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Sunday, September 28, 2014

Don't Just Sit There . . . .

We went to Turkey for our vacation.  (When I told my friend about the up-coming trip, she thought I said, “We’re going to eat turkey.  That would have been fun, too, but no, we traveled to the country of.)  Several friends were a bit paranoid about our travel thinking, for some reason, that our plan was to camp out on the Syrian or Kurdish border.  I assure you, we were in a docile group of 30, bussed around western Turkey to see the tourist sites:  Gallipoli, Troy, Ephesis, Cappadocia, the works.

One of the treats offered on the trip was that after a boat ride along the Mediterranean to beautiful Turtle Beach.  (We didn’t see any turtles, but we did see the Lycean rock tombs.  Cool!), we would head to Koycetiz where we could opt to take a mud bath. 

I’d never had a mud bath.  I envisioned a sort of fancy-shmancy spa where I went into a cubicle where sank into a bathtub full of mud.  This would be a mineral treatment after which I’d be completely detoxified and radiant.  Maybe I could sign up for a massage, too, and come out a completely new and gorgeous woman. 

It had to be a method for weight loss, too, right?  Step into the mud bath, and the mud would act like a poultice squeezing ten pounds out of you.  Why not?  Yeah, now I’m just being silly. 

We drove up to what looked vaguely like a New Jersey beach resort and walked past a snack stand to a large awning covering twenty or so picnic tables.  The mud bath area, ahead on our left, consisted of a complex which was predominantly a pond where a group of people rubbed mud on themselves.  Most of our tour, obviously more in the know than me, had chosen to avoid this event, but it was my chance at a new experience, and I was in. Steve, three other men from the group and I grabbed our bathing suits and headed for the changing cabanas.  Cabana is a relative term here, but, hey, any dark cubicle in a storm.

First to the pond.  The previous group had just exited, and it seemed like they had used up all the mud.  I waded out waist deep, but whatever mud I scooped up washed off right as soon as I leaned over for another handful.  Then we figured it out.  I scooped up several handfuls of mud, waded to the side of the pond and plopped them on the flagstones.  Standing there in a foot of water, I scraped it off the stone and smeared it over my arms, chest and face.  I tried not to think of health laws -- or the lack thereof -- while I performed this task. 

Once I were sufficiently swathed in mud, I sunned myself on the flagstone area next to the pool while the mud dried and performed its miracles.  I’m not exactly sure what those miracles were; it was hard to tell.  (I would show you a fetching picture of me covered in dry mud, but I’d left my camera on the bus.  A friend took a couple of shots, but she hasn’t e-mailed them to me yet.  Believe me, you are not missing much.)  The mud certainly looked and felt like regular mud, but, hey, at least it didn’t smell.  Oh, no, the smell was reserved for the sulfur spring.   

Once the mud was dry, I walked up slippery stone steps and along a path (ow!  barefoot!) to an outdoor shower area with rows of nozzles hanging from pipes.  I found a free nozzle and rinsed off the mud.

Back down the path (ow!) and steps to stand in front of a man dressed as a sailor.  (Why a sailor, I ask you?  Why?)  He hosed me off, and then I entered, ever so gingerly, the smelly sulfur pool which, I suppose, conferred added health benefits although it seemed to me more likely the site of primordial sludge that incubated unknown and virulent illnesses.  

It was while I tried to pretend to enjoy the sulfur spring that I realized what a genius our tour guide was.  His timing had been impeccable the entire trip, and this activity was another shining example.  As I entered the sulfur pool, two bus loads of Russian tourists charged toward the mud. 

Now I lived in Russia, and I have Russian friends I adore.  But Russians on vacation are nothing to mess around with.  They are like locusts descending on Egypt.  You stand in their path at your own risk, plus their sense of personal space differs from Americans'.  Granted they were behind me in the mud bath process, but I was taking no risks. 

I clambered out of the pool and headed back (ouch!  ouch!) to the showers.  Then I was off to a cabana to change back into my clothes, join the others at the picnic tables and wait for the men.  A mud bath item as an item on my list?  Check.

Before the bus left, I fished a lira out of my wallet and went off to the toilet.  We found Turkey to be amazingly modern except for one thing.  Even the pay toilets (thus the lira) tended to be (a) unable to accept toilet paper (it clogs if you flush it), (b) rather dirty, and (c) predominantly squat toilets.  How I perfected the skills of using a squat toilet?  That will have to be another Blog post.

Since I have no pictures of the mud bath, I present you with toilet cubicle signage.

           Follow instructions!                                       Indicates a squat toilet     

The preferred stall