Time to get down and dirty in mud of Aegean province
Wilco van HERPEN Hürriyet Daily News
Long straight streets and a very kitsch waterfall are the first things seen in Hüdaye Kaplıcaları. Visitors come here to bathe in the warm and healing waters.People who have gone by car from Istanbul to Antalya have definitely passed through Afyonkarahisar, which, during the summertime, is a very hot and dry place. This is not a place in which you want to get out of your car and make a tour.
But you’re wrong – or maybe you’re right after all. It might not be the place to go to during the summer, but we have different seasons here, and if you are in the province of Afyonkarahisar during the spring or fall, I would definitely recommend that you go there. But I am not going to write about Afyonkarahisar; I will keep that for a later time. This time, I want to write about a unique experience I had in a small place near the center of the inner Aegean province.
About 65 kilometers away in Sandıklı, you can find the Hüdaye Kaplıcaları (thermal springs). On arrival, it might not be one of the thermal springs you might expect or have visited before. In Turkey, those springs are generally in either very ultra-luxury hotel resorts or very old antique places. This place, though, looks like it was built in the 1970s before everyone subsequently forgot about it. Long straight streets and a very kitsch waterfall are the first things you see. Most of the visitors are local people who come here to bath in the warm, healing waters of the spring, while some others come here just to have a picnic. But I went to the Hüdaye springs for another reason.
When I was a child, one of my “hobbies” (my mother hated it) was playing in the mud. Every time after a fierce storm, I would go into the meadows and find mud to jump in, make castles or have a mud fight with some other friends who were as crazy as I was. When we went home, of course, we all wondered what kind of punishment we would get, but I survived. My mother saw mud just as a dirty filthy mixture that had to be removed under the shower with a very hard brush. After the shower, my skin would be as red as a boiled lobster.
Here in Turkey, people think about mud as something completely different; it relaxes, cures and cleans a person. Therefore, I strongly advise you to visit this thermal spring. According to the person who helped me with my mud bath, this bath refreshes the skin, stimulates the blood circulation and helps you if you suffer from rheumatism, or yes, ladies, this one is for you, cellulite. So what exactly is happening when you have a mud bath?
Let me tell you, the treatment here is not like many of the mud baths you find in Turkey. Most of the time, people smear a thin layer of mud on your body after which they let you dry up in the baking sun. You feel like a sundried tomato after the treatment, and it is difficult to get all the mud (or clay) off your body.
Here at the Hüdaye Kaplıca, you undress yourself in a very basic room. It was a big room I entered with at least 15 places that looked like shallow baths. All of them were clean and a man invited me to lay in one of them. There is one problem though; Dutch people are generally tall; I am an average “tall” Dutchman, so if you are taller than 1.87 meters, you might have a problem because you will not fit in the bath! Once I lay down my head was touching the one side of the bath and my feet were touching the other.
A man was mixing clay with water – very warm water of 68 degrees Celsius. But after mixing it, the temperature went down to “just” 45 degrees. That might not seem like it is hot, but when they put it on your skin, it is really, really hot. Slowly the man covered my legs, arms and body – and then he started to put mud on my face as well. The only part of my body that was not covered with mud was the two small holes of my nose. There I was, in a bath far away from everything and everyone, covered by 30 centimeters of clay. The longer I stayed buried under the mud, the further everything and everyone seemed to be. This is definitely not something for people who are claustrophobic. The weigh of the mud and the temperature of it were difficult to bear. But after a while, my body got used to it, and slowly it started to feel nice. After half an hour, the man told me that whenever I wanted, I could get out of the mud.
Well, that was something easy to say, but doing it was another matter. The clay did not want to let me go, it sucked my arms down whenever I tried to lift them. After quite a fierce struggle, I managed to get out of the bath and slowly walked to the shower. I rinsed my body and felt really refreshed; this was quite an experience.
You might have experienced the Turkish hamam, or experienced a clay bath in a beautiful, fancy hotel. But here in Sandıklı, you have a chance to experience something different; something authentic. For me it was an experience; for you, it might mean exploring a different part of the rich culture of Turkey.