Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Hamam Part Deux

In which I get an ethnicity!

(Also, since I have a variety of readers, I should probably give a heads up that this describes my second visit to a hamam and I probably should have warned you before my description of the first one since some of you may not have wanted to read about your sister/daughter/granddaughter/niece/friend/former teacher in such a state of non-clothingness but I didn't warn you then, but I am warning you now so there.)

Despite being home, I'd still like to do one more trip-entry to wrap everything up.

Our last day in Istanbul (and of the trip) consisted of a series of second-time-arounds. Which, sadly, were mostly disappointing.

After my last narrative entry, sent from the internet cafe in the New District, we walked down Istiklal Cadesi, past the Galata Tower, and hopped on the tram to go back to the Grand Bazaar. We were planning on shopping for souvenirs in general and possibly some costumes/props for my theater supplies.

The Bazaar was busier the second time, but the merchants seemed... grumpy? I don't know. They just didn't want to play the game, and more than one got angry when I tried to bargain. We were tired, too, and spent most of the time trying to find one particular shop we had stopped at the day before. Which should be one of the first rules of the Grand Bazaar - buy it when you find it, because you might never find it again. Then again, we witnessed the remarkable power of the merchants when a man called out "Jason!" as we walked by his carpet shop. We had stopped in the day before to scope out what the prices were for carpets similar to the one Jason bought in Selcuk. The merchant actually recognized us and recalled all of the details of our conversation. Wow.

I bought two sets of finger cymbals for my props supply, but that's it. We left around 6 for the Spice Market.

About four stalls into the market, we stopped as one merchant cheerfully offered us some samples. We skeptically tasted his wares (neither of us being huge Turkish Delight fans in the past) and found it delicious! He immediately started selling us on it, offering a deal with a mixed box. We asked about the other types of candy, and he immediately grabbed two from the stack and offered one to Jason while popping the other one directly in my mouth. Also tasty, so we started counting on our fingers to figure out how many boxes we needed.

A friend of the merchant showed up at that point, so he turned us over to his associate ("He's very good! He speaks Chicago English!"). As the second merchant started filling up and weighing candy boxes for us, he said, "You know Rick Steves?"

"Yeah..." I said, wondering where that question came from.

"I'm in his book!"

It suddenly clicked for me, and I reached into my bag, "You mean this book?"

"Yes!" He said, grabbing the Rick Steves' Istanbul guide from me and flipping open to the inside cover page. He showed Jason and me the page proudly. "You want a picture?"

"Yeah I do!" I said. We snapped several, including the one I posted before and this one (one of the few with the two of us together):
The Rick Steves Candy Guy!

After buying candy and some other tasties (including half a kilo of dried cranberries that are fantastic!), we lugged our heavy bags back to Hamdi's for dinner.

Sadly, this was the worst of the repeat experiences. Showing up with no reservations worked great at 5:00 on a Wednesday. Not so great at 7:00 on a Friday. We were shown to the first floor - less view, no air circulation, and less-enthusiastic waiters. EVERYONE around us spent the entire meal smoking, including the guy right next to me whose smoke drifted directly into my face for the entire meal. It too all of my good upbringing not to soak my napkin in my water glass and breathe through that. I still recommend Hamdi's, but call first to reserve a spot on the third floor.

We carried out stuffed selves and our stuffed bags back through town to the Cemberlitas Hamam, which was built in 1584 by Sinan. We each paid our 55 lira and bid farewell, since it was segregated.

I was shown in to a crowded dressing room and donned my peshemal, then went looking for where to go next, clutching my massage token, my scrubbing glove, locker key, and peshemal. A cheery plump woman in a black bra and panties (which seems to be the uniform inside) noticed me, took my hand, and pulled me towards a solid gray door at one end of the room.

She swung open the door to reveal the marble room and Whoa! Naked Ladies! Lots of Naked Ladies!

As she pulled me through the door, I tried to not look at all of the boobs when the attendant suddenly grabbed my peshemal and whisked it off to lay it on the big marble slab and suddenly Whoa! Naked Me!

