A Travellerspoint blog

Hamam: A centuries old tradition to be enjoyed in Turkey

An article written by Solstice

The "Turkish bath", or Hamam as it is known in Turkey, became popular in the nineteenth century.  The Hamam is similar to a sauna, but even more similar to Roman and Greek bathing systems. Upon entering a Hamam, you come to a warm marble room to perspire. When you are ready, you may continue to an even hotter room until you are called for your massage and peel.  When you are completely washed, scrubbed and shampooed by an attendant, you sit in the warm room until you are dry enough to dress.

The Hamam combines the functions and the structures, the Roman thermae and Eastern Roman baths, with the Turkish tradition of steam bathing, ritual cleansing and respect of water. The Arabs built versions of the Greek-Roman baths that they discovered after their conquest over Alexandria, Egypt.  The idea of public bathing such as occurs in a Hamam came to Islam only because of the exposure to Roman and the Greek baths. Hamams were attached to mosques because the Hamams aided Muslims in complying with the Islamic laws of cleanliness and purification.  Soon after, more elaborate bath houses were built apart from the mosque in the communities.  

At first, only men were allowed in the Hamams.  In time, because of hygiene benefits, women were allowed to attend a Hamam after giving  birth or after an illness.  Soon, all Muslim women were not to be denied this experience and were permitted to bathe in the Hamam.

Bathing at the Hamams became one of the only times that women were allowed to socialize outside of their homes.  They would go to the Hamam all day and were permitted to take their veils off and enjoy life.  They would scope out potential daughter in laws as well, sometimes even kissing young women to see if they had bad breath.  Meera Sarin, who has recently visited a Hamam in Turkey, said her favorite part of the Hamam was sharing the experience with her daughter. "I was thinking that when the Islamic women came here it was their only opportunity to socialize, and i thought how nice that I'm having an experience like this with my own daughter.  Although we are lucky enough to have many other opportunities to socialize." 

The Hamam is a very relaxing, social and rejuvenating experience.  Mike Toews went to the Cinci Hamam in Safranbolu just yesterday. When asked what the biggest difference was between a spa in Canada and a Turkish Hamam, Toews noted, "I had a Turkish masseuse, the only masseuse I've ever had in Canada was a Canadian masseuse.  How it was exactly as I thought it would be, was this big, pot-bellied Turk with a stereotypical curled up mustache came in and started working me over."

The Cicni Hamam was built in the seventeenth century by Cinci Hodja.  There are two separate parts to the Hamam, one for the women and another for the men.  Toews added, "My favorite part was the sweating of my sins away in the sauna and then stepping out into the bigger central area with the large dome and splashing cold water on myself to try and cool down."  Toews continued, "What I did like was the combination of marble, water and heat.  The other great experience was the echo of the sounds as the acoustics were so great in the Hamam... The sound reminds me of the call to prayer and that is a very distinct sound."

The full body massage and the peel are very unique experiences. As Sarin illustrates. "I think what surprised me the most was the pummeling that I got with the body scrub and the layers of filth that it took off of me! I felt 10 years younger and 20 pounds lighter.  The masseuse was completely working it! Every time she finished a section she would pour a bucket of cold water on herself." What surprised Toews the most was that there were no instructions. "They just throw you through a door and you have to figure it our yourself! The pummeling was good, but what remember the most is the big pillow of soap that is pressed upon you!" Sarin and Toews both shared the thought of enjoying the thorough Hamam experience.

When in Turkey, do as the Turks have done for centuries. Indulge yourself with the social and rejuvenating Hamam. There are Hamams in almost every village, town and city in Turkey. For the most authentic experience, visit a Hamam with a dome exterior and a marble interior! 

Solstice Sarin Toews <3 
The renowned Cinci Hamam in Safranbolu, Turkey

The renowned Cinci Hamam in Safranbolu, Turkey

Posted by The Flying Five 10:26 Comments (2)

Balloons and the Moon

A Cappadoccia fairy tale, the flying five is flying higher!

We are leaving the picturesque village of goreme Cappadocia with a hint of sadness
The magical village of Goreme, surrounded by it's fairy tale rock formations is a muse for the soul.  In this village we have encountered quaint cafes, creative food restaurants, colorful and lively markets and endless systems of trails.  Goreme is surrounded by basalt and andesite valleys featuring unimaginable pinnacles of twisted stone.  Theses columns were formed thousands and thousands of years ago by erupting volcanos, cool temperatures and erosive activity.  The results of this activity are simply and inexplicably magical.  The soaring pillars mimic giant mushrooms, fairy chimneys, meringues and even giant phalluses.  The myriad trail systems in the valleys take you on delightful adventures through caves, tunnels, crevasses and boulders.  These valleys are a feast for the senses!  At times we found ourselves in very narrow tunnels having to navigate  10 foot drops!  Luckily we discovered ancient foot holds to help with the climb down.  The kids were elated!  Aleix exclaimed many times that we were on a most exciting adventure!  

