Turkish Bath, Tukish Delights

I slept in late today (til 8:30!) and headed to Cemberlitas Hammas. Hammas or hamami is the Turkish name for bath. I was a little uncommfortable with the idea of public bathing, but a few years ago my amazing grandma came to Istanbul and of course she went for it. If my grandma did it, I can do it. Plus, I’m here for the experience. I’m committed.

The bath was one of the best experiences of the trip. There is an option to go use the facilities and bathe yourself, which is cheaper. The traditional way is for an attendant to scrub you down. I opted for the second. I’m not going to come all the way here and do it half way!

I am so glad that I did. It would not have been worth it to do it otherwise. you would just miss out on so much. The facilities are incredibly old, in the good way. It was built in the early 1500’s. You lay on an ancient marble slab under an ancient dome with natural light filtering through a pattern of tiny skylights.

as I mentioned yesterday, I’ve been feeling cold and exhausted and congested. spennding an hour in a hot room or hot bath and a really good scrubbing made me feel so much better. Not only did I feel super relaxed afterwards, I also don’t know I’ve ever felt that clean. You watch the dead skin come off in little black rolls. It was disgusting. It makes me feel like I need to start exfoliating my whole body like, always.

I decided not to go back the the hostel for makeup. Ladies will be glad to know that after the bath, blow dryers, combs, and hair gel was provided. Tomas, Alberto and I met back up in the lobby of the Hammas. Their flight back to Chile was this afternoon, but they wanted to head back to the Spice Market where Alberto had seen some suits he wanted to buy. You can seriously buy anything here. The intense negotiations took a while and gave me time to check out some of the surrounding places.

I sampled some turkish delight. it was soooo good. i think i need to try more pastries before i go.

i got a very, very good deal on some scarves two doors down. They’re my souvenir for the trip. I think the shop owner basically gave them to me for free because he wanted me come back to dinner at his house tonight. I paid 39 lira for two scarves that usually cost more than 100 each. They’re really pretty. One is a traditional ottoman design, the other is slightly more modern and more subtle, but it’s still very Turkish. Alberto and Tomas saw and immediately wanted to know where I’d gotten them so that they could buy gifts for moms/sisters/girlfriends.

We parted ways after this. They needed to head to the airport, and we were right by the ferrybus station that would take me on the first leg of my trip to the Dolmbache Palace. I changed ferries at Uskudar, where I stepped foot in Asia for the first time. I wanted to stay and look around, but it was already afternoon and I wanted to make sure I had plenty of time at the palace.

The gates wer gorgeous, and the palace was beautiful on the outside. I have a feeling that Istanbul would be incredibly gorgeous in the Spring. Even at the Topkapi Palace, there was an enormous bed with hundreds of tulip sprouts. Dolmbache had lots of rosé bushes and freshly planted flowerbeds. The grounds were the best part of the place. it’s located on the river bank and the view is really sweet. The carved marble exterior is beautiful.

This was a later palace that Topkapi, and really shows the western influence in Istanbul. This was even more evident on the inside. You were only allowed to go through with one of their tour guides, and since they had English tours at first I was really excited. But he basically did nothing more than read the plaques, and it felt like we were running from room to room. There wasn’t really time to look at anything.

The furniture and layout was very western. The decorator had actually been French. It might have been splendid once, in a tacky way, but not the rugs and furniture have all faded and the wallpaper looks cheap. It was bizarre to be in touch a center of wealth and extravagance and see it in a state of ill-concealed decay. It had obviously not been preserved well or restored. The only things that survived well were the enormous and abundant chandeliers, made of British crystals and Venetian glass.

The crystal pavilion and the clock gallery were both clearly marked on the map, but they had no signage and the buildings were totally locked. My 40 lira ticket seemed like a bit of a rip-0ff.

The best part may have been the chickens. With no explanation to be found, they were roaming the palace courtyard. No one can ever say that my dads chickens are spoiled ever again. There was also one peacock and a bunch of weird looking grey birds.

Oddly, there were tons of policemen outside the palace when I arrived. I mean like, 30. And police here are scary. They have enormous guns. There were probably 10 with huge guns and riot shields, but there wasn’t any disturbance that I could see. They looked pretty relaxed. When I left, their numbers had dwindled and it was just othe riot shield guys.

Also strange: the side entrance of the Pallace, which is unused, has two guards stationed at it while the museum is open. They stand in phone booth-sized bulletproof cases. I don’t know why.

There is a Dolmbache Mosque right outside the palace. It looked a little different than other mosques I’d seen. The size and shape was similar, but it had large arches of windows.  I didn’t see any signs for tourists, so I was a little nervous to go in. I watched a bunch of men to in the front entrance before I finally went through with it myself. I felt like I kinda knew the drill by now. cover your head, take your shoes off, go in. Men pray in the front and main part of the mosque, and women usually have a little corner partitioned in the back. Embarrassingly, my shoelaces had knotted pretty bad and I sat in the door for ages while people walked past me.

The mosque was gorgeous and really unique. It had one of the same giant, western chandeliers that you saw in the palace. A note about all of the mosques I’ve seen: the domed ceilings are always incredibly high, but the lighting suspended from them is only 8 to 10 defeat in the air. This has an incredible asthetic effect, in my opinion. It simultaneously compresses and expands the space. Usually the lighting is in some kind of chandelier with all of the lights on the same level. It was really interesting and beautiful to see it done with a cascading crystal western chandelier.

I caught a ferry back to the Asian side. It was on my way home, but I wanted to look around and have dinner. Unfortunately, it got dark. I wasn’t even thinking about it, but it was dusk by the time I got to the Asian side. I grabbed a ferry back to Eminonu and a tram back to Sultanhamet. Public transportation is a little expensive here, but I really didn’t want to be out alone in the dark. I used my scarf to cover my head… Half for warmth and half to be less conspicuous.

Ever since I’be been in Europe, I’ve been told that Burger King is way better than McDonalds. Since this is so different than at home, I thought I’d give BK a shot and find out what it was all about. Theres also one pretty near my hostel, where it’s hard to find cheap food because of all the tourism. I don’t see what the fuss is about. McDonald’s is still the lesser of two evils, in my book… At least the fries are good.

I also stopped in a convenience store to try to find glue, but to no avail. Luckily, my hostel has all kinds. I had literally walked the soles off my shoes, but I think I was able to superglue them back together. I hope they last. I only brought the one pair. I am slowly mastering the art of packing light.

It’s hard to believe that this trip is coming to a close. Tomorrow is my final full day. I’ll be spending it exploring the Asian side, I think. It’s doesn’t have any big historic sites, but it has more mosques. I haven’t had any seafood yet, either, which I have heard is a must. There is also a very modern part of the city that is famous for being “The French Riviera of Turkey.” I’m not so sure about it, but I’ll give it a shot. Then again, I think what makes Istanbul so interesting is the juxtaposition of ancient and modern culture. It’s in everything here.

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