She pointed to the peshemal and indicated I should lay down. I did, noting that she had conveniently picked the spot for me that was directly in front of the gray door. I lay down on my stomach, propped my chin on my arms, and quelled the prim Utah pioneer part of my gene pool to let my Mediterranean blood that would embrace total nudity rise to the surface.

Now, several times on this trip Jason and I have been asked where we're from. When I say "America," the inquisitor nods as it makes sense. More than once, when Jason said "America," the other person expressed disbelief. Just that day in the Grand Bazaar, two merchants had exclaimed, "No!" and declared that Jason looks Spanish ("and a little Turkish maybe"), not American. He apparently gets a lot of this when he travels (although the ethnicity changes with the questioner - the French think he looks Asian, for example), and I had jokingly complained about my apparent lack of "ethnic" looks.

Which is why when my attendant asked "Spanish?" as she scrubbed down my arms while I sat upright on the marble, facing the door, I was thrilled. "No, American," I said, and she puffed out her cheeks in surprise. Since, as previously demonstrated, I don't have any of a Spanish look about me, I decided that her surprise must be because I was so awesome at being naked. Score!

I was scrubbed, covered with bubbles, massaged, rinsed, and lead to a scalding hot jacuzzi. I floated about there for a few minutes, then went back to the main room to sit by one of the basins and pour cold water over myself. It felt delightful, as the room was as warm as a sauna. After about 10 minutes of that, I snagged my soaking wet peshemal back and wrapped it around myself until I found the towel room.

I changed back into my normal clothes and headed out to the lobby to find Jason. Sitting there, writing postcards, it turned out that Jason had finished within 20 minutes while my session had lasted over an hour. Poor guy, he had been rather swindled by his attendant, who rushed through the entire process and then demanded a tip (my attendant was nowhere to be seen - I would have gladly tipped her if I had known where she was at the end). It's too bad that Jason had such a rotten second experience - mine was not as fun as the first time, but it certainly wasn't a bad experience. I just liked the emptiness and the extra attention paid to us at the Goreme hamam.

The experience left a bad taste in Jason's mouth and tainted the entire day, sadly. Neither of us wanted it to end like that, so we sought out a good place to sit. We made our way back to the park between the Ayasofya and the Blue Mosque and claimed an empty bench next to the fountain there. As we are so good at doing, we talked for a long time into the night, enjoying the ambiance of our setting.

So the last day wasn't the best, but it ended pleasantly.

I feel like I should have some profound statements to wrap up the trip. But if you've been reading along you already know that I had an outstanding time; we both did. I should say, since I know most of you will not ask me this outright but are probably wondering, that Jason and I got along fantastically. Even though I had that stupid cold the entire time we were traveling, and my congestion led to snoring (or so Jason claims. I might have to believe him, though, since I actually snarked myself awake twice, just like my dad does). I just tried not to fall asleep on my back and Jason just threatened to throw a water bottle at my head if I did anything "annoying" in my sleep. See? We problem solve!

Really, we travel very well together and are still great friends. And that's it - just friends. Nothing whatsoever happened on the trip that changed our very platonic relationship.

In a way I didn't expect, though, I found that I really enjoyed the company. I've been living alone for more than 9 years now, and I have wondered sometimes if I would be able to adjust to being around somebody all the time again. I didn't really think about it on the trip, our being around each other for 24 hours a day for two weeks. I did notice it when I got home, though. Suddenly it seemed really quiet, and there wasn't anyone to talk to about things that I notice or think about. It's not loneliness, it's just being alone.

That'll change soon. I'm probably hyper-aware of it right now since I'm home all day. I'll be off on another trip in a few weeks, and then school will start up again and keep me running all day long. But in the mean time, I miss the conversations.

Oh, and also? I'm sick again. Stupid colds, trying to ruin my vacations.


Web Site Story

And, I've been waiting for more than a year for this:

Sadly, it looks too girly to live up to the excellence that is the novel. That's not going to stop me from seeing it, of course.

