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Getting Naked in Istanbul

**Warning this post borders on the TMI, but I thought it was too hilarious not to share

cagaloglu-bath

Source

Two weeks ago I found myself completely naked lying on my back staring at the starry ceiling of an antiquated bathhouse deep in the heart of Istanbul thinking “what the hell did I get myself into?”

And no, I was not about to be ravished by some devilishly handsome Turkish man I met over champagne on my first class flight over. I guess not all dreams come true.

My, oh my, where do I even begin?

I do not like being naked in public. Does anyone?

Scratch that, maybe I just have an extraordinarily freaky group of friends or owing to the fact that I went to a women’s college for four years, but I know a surprising amount of people not only don’t have any problems with being stark naked in public, but actually seem to enjoy it. Not me though. As much as I love being naked alone in my own house, I am far from an exhibitionist.

This is, of course, not my fault. The blame falls entirely on a mischievous gap-toothed boy named Sydney Tweet who pulled off my bathing suit top in the crowded daycare pool the summer before 4th grade, scarring me for life.

There are some things you just never get over.

istanbul turkish bath

The Blue Mosque my first day in Istanbul

15 years later, not much has changed, except my fear of being naked in public was brutally reaffirmed last summer in San Sebastian when I lost my bikini top to a rogue wave. But I digress.

After 24 hours of travel and a few nonstop hours sightseeing around Istanbul, my body was begging me for solid hot food, a detox and a long nap. As the sun was setting over the high mosque spires dotted around the Sultanhamet quarter of the old city, I tucked into a 5 course dinner of roasted lamb, savory bread dips and soft, flavorful veggies at a nice little back alley restaurant. With the undivided attention of the entire male wait staff and couple of cats for company, I thought, yes, tomorrow I would wear a longer skirt, while shoveling hummus into my mouth, or maybe pants.

Flicking through my Lonely Planet looking for ideas for the rest of my first night in Istanbul, I decided to try out one of the infamous Turkish Hamam (baths). My back was killing me from the 3 long flights and my overweight backpack, a massage and bath experience seemed like the perfect way to end the day. This is the thing to do in Turkey, right?

God help me.

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The Hagia Sofia

Walking alone to one of the oldest baths in the city, I had no idea what to expect. In spite of being, what my friends consider, a “girly” girl, I have never actually experienced a spa or professional massage in my life. Like I said before, I have some strange personality quirks, and paying to be touched by a complete stranger does not sound at all appealing to me, unless of course it is the dark-haired, tall Turkish man from my fantasies. Or Javier Bardem.

The warm, fragrant lobby was packed with women of all ages, lounging about in slippers and fluffy green towels, chatting and drinking hot tea. As I walked to my own little changing room, I ran into a young American girl I met earlier who had just finished her massage, raving about how wonderful it was and how she was planning to come back the next day for round two. How lovely, I thought to myself, lulled into a false sense of security.

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Lobby of the baths source

Peppy American girl also told me that most people are naked, but I thought it would be ok if I kept my towel around me, having no idea what to expect. The only image I had of massages was lying face down on a table with a towel over you. I changed out of my clothes, leaving my bathing suit in my bag, wrapped my tiny checkered linen towel about my  person as tightly as possible, and pattered off to meet my masseuse, let’s call her Ayla. Rather rotund, exuding a matronly air of authority and knowing about 8 words in English, upon introduction she pinched both my cheeks and said, “You baby! Come!” And grabbed my hand and dragged me off to the steam room.

What did I get myself into?

Telling me to wait ten minutes, Ayla left me to the company of two older women in the enormous octagonal marble room I’d seen in travel brochures. With taps ringing the room, and beautiful star cut holes in the ceiling for light, the hot, steamy place smelled like fresh soap with a touch of fear. In the center of the room was a large octagonal marble platform about 3 feet high and 15 feet wide, and sprawled out on one side was a completely naked old lady.

Ok, be cool, Liz. Don’t stare. People are naked all the time, people are even born naked. It’s fine. Checking to make sure my own itty bitty towel was nice and secure, I found a little corner to sit down and wait, closing my eyes and letting the steam relax me and open my pores (that’s what saunas are for, right? No idea).

