Turkish bath, or hammam as we call it, is one of the oldest living traditions of Turkish life style and it has been around for centuries. While it is an oriental adventure for international visitors, it still plays an important role in daily routines of many Turkish people.
A variety of touristic and local hammam spas in Bodrum, as in most towns and cities of Turkey, serve both domestic and international guests every day. This particular experience has always engaged attention with its oriental atmosphere and healthier life promises.
From Seljuq Turcs to Ottomans and Republic era, Turkish baths in the history had been continuously improved and spread in parallel to community’s needs and life style. Today, as an inseparable part of Turkish culture, they are still in use and their stories are still being told in Turkish movies, novels and popular music pieces.
Bodrum Hamami is one of the well-known baths in town. It is a family run business and located just across from the Bodrum Intercity Bus Terminal. Although the building itself doesn’t reflect traditional hammam architecture from the outside, it was surprising to see how a typical local house can be turned into a Turkish bath.
Frankly, I don’t know much about baths, saunas and hot springs. I am not comfortable with breathing hot air or steam into my lunges. So visiting a hammam was not enough for me to write an article about it, I had to meet somebody who can provide me more information.
At my first time, I was welcomed by a tellak standing at the reception. Tellaks are the male masseurs in Turkish bath tradition (you can visit my travel dictionary any time to learn more words like tellak). I explained the reason I was there and asked for some assistance.
I was immediately introduced to the owner, Aydin Heper. He is a kind and friendly gentleman and offered me something I can’t turn down: a cup of Turkish coffee. Sipping black and delicious coffee and chatting somebody I don’t know on the veranda of a Turkish hammam made me feel like I am on one of those old movies of my childhood. I was having a bath chat for the first time in my life!
It was a pleasant and informative conversation but I had to take some pictures inside the bath. When I told this to Aydin, he sent a tellak downstairs to ask permission from the guests having a bath. Customers were also helpful because most of them was Bodrumian regulars who want to contribute in promoting their friend’s business so in no time my permission was granted.
I took my camera and went down to capture the atmosphere for you and failed miserably!
After spending 10 seconds in the bath, I gave up and went back to veranda where I know I could breathe fresh air. I couldn’t even touch the shutter button. I told you, I wasn’t designed to survive in such environments.
Of course, it wasn’t over and Aydin had a great idea. He is a real problem solver and told me that I could come here before the opening to take my pictures safely. He would be there an hour earlier to assist me. Very thoughtful idea!
I was there in the next morning at 5am. Finally I could manage to capture some images!
Bodrum Turkish Bath opens every day at 6am and closes at the midnight. It has separate quarters for women and men. Female guests are served by female masseurs and male by male masseurs.
At the reception desk, a list shows the prices of each service offered in multiple languages. The payments are collected after the session on the way out. Your natir, or tellak, would probably expect a tip and the rates I mentioned on tipping in Turkey can be used.
When entering the bath, clean towel and slippers are available for your disposal but you may bring yours if you’d feel better. You can stay inside as long as you want with no extra charge.
You may use your pestemal – a cotton towel - in the hammam or you may wear your swim suit as well. Aydin said some of their guests prefer to get in with their underwear and it is just fine too. But for the last scenario, you better bring some spare underwear. When they get wet, drying takes time because of the moisture of the bath. When you are done, I am sure you wouldn’t want to wait in your underwear until they dry.
The typical treatment cycle starts with a shower at the bath entrance. After cleaning up, you need to wait at least 15 minutes in the hot chamber letting your body to warm up. Sit on the “gobek tasi” or next to a “kurna”, chat with the people around you and soon you are good to go through your authentic hammam experience.
Next step is scrubbing and bubble massage which takes about 15 to 20 minutes as you lie down on the marble platform in the middle. The platform is called “gobek tasi”. A “tellak” or a “natir” will be your masseur in this stage.
If you asked for an extra oil massage, your body should cool down first. You can go upstairs and have some refreshments or you may wait in the cool room to relax and may be to take a nap. There are no alcoholic drinks so you should be content with what you have.
Oil massage is something like aroma therapy. You can choose almond or lemon blossom oil and it takes another 20 minutes.
The most crowded times are between the noon and the sunset. Take your time and schedule at least one and a half hour to enjoy your traditional hammam experience.
Locker rooms are for changing your clothes and leaving your belongings. However, don’t leave anything valuable in the room. Instead, hand it over to the reception. Due to privacy concerns, there are no security cams inside the building and the management don’t accept any responsibility for the lost items. It is better not to bring anything valuable at the first place.
If you are uncomfortable with hot air and moisture like me, don’t push! It is much easier than a sauna (yes, I've been there a couple of years ago) but still, if you have any health issues regarding to heat and moisture, don’t take any risk to experience something new.