With my hopes of going to Antep and Urfa for this weekend crushed, I instead prepared myself for a relaxing solo-weekend around Malatya. I had grand plans of going to the hamam (a Turkish bath), hanging out at Nostalji – a renovated wooden Ottoman house that’s now a cafe – and meeting up with Mehmet for narghile. Unfortunately for Danielle, she also ended up catching a stomach bug so she and Fabio were happy to join in on my plans for a recuperative Saturday in Malatya.
The day started off with the three of us meeting my boss, his wife and daughter for lunch at Malatya Park – otherwise known as the center of the universe – a giant mall in Malatya’s downtown. Malls are seemingly new to Turkey, and Turks are absolutely obsessed with mall culture. If you ask any Turk in Malatya what there is to do, you will nine times out of ten get the response “Malatya Park.” We have been warned not to overdo Malatya Park now, though, as once winter comes it will apparently be the only thing to do.
After lunch, Fabio and myself went to the hamam while Danielle went to the hairdressers. Although my stomach was still bothering me – and I was beginning to doubt whether a Turkish bath would be the best thing for me – I pressed ahead. This hamam started off with a sauna, ensuring you sweat out all the toxins in your body. Next, you go into a cooler room – the hamam room. Here, you lie on a stone tablet while the hamam worker covers you in foam soap and then scrubs you down, followed by a rinse of several buckets of water. Finally, the worker gives an intense – and painful – full body massage, which hits every pressure point, muscle group, and tendon area. You leave feeling completely born-again and jelly like.
After the hamam, you cover your entire body in towels and go to the entrance area which is full of old Ottoman style furnishings – wooden plank beds covered in thick carpets and huge pillows. Fabio and I chose to relax here for probably another 45 minutes, gently dozing, while re-hydrating ourselves. I don’t know if it was the relaxation of the weekend – or healing properties of a sauna – but after the hamam my stomach has almost completely stopped bothering me.
Our final stop was Nostalji Historic Malatya House. Mehmet met up with us here – as did Danielle – and we continued to relax over Turkish coffee, tea, narghile, gözleme – a type of extremely thin flat-bread stuffed with a variety of toppings – and backgammon. I just learnt how to play backgammon a month ago, and I assumed I was okay at the game; six straight shut-outs to Mehmet though proved otherwise.
If there is one thing I will take away from this weekend, it is never wager money on backgammon games against Turks.