Holy Hamami!

I found it! I found it!
I found it! I found it!

July 15, 2009 - Ülüs, Ankara, Turkey

Today was all about the hamami – a traditional Turkish spa featuring pools of all degrees of hot and cold water, saunas, massages.   I had been to a hamami once before during my first trip to Turkey and it was one of the best experiences ever. Boy, was I ever ready!

My starting point was the old town of Ülüs (the real one this time) and I was already lost in the winding streets. (My innate sense of direction from yesterday obviously deserted me.) After a good hour of searching on my own, I took the pansy approach and asked for directions from a Polis man.  He gave me the finger point and said 100 meters. For the record, no matter where you are in Ankara, when asking for directions your destination is always only 100 meters away. I follow the trajectory of his finger and end up in a very cool covered market. Not the hamami, but ho? (“cool” in Turkish) just the same.  I emerge some 20 minutes later, turn left and then I see it: a hamami! As I get closer I see the name is different from the name in the book, but one hamami is as good as another hamami, right? Wrong.

Are you my hamami?

Are you my hamami?

I walk through the door and my eyes take a sec to adjust to the darkness. Then I see them: men in towels. Uh oh.  We’re not in Calistoga, we’re in Turkey. Men and women do not bathe together. Ever.  I instantly turn around and freeze, and a man came over to lead me to another man sitting behind a desk. “Women?” I ask meekly. “No, no women.” “Where women?” I get the finger point in the direction of a nearby hill and the answer, “100 meters.”

Out the door I go and head up the hill. After another 10 minutes, I see a sign on my left: Hamami! But it’s not the one in my book and I am now suspicious. How do I know if it is co-ed? Once bit, twice shy. I decide to go on and find my hamami.

I break down again and ask for directions. I get an impatient hand wave and finger point. I move on further up the hill. Walking, walking, walking. I spy another hamami, but this one looks pretty seedy. I mean, it is not like I’m buying a loaf of bread – I’m going to be stripping down and getting naked in the place. Can’t be too careful.

A co-ed hamami - Yahoo!

Must find my hamami

I’m about to give up. Then I see a sign. No silly, a street sign (a rarity in these parts). The very street that leads directly to my hamami. Hot diggity! I’m close now, I can feel it! I busta move up the hill. I see another sign that says hamami with these words underneath: Kadin ve Erkek. I’m sure this means Men & Women! Or does it?

I whip out my dictionary just to be sure. I look up the second word:  Erken = early. Early? I look up the first word: Kadin = women. Women early? It’s 3:00 in the afternoon – is it still early? I’m confused and turn to my dictionary again.

Oh, Erkek, not Erken.

The words for “men” and “early” are one letter apart. Whoo hoo – it’s a co-ed hamami! I scamper down the stairs and look for the door to the hamami. Nothing.  I wander down a dirt alley. Nada. I go back up the stairs and ask at a kiosk and receive an emphatic finger pointing back down the stairs. I go.

The depths of my despair are endless...

The depths of my despair are endless…

Finally a man who is watching my meanderings comes to ask me if I need help. (uh, obviously!) I show him the name in my book and he points to the structure right in front of me.

The structure that is now an active construction site. NOOOOOOOOOO! My hamami is closed.

At this point you either laugh or you cry. I chuckle, take a picture of my hamami under construction and go to find consolation in the form of a kebap. 




Updated note: Consolation kebap made with strange spicy meat ended up biting me in the ass. Not only did I not get a massage, I did not get to go out tonight. Extreme sadness.


This entry was posted on Wednesday, July 15th, 2009 and is filed under Europe.

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