Prof Kazim Ismail Gurkan Cad 34, Istanbul, Turkey
www.cagalogluhamami.com.tr - (0212)522 24 24
Cagaloglu Baths Istanbul Reviews
Sampling Real Turkish Baths, July, 2009 Sep 26, 2009
One of the things Turkey is famous for is its baths (also known as hamams) so I decided to try the Cagaloglu Baths in Istanbul. Turkish baths were made famous during the Byzantine and Roman periods and these baths are known for revitalizing.
The staff at Cagaloglu are used to tourists and speak several languages. I noticed the service lists were priced in at least four different languages.
I was a little nervous at first but the staff was helpful in explaining the process beforehand. The men's and women's baths are in separate facilities, which apparently are identical. For the women's facilities, I was assigned a specific cabin (which includes a small bed for resting), along with a key, and was handed a checkered cloth towel known as a pesternal. All clothing and any personal items (purses etc) need to be locked in the assigned cabin before entering the baths.
Each bather is given a pair of wooden clogs, along with their towel. The clogs are needed to walk on the hot, wet floors (but I did find the clogs hard to walk in).
After walking from your dressing cabin, you enter a beautiful large marble domed room, where small, star-like windows pierce the dome ceiling. Inside the domed room, there are approximately twenty stations, with each bather assigned to one station. Each station is equipped with an ornate hot tap, cold tap and basin. As the room is heated, you will find yourself using the cold tap a lot.
In the center of the room itself is a marble platform where massages are given. This platform was decorated with a fern plant placed in the platform center.
Beside the main room is a separate facility called the hot room where bathers enter through a wooden door. This room basically is a sauna and is very relaxing.
Various services are available at the baths. Being on a budget, I opted for the cheapest choice, which was self-service. The cost of a self-serve bath was 20 Euros (or 40 Lira). I was given a metal pan and two bars of soap for self-bathing. Other services (which were more expensive) included massages or a full body scrub, which tended to be priced in the 80 Euro range. I needed roughly 45 minutes for my option but I would recommend allocating an hour to an hour and a half to really enjoy the baths.
Overall, I found the experience relaxing and a good way to learn about local culture. Two downsides, however, were the prices (I was told that outside the tourist areas you may be able to get a full massage for what I was paying for self-service) and some of the staff were not happy that I was only paying for self-service.
The general experience, however, was very interesting. If you are visiting Turkey, I would recommend trying the baths.
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