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I bought one of the same towels in the markets, they are so incredibly soft

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It kinda looked like this except the room was way bigger and nicer, and it was all woman. And they were stark naked source

My heart sank as I watched the scene before me unfold from the corner of my eye. It’s like witnessing someone being executed knowing that you’re next. It was nothing like the massage I had envisioned. This lady was getting scrubbed, oiled and massaged from head to toe without a stitch of clothing or towel on IN FRONT OF OTHER LADIES. Maybe I’m just naïve, but I thought I would get massaged in a private room. Taking deep breaths I made eye contact with the other woman across the room, clearly she wasn’t expecting this either. At least there were only three of us.

Of course, like how things most often work out in my life, a group of about 8 Russian women came in next, along with a big group of middle aged German ladies, one of whom, lay her towel out on the platform and was wearing bathing suit bottoms. YES! If she could wear bottoms, so could I. Enter Ayla. Eagerly, I hopped up to greet her, beginning to ask if I could go back to my little room and put on my bikini bottoms before our session.

Adjusting the straps of her own enormous bathing suit, she replied in gruff English, “no swimming suit” and pulled my towel right off of me. 

Sweet baby Jesus, what the hell was I in for?

istanbul turkish bath

Left standing by the door without a shred of clothing or dignity, hopping from foot to foot, I emitted and odd sort of “EEP” sound before throwing up my hands to my face, trying not to have an anxiety attack. I’m the kind of girl who hyperventilates at my annual visit to the female fear factory (aka the gyn) and who changes in the bathroom stall at the gym. I am American, we don’t DO public nudity.

Ayla was of course oblivious to my inner freak-out and laid the towel out on the marble platform directly next to the door. Fabulous, not only would I be naked in front of a large group of women, I would also be positioned directly in front of the door, greeting everyone who entered the room in all my shining glory.

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I made one of these faces. Except totally naked. EEP!

It literally took ALL my self control not to snatch my towel back and run the other way. But no, I promised myself several goals for 2013, including saying yes to everything and having a year of firsts. If anything this would make for a great blog post, right guys?

Tip-toeing to my towel, I quickly laid on my stomach, hoping this would be over quickly. “No, on your back,” said Ayla, gesturing for me to turn over. Could this day get any better? With my hands clenched into fists and my body as tight as a bow, I rolled over, humiliation complete.

Breathing out, I watched as she poured warm soapy water all over me, and slide her hands into big exfoliating mittens. Good, at least she was wearing gloves, I thought as I tried to relax. Grabbing my hip, she started to scrub my skin like no tomorrow. 5 minutes in, Ayla stopped, smacked me on the stomach with her loofah, “too tense, relax!” she commanded. A minute later she stopped and pointed out my tattoos muttering to herself in Turkish. Brilliant.

istanbul turkish bath

Flickr Creative Commons Source

Having me roll over and lay in quite possibly 100 angles to exfoliate every inch of me (oh my god why did I eat all that bread with dinner?! Total whale moment!) was almost too much to bear but I’m not going to lie, the scrubbing did feel nice. By the time she finished, I looked down and I was covered with a layer of gray dead skin. EW! Sitting me on the edge of the platform, she dumped bucket after bucket of hot water over my head to wash it off. Fresh faced, shiny and pink, she ordered me to lay back down again. Oh god, what next?

Round two

On my back, nervously eyeing her like I was preparing for surgery, she began to soap up her bare hands. Oh no, I realized this was the massage bit. As she soaped up my stomach, I could feel my ab muscles clenching and getting tight and my face turning beet red. Did I mention just how incredibly ticklish I am? Like hear the word “tickle” and I start to giggle and say stop it. What if it tickled so much and I did the unthinkable and peed my pants?! Except I wasn’t wearing any pants. GOD, wouldn’t that be humiliating?! Squeezing my legs tight and trying not to laugh, I said, “no feet, no feet” in as clear English as I could muster.

istanbul turkish bath

I was in the middle of an OCD nightmare; it was one thing with the loofah, but another thing with bare hands. I mean, I hardly knew the woman let alone pronounce her name right, and here she was touching every inch of me in front of other people. As she was massaging circles around on my stomach and sides I knew what was coming, and there was nothing I could do about it. Please don’t touch my boobs, please don’t touch my boobs, I prayed to whatever bath god was out there. I think you all can guess what happened next.  As she moved higher and higher up to my shoulders and upper arms, her soapy hands passed over my chest, again, again, and again. Then it hit me.

I just went to second base with a 40 year old Turkish woman.