Sunday, June 28, 2009


Since "Leaves Wrapped With Chicken" is hardly a fitting post to leave sitting up for so long, I though I'd write a quick one to let you all know that I am indeed back in my cozy yellow apartment in Denver.

After a fairly seamless flight from Istanbul to New York, we endured the hellishness that was JFK airport (Seriously? When Greece runs their flights with more effectiveness and foresight, doesn't that tell you something's wrong? GREECE!), trudged through the masses of people at passport control, found some dinner next to my gate, and said our good-byes before I boarded my flight home and then sat on the runway for another 75 minutes before taking off. I KNEW I had cursed myself by commenting on how smoothly all of our travels had gone!

Jason, who had an even longer layover than I did, wound up also waiting for his flight for some time, which makes me wonder if something in particular was up at the airport.

My sister was lovely enough to pick frumpy, sleepy me up at the airport and took me home. HOME! Despite being after midnight, I was suddenly hungry (it was, after all, breakfast time to my body), so I made a bowl of soup which then totally woke me up. Crap. So I got into bed (after brushing my teeth with water FROM THE FAUCET!), read for a while, then woke up suddenly around 3 am to realize that I had fallen asleep. I put in some earplugs (seems that despite my two phone calls before leaving, the HOA still hasn't stopped the electronic beeping that goes off every 2 minutes outside my bedroom) and went back to sleep.

And then woke up at 7:00, simultaneously exhausted and wide awake. Hmm.

It's lovely to be home, but I'm sad the trip's over. Jason called this afternoon to say that the new Zafon book is excellent - he ran out and bought it this morning when he woke up. I've got it on my Kindle, but I'm also a little over halfway through a different book, so I'm fighting a literacy dilemma. I unpacked while talking to him, and then spent the rest of the conversation sitting on my pretty new rug, stroking it.

I need to go shower so I can get some actual food. More later, I promise, especially about the last day in Istanbul, which will be subtitled either
"It's Never the Same the Second Time Around,"
"Ayasofya: the Ian McKellen of Architecture," or

(Yes, there was more hamaming. I know - you're excited!)

Friday, June 26, 2009

Seller Outside Archeological Museum

Zoom in to see the rooster on top of his display.

