Our Hamam, The Turkish Bath for Women
is a project of the Schokoladenfabrik – Women’s Center in Berlin. Located in a former chocolate factory, it was founded in 1988 as the first hamam in Germany.
Our Hamam cleanses and cares for the body and soul. It promotes not only the purification of the body and exploration of pure sensory pleasure, but also collective relaxation and communication between our guests in a warm and pleasant atmosphere. Our Hamam is a place where women from all cultures and walks of life work, meet, and unwind.
Hamam culture arose over the millennia as a blend of Arabic and Mediterranean traditions. The word hammam means “to warm” in Arabic. Turkish bathing culture, which dates back to around 800 years, is an extension of the public baths once celebrated in ancient Greece and later expanded throughout the Roman Empire. The influence of Islam emphasized the social relevance of the hamam as a center of communication. Today, one can still find the most beautiful baths in traditional use in Middle Anatolia and Istanbul, as well as in Spain (Cordoba), Greece, and Hungary.
Spending time, bathing, and plunging in the Turkish baths has become a luxury far away from the stresses of our everyday lives. Here, the body and soul can enjoy bathing in the temperate warmth of comfortably lit spaces. The warmth, humidity, foam, and fragrances of our Hamam, as well as the sense of touch through revitalizing massage, produces a sense of wellbeing and an absolute symphony for the senses.
We offer our guests a wide variety of spa treatments to complement their stay, including the opportunity to relax in both our Finnish and infrared saunas, our inviting outdoor courtyard, and a number of relaxation spaces. Every visitor receives a full orientation to the Hamam, which includes a guided tour of all of our amenities and services.
Guests from all over the world have the added benefit of experiencing Berlin’s intercultural life during their visit. They have the opportunity to learn about the range of feminist support the Schokofabrik provides the women of Berlin, including private consultation, education and training, and fitness courses. Local women of diverse cultural backgrounds regularly meet here to bask in our pleasurable surroundings.
Our Hamam also serves as a resource for information about other independent initiatives for and by women in Berlin. A collection of recent press materials, as well as published books are provided throughout our spaces. Most materials are in the German or Turkish language.
The creation of a women’s hamam was already envisioned back when the Schokofabrik was first established in 1981. Since its realization, it has become a vital space for collective interaction, engagement, and relaxation for women of different cultural backgrounds living in Kreuzberg and beyond. The Frauenzentrum Schokoladenfabrik e.V. will celebrate its 30th anniversary on October 21, 2011.
Tours detailing the intercultural framework of the Hamam and the history of the Schokofabrik are regularly offered to our visitors. International Women’s Day is celebrated every year on March 8th with music and dance, and every May 1st, normal bathing operations are suspended for the “Day of the Open Door,” when men also have the opportunity to visit the Hamam and to take the much beloved tour through the entire women’s center.
Visiting our hamam
A hamam is what is also known as the “Turkish bath,” which emphasizes ritual cleansing with water, rather than ambient steam. It is an enclosed space built out of marble or tiled stone, and typically features architectural elements like a large dome ceiling decorated with small glass windows that filter in natural light. Washbasins for the collection of both warm and cool water are also located along the walls in niches for bathers to use. A large circular ‘navel stone’ (göbek tasi), which radiates heat, is located in the center of the room. Bathers lay upon the stone in order to absorb the warm energy and relax and re-energize.
Most public hamams are separated according to gender with different spaces or opening hours for men and women. Modern hotels often have shared visitation hours. In contrast, the Hamam in the Schokofabrik is open exclusively to women, and its staff is entirely composed of women.
The hamam was widely disseminated throughout the entire Islamic sphere during the rise of the Ottoman Empire. The strict separation of genders traditionally practiced in the Muslim faith played a significant role in its development. Such baths have persisted since Antiquity into the present day in Turkey and the Middle East, as well as in places like Hungary, Spain, and Greece. Today, many former hamams have entirely different functions, like the bath in Thessaloniki, Greece, which is now operated as an event space.
Significantly, the hamam has always served as a center of communication. Social connections played an important role in the traditional hamam; relationships between heads of families and other individuals could be comfortably maintained in a relaxed surrounding (compare with the bride-hamam). The same is true for the our Hamam, The Turkish Bath for Women: Our guests, as well as the women who work here, regularly converse with one another, and this interaction produces a very lively atmosphere. We do ask, however, that guests keep conversations to a minimum in the downstairs relaxation room and especially in the saunas, where absolute tranquility should be maintained.
More detailed information can be found about the hamam tradition online on information sites like Wikipedia. There is also a very informative report on both the history and present practices of the hamam culture in Istanbul at www.tagesschau.de (available in the German language).
Everything you need can be purchased or rented at the Hamam. The individual needs of our visitors can widely vary, but the minimum items needed include: two or three large bath towels, swimming shoes or flip-flops, and toiletries (bar soap or shower gel, shampoo, a comb or hairbrush, cosmetics, etc). Some women also like to bring bathrobes with them, but our Hamam is so warm that often only a large towel or light shawl is necessary for our relaxation rooms.
Wearing bathing suits while showering and bathing does interfere with the bathing process, but it is allowed. However, for hygienic reasons, no clothing or shoes can be worn during use of the saunas.
So that you can relax in the hamam, saunas, or relaxation rooms without having to keep track of time, our personnel will come find you for all treatment appointments. On your first visit to our Hamam, we will give you a full orientation and provide you with a tour of our facilities.
We ask that you contact us over the phone or in person to schedule any appointments so that we can provide you with a personal consultation. We cannot accept appointment requests per email. Hamam treatments are only available in combination with a visit to the Hamam.