And then I laughed out loud. Like the kind of laugh that takes a few seconds to get under control because you know you shouldn’t be laughing in the first place, which makes it all the funnier. If nobody was looking at me before, they were now. Not even fazed, Ayla continued down to my legs, rubbing the knots out of my calves, which felt awesome. But by the time she got to my feet, lifting my leg up in the air (oh my god!) I almost kicked her in the face by accident. Apparently, my feet are so sensitive and ticklish I can’t stand have anyone touch them. I’m such a spaz.

istanbul turkish bath

Flickr Creative Commons Source

After literally wresting all my self-consciousness from me, she stood me up and dumped more water over me before taking me to sit on the floor while she washed my hair out. Getting your hair washed while sitting indian-style on a 500 year old marble floor after a massage is pretty damn nice. Except I was still completely bereft of clothes. Though at the time, it didn’t bother me as much. Hey, I was getting used to it!

Wiping the water from my eyes, Ayla snatched my hand and led me out of the baths and wrapped me in several towels before grabbing my face and planting two kisses on my cheeks. Leading me to the lobby, she gave me a glass of tea, while I sat around trying to process what I just went through. As I was pondering I couldn’t help think about what it was like in the men’s hamam? Shudder.

Sipping my apple tea, I thought to myself, hey, not too bad! I couldn’t believe I survived that! Who would have thought?! Painful to experience but hilarious in retrospect, going to a Turkish bath was actually one of the most memorable experiences I had while in Turkey. I full-on confronted my fears about being naked, not only in front of a crowd but also having my personal space limits vigorously assaulted. That was definitely an evening I’ll not soon forget, and a pretty good introduction to Turkey. Just remember to save luggage space and don’t bother packing a bathing suit.

Have you ever been to a Turkish hamam? Would you dare?

istanbul turkish bath

Squeaky clean!

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69 Responses to Getting Naked in Istanbul

  1. Jessica March 6, 2013 at 3:22 am #

    wow- what an experience. I can only imagine how you felt being from the US as well (NY). It’s crazy how getting naked in front of others doesn’t even phase those in other countries. Guess us Americans need to be daring sometimes! Thanks for this post- even if you did think it was TMI. Contemplating adding this to my list of experiences in Turkey- what do you think? Should I do it?!?!

    • Liz March 6, 2013 at 8:10 pm #

      You should DEFINITELY do it! It’s a good way to step outside your comfort zone and experience another culture, and it makes for a damn good story. This is the kind of story you tell your grandkids laughing one day, at least I’ll be that crazy grandma who overshares lol

  2. Savvy Traveler March 6, 2013 at 5:34 am #

    I am all about naked in public. Okay, not really. But maybe at #tbex Dublin. ;-)

    • Liz March 6, 2013 at 8:10 pm #

      What about TBEX Toronto? :P

  3. Wakas March 6, 2013 at 7:15 am #

    Hi Liz, I’ve been to the mens hammam in cembarlitas. Its all the same with massage and stuff except they dont get you naked and let you keep the towel. And mind you the masseuse in the mens are nothing like what you imagine in your dreams. Forget Javier Bardem, think a fat version of Tom Selleck.

    • Liz March 6, 2013 at 8:10 pm #

      bahahaha that IS frightening :D

  4. Kara Blythe Abroad March 6, 2013 at 7:38 am #

    What an experience! I went to a Turkish Bath while I was in Istanbul, but was allowed to keep my swim suit on. However, even in my bikini I felt uncomfortable. They just get so personal when giving the massage! In the end I was definitely glad I did it, and would definitely do it again, but I did have to tell myself to “relax” way more times than anyone getting a massage should ever have to!

    • Liz March 6, 2013 at 8:13 pm #

      I know, right?! I was like, this is supposed to be relaxing!

  5. Cat of Sunshine and Siestas March 6, 2013 at 7:40 am #

    Bahahahahahaha this TOTALLY happened to me in Istanbul, too! I had been warned to bring a suit, but a very, very shy travel mate of mine refused to strip. I offered her my bikin, which was way to big in all of the wrong places, and gladly bared all (I meant to write about it a year ago). I laughed the entire way through my massage as a fat lady srcubbed me down and sang the whole time, slapping my butt on ocassion. Turkey, man.

