cool myself down. The minute I poured cold water over myself I started to feel myself sweating straight away…
Interesting note, out of the 5 squaddies, 3 decided for whatever reason not to wear a peştamal and instead wore board shorts as you would normally see on the beach, I’m not one to judge but frankly they looked ridiculous! I know you should feel as comfortable as possible but honestly you are supplied with a peştamal, wear that instead!
Finally it was our turn, as I had been there before I let my friend go first for his first experience at a hamam. Finally he was sudded up and moved on and it was my turn
I lay down on the slab and the young man started soaping me down with these incredible suds, same as last time. He went over the front of my body and then without warning, like a caring mother put his hand over my forehead. Ok… I thought, this is new.
He then muttered something to the older gentleman in Turkish who stopped massaging my friend and came over to me leaned in and put his hands on my cheeks, looking deep into my eyes… What was going on?
They quickly muttered to each other again and then the younger man who was initially soaping me went to my friend and took over the massage from the older man.
Meanwhile, the older keseci ushered me to stand and follow him outside.
Now, I should make this perfectly clear, I would NEVER advocate going for a hamam or a sauna drunk, it is dangerous, however after just one beer I wasn’t intoxicated, but… when you combine that with the humid heat and a long walk and a long wait, I was basically over heating. Big time.
I genuinely felt ok, I wasn’t faint, I wasn’t uncomfortable – I was just hot. So hot in fact that the first keseci realised just by soaping my chest because he could feel the excess heat emanating from me!
So, I followed the older keseci outside not knowing what was going on, he muttered something to the moustached manager as we walked by who looked slightly concerned and carried on walking towards the back of the building and I was led to a shower. My keseci turned it onto the coldest possible and (gently) pushed me under. God it felt so good!
I rested my head on the shower wall and took my peştamal off so I stood there naked. The keseci continued to stay there watching over me. I should point out, that even though at this time I was stark naked and he was watching me I didn’t for one second think there was anything erotic or sexual in it, he was clearly watching over me to make sure I didn’t collapse, or escape before he decided to let me, the fact that I was naked under the shower was utterly irrelevant.
In fact at one point I glanced over and he was standing there arms crossed, smiling slightly and he just reminded me exactly of a P.E teacher at school supervising shower duty. I gestured to leave after a few moments but he refused, his burly arms still crossed but also managing to point towards the shower. He was a man of few English words but I never once misunderstood. I was to stay under the shower until he was to tell me otherwise!
I stayed under the shower for about 3 or 4 minutes and I gestured that I was feeling much cooler, he leant in and turned the shower off, felt my forehead, shook his head and turned the shower back on… were it not for my colleague I would probably have stayed as long as humanly possible however after a few more minutes I gestured again, the showers was turned off, a hand on my forehead and while not entirely smiling, I was obviously deemed just about fit for purpose. He put a fresh peştamal on me and I was led to the toweling area where the manager was waiting for me with two ice cold bottles of mineral water which I gulped down greedily…
I eventually went back inside and the older man gave me a very gentle massage, I think he was still concerned I was going to pass out, however it was still an excellent service.
I left to get changed, met my friend who had been in the waiting area watching TV by the fan and had to explain that I hadn’t been shown some extra service but had instead been standing naked with my keseci watching me like a naughty school boy and we each paid our 35tl, ( I left a generous tip ) and we went out to cool down with a nice Efes!
I cannot thank these guys enough for their care of me, even though I didn’t feel too bad, it was quite clear I was seriously overheating and the beer beforehand had done nothing to help. So please, don’t go to for a hamam if you have had a drink ( even one ) or if you are feeling under the weather because if you do, you may find yourself being sent for a supervised cold shower while having flashbacks of a bad rugby match at age 15!
[admin note: We have all been in this situation before - overheating while there is a long line of keses in front of you and you are being polite and going last. for this reason, there is either an intermediary room ("tepidarium") or the main entrance room with changing areas (often with beds!) in the bath. these have often prevented an overheating moment and allowed us to go back and forth in the hot part for longer!]