Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Day 34- Istanbul, Turkey

This morning the girls (me, Sam, Logan, Brooke, Whitney, and Julie) got up early to go experience the traditional Turkish bath. We set off walking in the general direction, intending to ask for directions if there weren’t any clear signs. The bath, or hamam, we were looking for is called Çembalitas and is supposedly 300 years old. We found the two streets where the hamam was supposed to be situated but could not for the life of us find the door or a sign. We asked about five people and finally realized we had passed the entrance three time without noticing it. Once we found the hamam we chose our style bath. We went to the women’s area (men and women are strictly segregated) and changed into our towels. We had all resigned ourselves to the fact that we would be naked but once we went into the steam room we noticed everyone had matching panties on. We awkwardly crept back up to the locker room to get our undies when an attendant showed us the basket of one-size-fits-all black panties that everyone is supposed to wear. Thank goodness we figured that out, otherwise six awkward girls would be the only fully nude ones in the palce. Now that we were dressed appropriately, we could lay on the heated marble slab in the middle of the room to start sweating. Everyone laid together until, one by one, the attendants called us over for our bath.


First, we were splashed with a huge bucket of cool water which felt great in contrast to the warm marble. Then, the attendant scrubbed us all over with an exfoliating glove. I kept my eyes closed, but the other girls said they saw mounds of dead skin coming off their bodies. After the scrubbing, the attendant took a thin cloth full of soapy water and made piles of soap bubbles on my stomach. Then she lathered me up with the soap. She took me by the hand to a tap on the wall that flowed into a basin. She rinsed me with water from the basin and then washed my hair. Next, I sat in the pool in a room off the steam room. There was a cool pool and a Jacuzzi to alternate between. When I was ready, I went for my oil massage which was a full body massage and I mean from toes to fingers to scalp. At the end of the massage, the attendant woke me with “Lady…” which is the only English word I heard any of them saw. I went back to the marble slab and took a nap while the other girls finished their massages. After we were all relaxed, we dressed and headed back to the ship for lunch. The walk took a little longer than expected so we had to sprint the length of the ship to make it to the dining hall and then grab our food as they were trying to put it away.


We scarfed down our burgers, grabbed, Rudy, and ran to meet Sam and Logan to go on a boat tour of the Bosphorus. Tommy from California and Nikkie from Houston (she went to Memorial and kind of knows Drake etc.) joined us. We were glad to get a guy to come so we wouldn’t get ripped off. Tommy negotiated with a man named Rami to take us up the Bosphorus, over to Asia, and back again for 20 Lira each. We all squeezed on a tiny fishing boat and headed down the strait. Rami gave us a good history lesson and pointed out all the important sights. We crossed over to the Asian side of Istanbul for half an hour which gave us time to get a snack and take a quick stroll. When we got back on the boat, Tommy had acquired some raki, which is like ouzo. Rami was so excited he called the captain of the boat up to show us how to mix it properly with water. There were not enough cups for everyone to have some so the captain called his brother’s boat to meet up and give us some cups. To make the world a little smaller, on that boat was a girl who went to Logan’s high school! We all toasted to Logan’s ½ birthday (she also got gifts and a cake from her mom).


Once our boat adventure was over I rushed to shower before my FDP. For music we went to see a traditional Sufi Dervish ceremony, also known as semma. This ceremony is only performed by men and is a religious activity where they spin in circles while in a trance. One hand is lifted palm up while the other is palm down to create a vessel of the body. The love of God flows through the men and to other people through this act. We got to ask one of the men questions after the ceremony which really helped us understand better.


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I have now visited 4 continents!


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Raki is just as gross as ouzo, but it makes for some good stories when you’re traveling with a plump Turkish man! Also, my camera decided to delete all my photos from the boat trip. Big minus!


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