    • Liz March 6, 2013 at 8:13 pm #

      It was definitely unforgettable haha

  6. Julika March 6, 2013 at 8:24 am #

    What a great story Liz! This definitely sounds like a memorable experience!
    Despite growing up in a country where it is completely normal to lie at every beach or in a park without a bikini top, nudity makes me super uncomfortable too. I’m the kind of person who is even afraid of the women’s group shower at the swimming pool.
    However, I tried to face my fears when I went to an incredibly fancy sauna place once. Every person (both male and female!) the vast sauna area was naked and approximately 40 years older than me. Totally intimidated, I held on to my towel and desperately looked for a hiding place. I found an empty steam room and was so happy to finally relax when a really old naked guy entered. The way he was staring at me just gave me the shivers. And then he said: “You’re not supposed to be wearing a towel in here. It’s not like anyone is going to stare at you”. I nearly laughed out loud. Yeah right, it’s not like I have the only 22-year-old-boobs in this place full of overweight retirees. I literally run out of the steam room and never ever thought about going to a sauna again.
    Kudos for being so brave in Istanbul! :)

    • Liz March 6, 2013 at 8:14 pm #

      People are so weird lol

  7. Alex @ ifs ands & butts March 6, 2013 at 10:08 am #

    HAHAHAHAHAHA I have TOTALLY been avoiding the amazing bath houses of Baden-Baden for this very reason. Germans freaking love nudity. It’s strange. Yet I hear the baths are amazing, but hten I hear about the reading room where everyone reads after naked and I’m like well who’s reading the newspaper and who’s reading 50 Shades of Grey? Great recap, Liz – way to push out of the comfort zone! I did get a massage in Turkey, but was allowed to wear a swimsuit in the exfoliation part, not the second part. The bubble thing they do is pretty awesome.

    • Liz March 6, 2013 at 8:15 pm #

      The bubbles part was pretty neat!

  8. Kerry @ Planes, Trains and Plantagenets March 6, 2013 at 10:58 am #

    This is hilarious.

    I have no idea how massages are supposed to be relaxing.

    I’ve had two in my life, and both times they have been 30-60 minutes of incredible awkwardness and tenseness. They left me way more stressed than I was when I started, because hello it is A STRANGER POKING AROUND YOUR BODY INTIMATELY AND UNEXPECTEDLY.

    In theory I’m on board with the idea of massages, and I don’t mind being naked around people (ex theatre major), but I just can’t handle the touching!

    • Liz March 6, 2013 at 8:15 pm #

      Yeah I think the hardest part was the touching for me too lol

  9. JC Benedicto March 6, 2013 at 1:52 pm #

    you have no idea how many times I laughed will reading this post. I don’t think I have the guts to do that. Nice article!

    • Liz March 6, 2013 at 8:22 pm #

      Thanks JC <3

  10. Trevor Huxham March 6, 2013 at 2:41 pm #

    Hahahahahah this post was huh-laaaa-rious!! I’m so glad you chose to step outside your comfort zone and learned a bit about another culture at the same time. I’m planning on going to hammams when I visit Morocco in a few weeks, but I’ve heard people there are least wear undies while bathing. Thanks for your inside scoop on Turkish-style hammams!

    • Liz March 6, 2013 at 8:21 pm #

      Good luck! I haven’t been to the ones there, but I bet they’re nice!

  11. Matthew Hirtes March 6, 2013 at 3:02 pm #

    Great post, Liz. Here’s my take on a similar situation: http://www.puretravel.com/Guide/Travel_writing_competition/Travel_Writing_Competition_2012_Entries_Page2/Cock_and_ball(s). I shouldn’t need to add that it wasn’t the winning entry.

  12. Vanessa @ Sauteed Happy Family March 6, 2013 at 3:31 pm #

    Omg how hilarious!! Korea has something similar (jim-jil-bang), but they aren’t in awesome, historical buildings. At first I thought I would be awkward, but the friend I was with just stripped naked—so I followed suit. So many ladies (old and young) were just sitting around naked watching TV or chatting. haha! For the amount of stares I get on the street, I thought people would stare at me while I washed myself and soaked in the saunas naked… but nope! I have never felt stared at (amazingly!). I even went with my mother-in-law when they came to visit Korea. There’s a massage corner of the sauna (for a hefty $30-$60), but Korean massages are notorious for being really painful… so I probably won’t be paying for it any time soon. Maybe I should write a blog post about my experiences in a Korean sauna… yours were so fun to read!

    • Liz March 6, 2013 at 8:20 pm #

      I would totally read about that!

