Nobody comes out the way they came in; all the weights and tensions are removed, chakras are activated, even the third eye seems to have been awakened. The hammam, with all its steam, massage, shady scenery and cool marble, balances emotional contradictions and offers pleasure. Pure pleasure.
In the heart of Athens, where the city stews in its own juices, there is a well-known hammam. Even those who have not yet visited Hammam Bathing House, know it by word of mouth. Good news flows like water over naked bodies.
Nayia Kourti is behind the original idea. At a turning point in her professional career, she left the construction industry, interior architecture and construction management of large projects, deciding to implement her vision for the revival and reopening of a traditional hammam in Athens. “The aim of the creators of the hammam was and still is to share the refreshing feeling one gets in the traditional baths of the East; to bring back and preserve a culture of rest and well-being that, centuries ago, was an integral part of our everyday life,” she says.
“In 2011 we built and operated the first hammam in the centre of Athens, creating a new market in the field of physical well-being. Seven years later and after a successful course, armed with knowledge and experience, we created the largest hammam in Greece, within the Makedonia Palace Hotel in Thessaloniki,” she adds.
With roots from the East, the hammam is considered the wet version of sauna. It has played a key role in the culture of eastern countries as it has been a place of meetings, purification, physical and mental exaltation and architectural beauty. In Greece, the oldest operating hammam is located in Patras and dates back to 1400. But enough with the history. Let’s move on to Hammam Bathing House, which embraces the visitor like a nest. White marble and minimal light create the ideal atmosphere that serves the purpose.
“Since ancient times people have known about the marvellous benefits of hot steam”
“Since ancient times people have known about the marvellous benefits of hot steam. Steam baths were known and practiced by the ancient Greeks and Romans,” explains Nayia Kourti. “It is the most pleasant way to give oneself a smooth clean skin and a body full of health, free of muscle aches and fatigue symptoms. Steam baths have a tremendously beneficial effect on the skin. Namely, the heat stimulates blood flow and cleanses the skin, opening the pores and removing dead cells, leaving the skin softer, smoother and healthier. Especially during the winter months, it helps the respiratory system and has the ability to eliminate flu symptoms. It strengthens the immune system, improves metabolism and muscle elasticity. It is also highly recommended after training; the pores open and cleanse, the body feels relaxed. It relieves the symptoms of arthritis, rheumatism, joint pains, aches and muscle tension, while eliminating dead skin cells and toxins. The good effect of hammam baths on the body lies in the promotion of neuromuscular relaxation through an increase in blood flow. It has been shown to be beneficial for all those who suffer from sleep disorders, dry skin and muscle stiffness, as well as for those who are sensitive to sudden temperature changes.”
“What kind of hammam services do you offer here?” I ask her.
“We have created a space with a temperature of 40-50°C and high humidity. Steam is injected into the room through a steam generator. The ceiling of a classic steam room is arched, so that the condensed steam flows down the walls rather than falling from the ceiling. Despite the high humidity, it is easy to breathe in the steam room, because the steam is not dry and does not burn the respiratory tract. The hot room has a capacity of six people, with a separate private area with two marble beds where the massage services are performed by the masseurs. Visitors may come alone or with company.”
“Guests can choose to take a one-hour steam bath on their own for 25 euros per person or enjoy a full traditional experience, which includes scrubbing with a traditional glove, washing and body massage with green soap, for 45 euros per person. We also offer prepaid packages and memberships” she continues, giving me further information.
“During these 10 years of our operation, people have come to love and integrate the ritual of the hammam into their daily lives and we have many customers who visit the hammam every week. We provide our guests with everything they need to experience this hammam ritual. It is a holistic experience of relaxation with the healing properties of water. At the end we offer tea and traditional Turkish delights in our sitting room, for as long as the body needs to return to the normal environmental conditions” Nayia describes slowly, in a tranquil voice, as befits the space, knowing that her efforts have been already rewarded, since what she offers is nothing less than a total rejuvenation. “It is the first authentic hammam in Athens that was designed with absolute respect to the traditional oriental baths and traditional structures, in order to convey the authentic atmosphere and magic of the hammam, in a simple, yet refined space, where one can experience a high level of service from highly trained physiotherapists. The response of the public and our need to keep all our guests satisfied has committed us to set ever higher standards in the quality of our services, so that ten years later, in addition to being market makers, we remain market leaders”.