Day 93: Enjoying sweaty Turkish delight
Why are Turkish Baths called Turkish Baths? Okay, okay, so there’s an obvious answer to that question, but I mean apart from the fact that they have them in Turkey. I guess what I’m asking is: didn’t everywhere once have these public communal baths in the Victorian era – the only places in cities where all but the richest could wash (if they did)?
A number of these Victorian baths still remain in the UK, so my Play for the day is a blend of visiting a historic building (the beautiful Porchester Spa); having what I guess you might call a ‘spa day’ (though I dodge the seaweed wrap and, er, pedicure); and, I guess, the freedom and joy of naturism (which for a solid group could surely be called their play, if not their way of life!).
Having lived in Berlin for three months, I’ve seen quite how happy many on the continent are to throw off their clothes at any opportunity, and to be honest I find this attitude a lot more appealing than our prudish fear / hatred of our bodies here in the UK, and possibly even more extremely in the USA. This place is way over on the continental side, though dragged back a tiny bit for English manners. I deposit my clothes in a locker and wrap a towel around myself.
I spend a relaxing couple of hours sitting and contemplating while hot and dry or warm and wet or really hot and dry or – minus the contemplation – rapidly cooling in the near-freezing plunge pool. One nod to prudishness is that days are gender-segregated, which weirdly seems to me to only increase the sexual-vibe – after all, saunas are still a staple of gay venues – but it is clear this remains a sort of working men’s social club for Yiddisher fellas and groups of locals.
Good, clean fun.
There is nothing in the world that I loathe more than group activity, that communal bath where the hairy and slippery mix in a multiplication of mediocrity – Vladimir Nabokov