Fitness & Spas Lifestyle Luxury Hotels Travel

Hammaming in a luxury hotel (in Istanbul of course)

View of the Bosphorus, room 1211, Ritz-Carlton Istanbul

View of the stadium, room 1211, Ritz-Carlton Istanbul

Istanbul’s Beşiktaş İsmet İnönü Stadium, which opened in 1947, has the undesirable world record of loudest football stadium in the world.  This was achieved when the 32,145-seater hosted a Beşiktaş versus Liverpool Champions League, which resulted in a deafening 132 decibels.

Fortunately that luxury hotel, The Ritz-Carlton Istanbul, looks down from so far above that probably the guests did not hear a thing – though the sight from bedrooms facing the Bosphorus must have been remarkable.

Now, for those who are interested, Beşiktaş has been given the go-ahead by Turkey’s Environment and Urban Planning Ministry to build a new stadium.  There was no match at all when the gal stayed at the Ritz.

The indoor pool

The indoor pool

In fact there was no noise at all during the stay.  Despite the fact that over 200 meetings-guys, probably on an incentive or something, were in the 244-room hotel you never saw them. They were gathering on another floor.  It is a, well, recognizable if not universally loved architectural shape.

It soars up eight floors, from the Aston-Martin national headquarters, to the hotel entrance (the slope here is very intense). The building then rises a further 31 floors, but from 17 up it is residential.  The pool is level six, two floors down from the lobby.  Amazingly, when it opened I had it all to myself.  I planned an R and R day, which everyone needs from time to time.

The hammam has masses of taps, and copper pans

The hammam has taps, and copper pans

Why not try a real Turkish hammam?  It seemed like a great idea.  Ok, for those who remain uninitiated, this is what happens, at least here at the Laveda Spa.

In the lockers, you find not only the usual robe and slippers but also a narrow red-checked tablecloth.  This just about covers the necessary, when worn as a sarong. I pad along to the hammam suite.

The inner room is an octagonal cave of marble, marble nearly everything, including an octagonal table in the centre. Wall-set taps, surrounded by tulip-decorated tiles, have bronze pans around them, obviously for sloshing water.  I am prepared for anything.

Hammam gear

Hammam gear, for customer…

The therapist, wearing a lemon yellow tablecloth-sarong, asks me to lie face down on a towel on the octagonal table.  First she sloshes room-temperature water all over me, then she takes a hammam mitten, better called a sandpaper mitten.

Soft, medium or hard?  I opt for hard, and soon feel the sandpaper taking away not only any residue of dead skin but, I swear, at least one of the living layers (but I think they grow back quickly).

I was told it would be like having my mother bath me, as a child, but I swear she would never have used sandpaper.  It was more akin to a good Finnish scrub (for that, take one powerful and ample Helsinki lady of uncertain age, who scrubs you with soap and a proper scrubbing brush).

.. and therapist

.. and therapist

Turn over please.  I do, and sweet-scented towels are laid over my eyes.  After total scrubbing, there is substantially more sloshing, and then I am soaped all over, and sloshed again.  Would I like cold water? I do, and ouch, I am sloshed and sloshed in near ice temperature.

Next I sit up, and my hair is washed ten times more thoroughly than I do it myself. I am helped next door, to lie down on a dry tile, to be slathered in lotion.  Just under an hour after all this started I am thrust back out into the real world.  Obviously the equivalent of bed-bugs (body-bugs?) have long since drowned in all that sloshing, and I wonder if one also loses weight…

Painting on the wall

Painting on the wall

But life moves on and there is so much happening in this luxury hotel I need to tell more of the story.  As I walk up to the next level I pass a hammam painting on the stairs.  Perhaps this is what some mean by ‘stay in a hotel with a sense of place’.