  13. Mandy March 6, 2013 at 6:20 pm #

    I’m dying. Dying. However, despite my I-might-die-of-laughter-moments, you gave me courage. I leave for Seoul in two months and apparently they have their own version of baths a.k.a. jjimjilbang that also require nudity. God be with me because hangin’ with a bunch of naked women could not be farther from “my thing.”

    • Liz March 6, 2013 at 8:17 pm #

      I will never understand group nudity, good luck in Korea :D

      • Mandy March 7, 2013 at 3:45 am #

        Thanks! I think it’s fair to say I’m going to need it!

  14. Dayna B. March 6, 2013 at 7:23 pm #

    I am going to Turkey at the end of August and I hope I will be brave enough to try this as well!

    • Liz March 6, 2013 at 8:16 pm #

      Do it! It will be fun, I swear. Just go alone or with someone you don’t mind being stark naked with lol

  15. Claudia March 6, 2013 at 8:38 pm #

    Great Post! I don’t mind being naked in public too much anymore. I skinny dipped at some of the hot springs in Ourense. When I find myself in Turkey, I will definitely try one of their Hamams. And yes, Javier Bardem is SUPER SEXY!!

  16. bego March 6, 2013 at 9:06 pm #

    Me ha encantado!! Por tu culpa me están entrando unas ganas de viajar a Turquía que no son normales jajajaja!!! :)

    • Liz March 8, 2013 at 12:48 am #

      Me alegro!!! Espero que puedas viajar a Turquía un día! De verdad es un país estupendo <3

  17. Linda March 7, 2013 at 12:11 am #

    I also had my first massage in a Turkish baths; however I was ‘tended’ by a very attractive young man aged about 25 ( I was 49). I had expected it to be women only and he chuckled and whisked away my towel very quickly.

    There was also a man sitting watching the whole process across the room and I spent the whole time being a lot more flushed than than the heat warranted!

    I was made to stand, naked, while he washed my hair ( and he stood very close to me) and he dried me very slowly with fresh towels.

    I was mortified and it felt like a very intimate experience; he seemed quite amused by my embarrassment and it didn’t get any better when he escorted me to a small room for the massage with special oils that I’d booked afterwards. He proceeded to provide that massage too and it was one of the most embarrassing experiences I’ve ever had.

    I think he found it all rather funny but I certainly wouldn’t be in a hurry to repeat it!!

    • Liz March 8, 2013 at 4:30 pm #

      I can’t believe it was a dude!! I would have run out screaming :)

  18. Cristina March 7, 2013 at 12:34 am #

    This is hilarious but I bet you’ll remember it forever :) Not sure what it is about the West, but here we’re way too conservative compared to Europe’s free liberal spirit. It’s only nudity right? haha

    • Liz March 8, 2013 at 4:31 pm #

      I know, right?

  19. amelie88 March 7, 2013 at 2:01 am #

    Hahahaha this entire post was hilarious! I am such an American prude so I probably won’t be going near a sauna/bath house for a very long time. This story reminded me of when I booked a massage in Spain–I was really stressed out and I had done massages in the States before so I didn’t think it could be much different.

    Well for starters, in Spain (or at least the specific spa I went to) gave me a disposal see through bikini bottom type thong thing and I had NO idea how to put it on hahaha because I didn’t know what it was (usually in the States I leave my underwear on for the massage but leave my bra off). I had never seen such an article of clothing before, I thought it was some kind of bra thing! So that’s what I did hahaha. And I also was super confused because usually the masseuse in the States tells you to get underneath the blanket on the massage table once you take all your clothes off.

    The masseuse then came in and seemed surprised to see me wearing a thong on my chest. She had to explain to me it was a one time use underwear. Soooo after that misunderstanding, we went with the whole massage thing which was fine for the most part except instead of the traditional Swedish massage, it seems I also booked some kind of fusion massage that also included shiatsu (which wasn’t unpleasant but I was just surprised when she started lifting my legs and holding the pose). She also massaged really high near my groin area (waaaay higher than any American masseuse would) and while she did cover the girls with a very thin towel, she massaged a lot around there too. And while I as on my back, she totally massaged a lot of my butt. I was like, “Are the standards of massage that different in Europe than in America???? An American would have sued for sexual harassment by now!”

