There's nothing better than a hamam on a cold Istanbul day after a long flight. Bad Zimbabwe juju can only be purged using the most aggressive of techniques. Things wrong with the world seem righter after several layers of skin are removed by a woman with enormous breasts wielding a kese made of steel wool. Our recent visit to our local hamam provided the best - and most thorough -- scrub we've ever had.
Carpetblogger's Preferred Hamam (TM) is not for the squeamish. A local joint, it's a little rough around the edges and has lots of smells, not all of them good. As we entered a Hamam Böceği (Hamam Bug)* scampered across the toilet area. Carpetblog's Kathmandu Correspondent had a cyst removed from her back with a melonballer after her last visit, but there's no more evidence linking it to the hamam than to all the other activities in which she's involved. Our Iranian Doctor claims she came out with folliculitis, a disease we think she made up.
Regular readers know that with a high-quality hamam scrub, dead skin comes off in gray and brown ropes. The scrubbing ladies nod knowingly, confident in their assessment that infidels are inherently dirty. It builds up on your torso and arms like pills on sweater, then you watch it swirl down the gutters that surround the göbbek (the hot marble table on which you lie) as she tosses buckets of water over you.
As a regular hamam-goer, we've developed some hypotheses that address the important question "where does all the skin go?" There's really only one plausible answer: in the dark beneath the hot göbbek and under the marble sinks, there's a giant pool full of skin-eating fish. The constant food source results in unnaturally large specimens, like the 6 foot long catfish we once saw in the cooling pools around Chernobyl (maybe that one was giant for a different reason). With no natural predators, they're old and scaly, just like their diets. They protect Istanbul's ancient sewage system from troublesome dead skin clogs and ensure that the grub swirling in the eddies at the shores of the Bosporus is nothing more than plastic bottles and jellyfish.
As we paid our 25 ytl (with the dollar no longer in the shitter, this is a remarkable bargain), the scrubber ladies urged us to tell all our yabanci friends about their hamam. We promised we would, using all the media available to us.
*Also known as a cockroach. Its presence in no way diminished our overall hamam experience.