Monday, August 25, 2008

turkey: istanbul!

istanbul had a rocky start. not really the fault of such a lovely city but more the fact that we still had sea legs so everything rocked back and forth. rocked while standing. rocked while sitting at dinner. rocked especially badly when lying down for bed. also, the boat had gotten us used to this certain lifestyle that had nothing to do with thinking. at all. about anything.

we woke up with the sun, ate when captain rang the bell and food was brought out, went to bed when we were tired. i had cell service all over "the med" but no internet so had my phone off the entire time. (in retrospect, i should have turned it on a few times because i neglected to tell the family i was leaving the country and my grandma flipped her shit when she couldn't get a hold of me. i had a text message from my brother, "what's up with your phone" when i turned the thing back on so i knew something was wrong because my brother NEVER calls me. turns out he was doing grandma's bidding.)

but anyway, our bed and breakfast was cute. sickeningly cute. and it felt like we were staying in someone's obscenely tasteful abode. which i suppose is the point of bed and breakfasts but this one was really lovely. breakfasts were solid and the A/C was strong so we were happy. we had a bedroom and a sitting room so it felt like our own little pied-a-terre.

moving and walking and thinking and planning, was utterly exhausting. also, it was hot. stifling. so our first day we headed off, i made sure to bring a scarf for my head in mosque-prep. we waited in lines, took off our shoes and spent about 15 minutes in the blue mosque. we skipped the ayasofia, even though it's one of the seven wonders of the medieval world. mostly because the line was some 2 hours and they were charging 20 lire to get in. also, did i mention it was hot? and looking back, i don't really regret not waiting because we only had a brief two days anyhow and had too much to pack in as it was.

immediately, my favorite thing was listening to the "call to prayer" that rang out throughout the city. it was beautiful and it's what made me really feel like was in a completely foreign place. colin and i looked at each other and sighed contentedly every time we heard it. we hit up the grand bazaar which was a freaking palaver. there are like 5 types of things that people sell (lamps, leather coats, rugs, dishware, jewelry). now imagine some 600 venders all selling one of those 5, and put them all in a building the size of 2 square city blocks but make sure you arrange them all as a maze so once you enter the building, it's just impossible to leave. THEN imagine people yelling at you and following you around to try to scare you into buying their shit. and let's say you did like a lamp. one guy would quote you 15 lire and another would quote you 45 for that same lamp 10 feet away. i felt overwhelmed. so did colin. we had headaches when we left. it was still hot out. and the world was STILL rocking.

the spice market was better in the sense that it was more open and we were less harassed. it was smaller and we were able to pick up some things and find our way out in a jiffy. we stopped to refresh at a cafe, were given the wi-fi password upon placing our order (convenient!) and got ready for dinner. dinner was in beyoglu, the trendy modern part of istanbul located on the north bank of the city. beyoglu is where all shopping and eating should be done. period. it's less touristy and that's where people who live in istanbul hang out. we were lucky enough to be put in touch with a friend of a friend of mine. she's a totally famous actress on turkey's most popular television show. a tiny girl with sharp features and lots of dirty blond hair, think: sarah jessica parker. so she's all hip and trendy and steered us in all the right places when it came to food. we met up with her for lunch the next day and it was fun to watch all the people do double takes, all the ladies nudge each other and discreetly point to her when we sat down. no paparazzi, though it would have been hilarious. after lunch she took us through a guided tour of the hood, showing us all the cute places and secret things we'd have never known about otherwise.

that afternoon we turkish-bathed it at cemberlitas, turkey's supposedly cleanest hamam. and i will vouch for the cleanliness though the process itself was crazy and i giggled through half of it. colin was sent to the boy area and i headed off to the female side. i was given a towel and a box and shown to a locker where i stored my stuff. i was guided to a big open steam room with a huge, round, knee-high marble slab took up 80% of the room. there were faucets in cubbies along the perimeter of the room. i was let to sit and sweat for 15 minutes then called over by one of the scrubbers. the scrubbers are huge fat naked ladies. like, their boobs were not only bigger than mine (and that's saying something) they were pretty much bigger than my whole head. so this huge woman takes my box and pulls a scrubbing mitt out of it and starts at me. i'm watching all these dark grey things appear on my skin. know what that is kids? it's layers of my dead skin being scraped off my body. it was gross! and totally AWESOME. she flipped me over and made sure to get both sides. then gave me a sudsy rubdown and then rinsed me by the faucets. i was then guided to a quiet dark room where i was pulled to a massage table and given a 40 minute massage which ended with the woman talking baby-talk to me and playing with my ears. it was all very strange. then she told me i had a nice body. also weird. colin's experience wasn't so gentle. he was totally manhandled, scrubbed raw, they twisted his body all up and cracked him all over. i was SO jealous. then his big fat man hugged colin's head into his huge man-boobs and put a turban on his head. colin, of course, left it on long enough to snap a photo with his iphone in the bathroom later, thank god.

shopping was done, another good meal had and we were off the next morning. the town itself is sweet and picturesque. cats abound. literally you can't walk 5 feet without seeing a cat. and i'd call them strays, but they're not. people feed them and treat them as pets, just outdoor pets that you don't have to clean up after. it's really odd. but everyone sits outside and socializes. kids run through the streets. laundry hangs outside, peoples windows and doors are left open. it's just big ol' small town at heart.

i would have liked to spend a few more days there. i would have liked to spend a good month or so traveling the rest of the country. and i will, someday. but next! australia!

pictures to follow...

4 people who played with me:

Blogger Syar said...

I super miss hearing the call to prayer. Especially with Eid coming up, as the special call to prayer on first Eid morning is literally my favourite sound in the whole world.

The homesickness it evoked aside, sounds like a really cool vacay! Spice market sounded so exotic to me, haha. :)

8/26/2008 1:47 AM  
Blogger Peter said...

And yet every time I put on a scrubbing mitt and ask you to strip off, you get all uppity. Pffft.

Dude, I would LOSE it at that market. You pull on my shirt, get in my face and scream at me, I am throwing punches.

8/26/2008 6:35 AM  
Blogger omar said...

I'm not so sure I would have been brave enough to try that bath.

8/26/2008 12:09 PM  
Blogger Michelle said...

Aye the bath thing sound awesome except from the dead skin! But wow, sounded like an amazing holiday!

8/28/2008 6:01 AM  

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