    Luckily the masseuse wasn’t Spanish (maybe Russia? she had a heavy accent) either so she probably attributed my cluelessness to me being foreign. To her credit, she was so professional and didn’t laugh at me, but I’m sure I was the topic of conversation for her and her coworkers afterwards.

    Maybe American spas do give out disposal transparent bikini bottoms (but since they are transparent and paper thin what is the point of wearing them? To give the illusion the spa is being sanitary?) but I have personally never been to one that does. At least I’ll be prepared the next time I book a massage in Spain!

    • Liz March 8, 2013 at 4:33 pm #

      Omg that’s hilarious! I don’t know how I would have reacted lol

  20. Amanda March 7, 2013 at 5:52 am #

    Oh. My God. This sounds like my worst nightmare.

    I think I could perhaps get over the nakedness bit (being around completely naked ladies at spas in Iceland and Hungary didn’t bother me too much), but the naked massage? NO THANK YOU. I hate strangers touching me. And a lady stranger touching my naked, soapy body? That does not sound fun. Not even a little bit.

    Though I admit that your story DID make an excellent (and amusing) blog post. You definitely had me laughing out loud at more than one point!

    • Liz March 8, 2013 at 12:49 am #

      Looking back, I really can’t believe I went through with it. Seriously, I can’t stand being touched by strangers, don’t know if I could go through with it again though :/

  21. abdi ISIK March 7, 2013 at 12:27 pm #

    Istanbul, a very special and impressive for humanity. Thank you for your experienced.

  22. Helene March 7, 2013 at 1:40 pm #

    wow! what an incredible experience!! I would love to go to Istanbul. I just discovered your blog via if& ands butts! i cannot wait to read more!!

    • Liz March 8, 2013 at 12:48 am #

      Thanks Helene :)

  23. Mike March 7, 2013 at 7:15 pm #

    As many others have already said, this post is hilarious! I’m glad you’re living up to your 2013 goals and are stepping outside your comfort zone. I’d love to be able to get to Turkey someday, especially after having read about all your experiences there.

    • Liz March 8, 2013 at 4:31 pm #

      Wahoo I hope you get to go mike :)

  24. Jem March 8, 2013 at 2:58 am #

    Oh my gosh, I absolutely giggled out loud several times while reading about your crazy spa experience. But I also felt your pain, I can only imagine how I would have reacted in that situation! You are so right, us American’s don’t DO public nudity, it’s a very passé way of thinking compared to many other parts of the world though. But I have to say, the fact that you were able to go outside of your comfort zone is very admirable, that’s what travel forces us to do, doesn’t it?

    • Liz March 8, 2013 at 4:32 pm #

      Exactly :)

  25. Jelecia March 8, 2013 at 4:35 am #

    I haven’t been to have a turkish massage but I didn’t have the same type of experience when I went to my first Taiwanese “spa”. Let me just say the spa is full of naked women getting in and out of pools of hot to cold water. It was an eye opening experience and one I wouldn’t trade for the world!

  26. Ligeia March 8, 2013 at 10:04 am #

    Living in Europe (Germany) really helped me get over my fear of being naked in public. Now I find it freeing really. I have always been so impressed with older ladies who just take it all off without thinking twice. My Norwegian friend, her 80 year old grandmother and I once went down to the fjord near her house to go skinny dipping. My friend and I were nervous about taking off our clothes but when we saw her awesome grandmother showing no qualms about stripping down and getting right in, we did the same. And what a great experience it was – swimming naked in a Norwegian fjord. This helped me feel more comfortable when going to a Hamam in Turkey later on as well as swim naked in Lake Ontario in Toronto. Naked equals free. :)

    • Liz March 8, 2013 at 4:33 pm #

      Haha I hope I get to be as free spirited as you one day haha

  27. Aryn March 8, 2013 at 8:34 pm #

    It’s actually been one of my dreams to go to a public bath house. Is that weird? I’ve always thought it sounded cool since I learned of them in Japan.

  28. zoomingjapan March 9, 2013 at 4:51 pm #

    I hate getting naked in public, but I’m glad I overcame it and tried! :)

    I live in Japan now and here it’s verry common to go to the natural hot springs (called “onsen”). They are absolutely awesome, but you need to be naked when in there.

    I can only recommend it, though. It’s worth overcoming your fears!

    I’m glad you enjoyed it in the end!
    I’ve never been to Turkey, but would love to go some day.