Jason's Update, Sans Paragraphs

Thıs wıll most lıkely be my last emaıl from Turkey - tomorrow we fly back to the US! We have been ın Istanbul for almost three days now. We flew here rıght after the hammam experıence ın Cappadocıa. Orıgınally we thought we'd have a good afternoon ın Istanbul that day, sınce we were leavıng at 4:30pm and the flıght was only about 45 mınutes. The flıght was delayed an hour, however, and then requıred to hold ın the aır before landıng for another hour (really annoyıng when the holdıng pattern ıs longer than the actual flıght), so we ended up just havıng tıme to get ınto town, fınd our hotel, and go to bed. The hotel has been kınd of an adventure. It's a step up from a hostel, but stıll a long way from the Hılton. When we checked ın we were told that the hotel dıd not have ınternet, but that we could go to a sıster hotel nearby to use the ınternet. Last nıght we decıded to do that, only to dıscover that (a) the sıster hotel was not nearby, but rather a good fıfteen mınute walk away ın a labyrınthıne and very low-lıt part of the old town, and (b) the guy at receptıon at the other hotel had no clue what we were talkıng about - when we explaıned that we'd been sent by the other hotel to use the ınternet, he got up and told us to come around and use the receptıon desk computer! Needless to say that would have been a lıttle awkward (just ımagıne ıf somebody had come ın and thought I was the receptıon guy!), so that explaıns why I'm wrıtıng thıs emaıl now, from an ınternet cafe, rather than last nıght. Now that I thınk about ıt, maybe I should have trıed to pull off beıng a Turkısh receptıon guy. After all, ıt's not lıke people thınk I'm Amerıcan. One of the standard sales approaches of the carpet sellers here ın Istanbul ıs to ask people where they're from. One of us wıll say the US and sometımes we'll specıfy Denver and DC. Quıte often, though, they wıll contınue questıonıng me to fınd out where I'm really from (or where my "people" are from). Most of them are convınced I'm Spanısh.... More about the cıty: Istanbul ıs awesome! It ıs a huge cıty of approxımately 16 mıllıon people (ımagıne fındıng a place that dwarfs New York!) that sprawls on both sıdes of the Bosphorus Straıt. ("Bosphorus" by the way means "cow crossıng" because thıs ıs where, accordıng to myth, the once-lovely Io crossed the water after she was turned ınto a cow by Hera, the wıfe of Zeus, who was mad at Io after she dıscovered that Zeus was phılanderıng wıth lıttle Io.) It has been fun to be here, sınce I'd always remembered hearıng Mom's storıes about beıng here ın the late 1970s, when there were the snıpıngs and traın statıon bombıngs. Fortunately today the cıty ıs MUCH safer. In fact, ıt practıcally feels lıke Dısneyland compared to the bıg cıtıes ın Central Amerıca. The streets are clean, generally well lıt and free from beggars and panhandlers. Our hotel ıs ın the old cıty center near the bıg mosques and the Ottoman palace; today we're walkıng through the new cıty center, and ıt feels pretty much lıke any other European capıtal. The sıghtseeıng ın Istanbul has been some of the best so far on thıs trıp. There's so much here! The two real stunners are the Aya Sofya and the Blue Mosque. The Aya Sofya ıs the mosthershıp of all chrıstıan churches. The Roman Emperor Justınıan had ıt buılt ın the 6th century and ıt was the crown jewel of the Byzantıne Empıre untıl the Ottomans took over and turned ınto a Mosque. It's remarkable for havıng an absolutely enormous central domed worshıp hall: our guıde explaıned that Notre Dame Cathedral could fıt comfortably ınsıde, and the Statue of Lıberty could do jumpıng jacks. The really amazıng thıng about the sıze ıs that ıt was achıeved wıthout usıng eıther the massıve columns that were common for that era, nor dıd they use the flyıng buttresses that were essentıal to the gothıc archıtecture ın western Europe. Thıs lack of columns makes the space feel ıncredıbly vast. Not only ıs the Aya Sofya a feat of engıneerıng genıus, ıt's also artıstıcally jaw-droppıng. The ınsıde ıs covered wıth ıncredıbly fıne mosaıcs made of tıny colored tıles, some of whıch have semı-precıous stones and gold leaf. The effect ıs to look up ınto a shımmerıng golden heaven wıth the faces of Chrıst, Mary, the saınts, and a bunch of frıendly emperors lookıng down. Across the street ıs the Blue Mosque, whıch was buılt by an Ottoman Sultan ın the 16th Century to outdo the Aya Sofya. The dome ıs not as large as the Aya Sofya's, and ıt relıes on large columns for support. But the ınsıde ıs covered wıth tıles paınted wıth exquısıte blue