We also enjoyed another, less adventurous hike in the stunning and rugged Ihlara valley.  There are no pinnacles in this valley but the valley is in a fertile canyon with a steam running through it, reminding us somewhat of Miles Canyon.  The trails wind along the stream and several bridges lead to ancient Byzantine cave churches.  The hike was spectacular through this meadow and as we strolled down the trail we encountered a lovely little chai stop, reminding of the Hobbit's Shire.  Just as we felt secluded in nature we were all comforted with a hot apple chai.  While we sipped our chai we were greeted by a flock of happy ducks basking in the sun's glow.

The region of Cappadocia has been inhabited since before the days of the old testament.  People have made their homes, churches, meeting halls, stables and schools in caves and when under attack they retreated to underground cites.  These underground cities were first created by the ancient Hittites.  The underground cities were expanded further by Roman and Byzantine empires.  There are over 100 intricate underground cities in this region equipped with ventilation shafts, wood ovens, stables and even graves.  When a message arrived that invaders were approaching, people retreated underground for months at a time with food, materials for their home, livestock and hope.  With a little trepidation and wonder we descended into this underground world.  We never could have imagined the extent of the cities; they are up to 8 stories and 80 metres below ground!  Somebody must have really been after them.  Air reached the city by ventilation shafts that were ingeniously disguised at the surface as water wells.  Invaders may have thrown poison into theses 'wells' but did not detect life underground.  

The scenery in this part of the world simply takes your breath away and sends your imagination into overdrive.  And this morning we had the experience of a lifetime.  Just before sunrise, we climbed into a basket and went up and up in a hot air balloon.  We flew over the beautiful valleys of the region in a colourful air ballon under a full moon and rising sun.  It was such an extraordinary treat to see all of the magical pinnacles from above in the tranquil light.  This adventure ended up being a bit more adventurous than we bargained for!  At one point our basket bumped into a high rock and we all poised ourselves for a crash.  Our experienced pilot just said, "no problem, you can relax," and up we went again.  Solstice saw what precipitated the crash, there must have been a bit of a fuel leak and the pilot tended to the small fire creeping up his arm.  I was only looking at the enormous rock in front of us!  It appeared to be only a 'minor incident' and we continued to enjoy the spectacular scenery!  The 'incident' served to enhance the entire experience.  Manas thought that the crash was totally cool and awesome.
Once we had safely landed, we were treated to locally made champagne and biscuits.

We are currently driving to our next location, Safranbolu by the Black Sea.  We are looking forward to staying in this village as it is recognized as a historically significant centre due to its' unique Ottoman architecture.  The drive we are taking leads us through landscapes and skyscapes reminiscent of Saskatchewan, only there are mountains in the distance.  It is harvest season and we marvel at the hardworking field labourers that gather potatoes, melons and squashes and lock gazes with ambling shepherds.  We all admire the fact that Turkey is a country that feeds itself.  The bounty that is on offer is always fresh and more often than not entirely local.  As I am typing this we pass by several farmers selling the fruits of their labour on the side of the winding highway, pomegranates, apples, pears, grapes, eggplant, tomatoes and chilis.  Produce stop anyone?

I hope that you enjoy the pictures of our latest fairy tale like adventure.  xoxoxoxo
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The magical pillars of Cappadocia

The magical pillars of Cappadocia

Here we go in the hot air balloon!

Here we go in the hot air balloon!

Capped rocks in Cappadocia

Capped rocks in Cappadocia

Ilhara valley

Ilhara valley

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Aleix with his duck friends in the Ilhara valley

Aleix with his duck friends in the Ilhara valley

Manas in the underground city

Manas in the underground city

Solstice enjoying her cave home!

Solstice enjoying her cave home!

Love valley

Love valley

View of rock columns from hot air balloon

View of rock columns from hot air balloon

Exploring the valleys around Goreme

Exploring the valleys around Goreme

Posted by The Flying Five 12:11 Comments (1)

We can't get enough of Turkey this Thanksgiving!

We are all very thankful for Turkey this thanksgiving! Turkey continues to be delightful and tantalizing. We are currently in the small coastal village of Cirali. We are nestled between the magnificent Mt. Olympos to one side and ancient Roman ruins to the other. This Mt. Olympos is home of the
Yanartas or "burning rock". As legend tells it, the burning rock is the breath of the ferocious, epic beast, Chimaera. The Chimaera is part lion, part
goat and part snake. He was defeated on this mountain slope by the heroic Bellepheron from the back of the beloved Pegasus. What remains of the
Chimaera is the eternal flame that burns from crevices in the rock. These flames burn eternally and can even be viewed from sea. We reached the
flames just before sun set. Viewing the flames in darkness is magical and mystical. We were able to descend the mountain with the trusty help of
our MEC headlamps!