  29. Lauren @ roamingtheworld March 12, 2013 at 2:02 pm #

    I really wanted to go to a Turkish bath and a local one at that. There are so many geared for tourists but in the end, I didn’t have time.
    I had quite the experience in a Hamman in Morocco and wouldn’t trade it for the world.
    Don’t think I had time to think it so weird to stripping down to nothing… it just all happened and being in the company of other naked woman whom it was so normal for, made it all that much more comfortable. Got scrubbed down too and have to admit it was a beautiful experience.

    Made me think about how we have so many misconceptions about the Middle East and how we can be so damn conservative in the States.
    If you’re curious about how a Moroccan bath compares; http://wp.me/p74a3-yC

  30. Jessica Wray March 16, 2013 at 5:13 am #

    Hahaha awesome. I know how you feel! I did about the same thing in Korea. Laying next to my best friend who had just come to visit, it was almost impossible to not blurt out awkward sounds and laughs. It really is so odd and at the point when she went to scrub in between my legs I just couldn’t believe what the hell I was doing.

  31. Jeremy Branham March 20, 2013 at 8:01 pm #

    A few years ago, I discovered a nude beach in Portugal while hiking. As an American, there is this taboo about nudity. However, I played it cool. So cool in fact that after two hours, I finally joined in (yes, two hours). There was an old guy and his dog and a nice looking German couple in their 30s. Then there was this white American who had no business showing parts of his body to the sun. I am sure many people got a great suntan that day from the reflection off the parts of my body that had never seen the sun.

    So what did I learn?

    Nudity in public isn’t as big of a deal as Americans make it out to be. I do understood the taboo behind it and why we feel uncomfortable. However, it was completely fine and not sexual AT ALL. I would absolutely do it again. I was actually more ashamed of how white I was rather than my nudity. It’s one thing to be on a beach without a tan. It’s a different level entirely when you realize just how white you really are.

    Do I think nudity is that big of a deal? Yes and no. However, I would do it again in public. Even in Toronto at TBEX :)

  32. OCDemon March 29, 2013 at 4:51 pm #

    I’ve always thought “this’ll make a great story” to be the greatest pep talk of all. And rest assured there’s some awkwardness on the gentlemen’s side, too.

  33. Michelle April 6, 2013 at 3:15 pm #

    Ha! This is spot on. Wish I had read a first hand account like this before I naively wandered in.

  34. Farnoosh May 20, 2013 at 9:59 am #

    Hi Liz, we are now in Istanbul and the owners of the apartment showed me this article when I asked about Turkish Hamam. I am from Iran and the concept is not new to me but I’ve never done Turkish Hamam even when I lived here….however, in the last few years in the US, I went to Korean Spa and it is exactly like you describe except instead of beautiful marble, there are just beds covered in hard plastic so they can pour buckets of water over you …. the whole thing about naked is funny – I don’t care because it’s so natural to me and it’s all women anyway and the scrubs are so nice …. but I can’t get a couple of my friends to do this so your writing reminded me of that. So glad they pointed me to your site. May or may not have time to do this while in Istanbul but enjoyed your writing! :)

  35. NotMe June 2, 2013 at 2:54 am #

    Your shyness and awkwardness is adorable. Also, you’re not a whale.

    • Liz June 3, 2013 at 3:38 pm #

      lol thanks for the best comment of all time

  36. Rono August 29, 2013 at 6:21 pm #

    Nice story! Curious about the grooming practices of the russians and natives. Did they shave their pubes like Americans? I dated a girl from Germany who didnt.

  37. thomas cappiello November 25, 2013 at 2:58 pm #

    I’m with you, I did a similiar thing in Khabarovsk Russia, public nudity, but not quite as elaborate, but lots of sauna and beautiful marble lined pool to wade in and out of. It was bad enough getting beat with birch branches by the burly Russian dude, but I totally passed on the massaging part, “think I’ll go back into the sauna now, another dip in the ice cold pool, you guys get your massages”.

  38. Rui December 29, 2013 at 9:52 pm #

    It’s so stupid, such a big post and big deal only about being nake!!
    What’s is the problem?
    Americans are so prudish!

    • Liz January 3, 2014 at 8:50 pm #

      You say prude, I say normal :D

  39. amir March 16, 2014 at 8:11 pm #

    I am looking for a white lady without kids, above 170 cm, above 80 kg to live with m, big boobs, please email me: sh1_mj@yahoo.com.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

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