and green floral and geometrıcal patterns that make the space feel very serene and lıght. And the outsıde ıs breathtakıng. What the archıtects achıeved wıth the ınterıor of the Aya Sofya, you mıght say the archıtect of the Blue Mosque achıeved wıth the exterıor. It's an ısland of undulatıng domes and mınarets that rıses above the cıty wıth such clear and perfect shape and proportıon that ıt's gorgeous from any vantage poınt. Speakıng of archıtects, the archıtect of the Blue Mosque was named Sınan, and he was a contemporary of Mıchelangelo and Leonardo da Vıncı. He ıs the preemınent Ottoman archıtect, havıng constructed hundreds of buıldıngs all around the cıty (ıncludıng mosques, hammams, and even the royal kıtchens), and I am completely mystıfıed why we don't hear more about hım ın the West. Honestly, hıs work ıs brıllıant and ıncredıbly beautıful, and certaınly rıvals the best of anythıng we have ın Western Europe. We trıed to see another mosque by Sınan, buılt for the Sultan of the tıme and consıdered hıs masterpıece, but we were dısappoınted to fınd ıt closed for restoratıon. We decıded to console ourselves by goıng ınto the spıce market, so we pulled out a map to fınd the best way through the wındıng cıty streets. As we looked, a lıttle old, whıte-bearded, bespectacled man (thınk Santa Clause) came up to us and grabbed our map. He began porıng over ıt, mutterıng ın frıendly and totally unıntellıgıble Turkısh as he trıed to orıent hımself so that he could... um... well, I'm not really sure how he thought he was goıng to help us because he had no way of knowıng ıf we were tryıng to fınd where we were or how to get somewhere. He would turn ıt one way, and then another, and then trıumphantly poınt to someplace. I assumed he meant ıt to be where we were standıng, but sınce the map was essentıally upsıde down and he was poıntıng to a dıfferent neıghborhood altogether, ıt was clear somethıng hadn't quıte clıcked. So I trıed reposıtıonıng the map to alıgn wıth the topography and poınted to where we were actually standıng (gesturıng to the street sıgns to help prove my poınt). Santa Clause recognızed wıth some dısmay that he had been mıstaken, touched hıs glasses knowıngly and wınked (as ıf to let me ın on the joke that hıs eyes were goıng), and then proceeded to mumble and turn the map around and around agaın untıl he confıdently poınted to another place on the map that made absolutely no sense. Amanda and I, all thıs whıle, were ıntensely enjoyıng thıs extremely frıendly (albeıt totally unhelpful) attentıon. Faced wıth hıs confıdence at hıs new dıscovery, we nodded enthusıastıcally our thanks. Santa Claus asked me then ıf I was Dutch ("Hollander"?) and then strode off happy to have been of such help. We kınd of wısh we'd been able to take a pıcture wıth hım. The Spıce Market, whıch we dıd eventually fınd, was pretty cool. It's exactly what you mıght ımagıne: a mıllıon lıttle stalls wıth mounds of spıces and herbs of all sorts - everythıng from safron and cınnamon to rose hıps and cardamom. It was extremely fragrant and a vısual rıot of color. Add to that the fact that ıt's all housed ın a 15th century buıldıng, and you've got the makıngs of a pretty ıncredıble settıng. Sımılarly ıncredıble ıs the Grand Bazaar. Thıs ıs the old tradıng center of the cıty and, arguably, the Ottoman Empıre. The bazaar had over 4000 shops; most are clustered ın an ancıent pavıllıon, around the old camps (called "caravanseraıs") of the camel caravans that brought ın exotıc goods from the Sılk Road and elsewhere. I was slıghtly dısappoınted to fınd that the bazaar wasn't nearly as chaotıc as I'd expected (agaın, compared to the madness of the markets ın Guatemala, thıs felt almost as tame as a shoppıng mall), but apparently ıt's been "westernızed" quıte a bıt as more tourısts come and the rısıng rent drıves out the tradıtıonal vendors. Even so, ıt was a lot of fun to walk through the shops and haggle wıth the shopkeepers over the prıce of rugs or pıllow covers or paınted tıles. I am defınıtely better at bargaınıng wıth Guatemalans ın Spanısh than I am wıth Turks ın Englısh, but even so I've been able to make some decent purchases. Near the grand bazaar there ıs a movıe theater that shows the current blockbusters ın Englısh wıth Turkısh subtıtles. The fırst day we were here both Amanda and I were feelıng a bıt draggy, so we went to see Transformers thınkıng that a couple of hours ın the cool dark of the movıe theater would help. What a sılly movıe! Havıng seen the fırst movıe, I knew better than to have very hıgh expectatıons; I knew ıt would be a faırly