We left our last village, Kas, yesterday. We had a great stay there enjoying the village, the coast and our guest house. The owners of the guest
house made us feel so welcome and often shared with us typical Turkish food. They prepared an incredible bulgur dish one night. One of our
favorite Turkish delights is the Turkish pancake, Gozleme. We typically enjoy the pancakes stuffed with potato. Essentially a Gozleme is a gigantic,
thin pancake stuffed with a mixture, served hot with a salad. It is best enjoyed with a fresh orange juice or apple tea. Our crew agreed yesterday
that a fresh potato Gozleme is better than a perogy! Sorry Dauphin!
Our favorite activity in Kas was our sea kayak trip over the ancient "sunken" city of Semena. What remains of this city are a few ruins on each shore
and a bay in the middle. The city will lay forever under the Mediterranean sea. It was so interesting to spot the ruins that dotted the seascape; stairs, arches, waslls, baths and tombs. By afternoon, the waves had picked up quite a bit and Manas and I had quite a daring return to the shore!

Yesterday we drove past another interesting town known as Demre. What makes Demre so interesting and worthwhile to stop at is that it contains an ancient Byzantine church. The church features typical Byzantine architecture and fresco paintings. This church is so special because it is the church of Noel Baba or St. Nicholas.
Our beloved Santa Claus was born in Myra, Turkey in the 4th century and was well respected as a bishop here. St. Nicholas is also the patron saint of Russia and it is for this reason that thousands of Russians flock to these shores for a significant pilgrimage.
The visit to the ancient church was very interesting and Manas was left to wonder how this Turkish born saint ended up being a bearded fat guy in a red suit who now resides in the North Pole.

We will soon be heading inland to visit the much anticipated region of Capadocia. We have thoroughly enjoyed our holiday in ancient Lycia and
would love to come back soon. There is a 500 km trail system that covers this peninsula. It is called the Lycian Way and it is well marked. Along the trail you encounter ruins, villages, cliffs, mountain trails and beaches. We have walked on some of it and you can't help but to think of all the
people that followed that path before you.

Sorry that there are no photos for this entry, I am not having any luck uploading photos from this spot. For the time being, you will just have to
imagine the eternal flame of the chimaera, the ancient sunken city of Simena, the Byzantine church of Baba Noel and the smiles on our faces. We love you all and wish you a delightful thanksgiving. Who is eating Tofurkey in our honor this year???
Love,
Meera

Posted by The Flying Five 07:05 Archived in Turkey Comments (1)

I am a loggerhead turtle

A short story written by Aleix

I am a beautiful loggerhead turtle. I live in the big Mediterranean sea. I am fast and strong because I eat red crab and invertebrates. I swim 20 kilometers a day and I see cool things. One day there was a crab on a boat, I was really hungry so I decided to get it. Then the boat turned around and I got hit by the propeller. Then my shell cracked. Fortunately, I was rescued by a human and taken to the turtle rehabilitation centre. I was there for three long months but for the last few days it felt quick. The people at the centre were helpful, caring and kind. Everyday they cleaned my tank and fed me crab. The day that I was released I felt great. Many people were wishing me well to go back to the big, blue, wide sea.
the beautiful loggerhead turtles making their way back to sea

the beautiful loggerhead turtles making their way back to sea

Posted by The Flying Five 06:56 Archived in Turkey Comments (1)

Flippers Flash to the Sea

A newspaper article written by Manas, foreign correspondent on the environment

We wanted to share with you Manas' latest school assignment. Aleix will post one soon and Solstice has been working on French language arts. She may share something in the future...)

Five rehabilitated sea turtles were released near Dalyan, Turkey at Itzuzu Beach on October 2nd, 2011. The five sea turtles raced to the sea upon their release from the Dekamer Sea Turtle Research, Rescue and Rehabilitation Centre. The centre gets injured turtles every year and fixes them up. They release them when they make a full recovery.
This is the first time they put tracking devices on male sea turtles. Five sea turtles is the most sea turtles at a time ever released. A zoologist and Pammukale University students fastened tracking devices on the turtles with cement. They brought the turtles to the beach and the centre workers placed the turtles in a large box. Centre workers then lifted up the box. The sea turtles raced across the sand and into the sea. "When I saw the turtles get released I was overcome with joy," says Meera Sarin. "When they released the turtles, one bumped into me when it was swimming and gave me a little bruise on my leg," says Solstice Sarin Toews. The turtles swam away fast, it was truly magnificent.
The rehabilitation centre only hopes to learn a lot more about the creatures. Learning about the turtle's behavior can help the sea turtles.
To learn more go to www.caretta.pammukale.edu.tr
Cementing the tracking device to the turtle's shell

Cementing the tracking device to the turtle's shell

Turtle Rehabilitation Centre, Dalyan

Turtle Rehabilitation Centre, Dalyan

the beautiful loggerhead turtles making their way back to sea

the beautiful loggerhead turtles making their way back to sea

Posted by The Flying Five 09:11 Archived in Turkey Comments (0)

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