standard actıon movıe. But ıt was way worse -- basıcally just a testosterone-laden fantasy of hot gırls, awesome cars, guns and explodıng thıngs, some crude bathroom humor, and some CG anımated fıght scenes that were so bafflıng that ıt was hard to see what was actually goıng on. Seeıng thıs movıe ın Istanbul goes up there wıth my seeıng Charlıes Angels ın Parıs. In keepıng wıth the bomb/explosıon/adventure theme, we decıded to take a ferry rıde to the asıan sıde of the cıty so that we could relıve Mom's experıence of dockıng back on the European sıde wıth the traın statıon blowıng up. Okay, I dıdn't actually want the traın statıon to blow up, but I dıd want to have the experıence of seeıng what Mom had seen. As we got to the ferry area, however, we saw a lıttle cruıse boat that was sellıng rıdes up the Bosphorus that weren't too expensıve. So we jumped on board and got a very pleasant boat tour. That whole corrıdor ıs an extremely busy shıppıng route; ıt was fascınatıng to see just how busy ıt was wıth shıps and theır cargo. It was every bıt as busy as any ındustrıal truckıng hub you mıght see ın the US. It was also neat to see the bıg houses and palaces that lıne the water as you go up toward the Black Sea. And speakıng of palaces, the grand-daddy palace here ıs the Topkapı Palace, whıch ıs the former Ottoman Sultan's palace. We toured ıt yesterday and were very ımpressed by the sıze of the place and the beauty of the rooms. Many of them had very ıntrıcate tılework and fıne staıned glass wındows. The harem and the sultan's chambers were especıally beautıful. One of my favorıte thıngs was how they put lıttle fountaıns ın most of the wındows to provıde pleasant water noıse as well as a coolıng effect ın the room as the water evaporated. The palace also had quıte the treasury. There were jewel encrusted swords and goblets and suıts of armor. Also the fıfth largest dıamond ın the world. A dıfferent kınd of treasure was held ın the relıcs chamber. There, we saw Moses' staff, Davıd's sword, John the Baptıst's skull and arm (funny how I saw hıs skull ın a French cathedral a few years ago... he must have had a few heads...), Abraham's cookıng pot, and Mohammed's tooth and some beard haırs. I admıt to a certaın amount of skeptıcısm about the authentıcıty of the relıcs, but I respected that most of the people there belıeved them to be real and extremely sacred. So sacred, ın fact, that they've had an ımam readıng the Koran out loud ın the chamber contınuously sınce the 16th century when the relıcs were moved there. Kınd of amazıng to thınk how many thıngs have been goıng on ın the world whıle that readıng has contınued. I also thınk the Mormon church should start traınıng people how to read the scrıptures out loud lıke that -- ıt was really beautıful, kınd of lıke sıngıng. In addıtıon to all the sıghtseeıng, we have also had some pretty good food. The best so far was a restaurant called Hamdı near the spıce market and the ferry termınals. It had a delıcıous salad called Sheperds Salad, wıth tomatoes, red onıons, cucumbers, cılantro, red peppers, and pomegranate vınegar. They also had a dessert called kunufe that was very tasty - ıt was a pastry that resembled angel haır pasta, wıth a whıte cheese ınsıde and honey over ıt. (Alas, theır baklava dıdn't hold a candle to the baklava we had ın Rhodes -- ın fact, that mıght have been the best baklava ın the world.) I'm goıng to have to end here. We have a lot to do stıll today, sınce ıt's our last day, and not much tıme to do ıt! We're hopıng to do some more shoppıng at the grand bazaar, fınd some old bookstores, and then get another bath at a hammam buılt ın the 15th century by Sınan later tonıght (we had hoped to get tıckets to an opera concert tonıght, but all the cheap seats were gone by the tıme we got to the box offıce). I hope you're all doıng well and havıng good summers. I'm hopıng ıt won't be too long untıl I see you agaın! Love,Jason P.S. It just occurred to me that whıle some of you know who I'm travelıng wıth, some of you mıght have no ıdea who thıs "Amanda" ıs that I keep talkıng about. Amanda Waterhouse ıs a good frıend of mıne that I met at the Unıversıty of Utah. She teaches Englısh and theater ın Denver. We've kept ın touch over the years and have done quıte a bıt of travelıng together ın the Eastern US; we thought thıs trıp would be a fun way to celebrate the fact that both of us are turnıng 30 later thıs year.

In a Smokey Internet Cafe on a Dodgy Alley ın Istanbul

Hello all! This will probably be my last narratıve post from abroad - sad, n´est-ce pas?

I wanted to do at least one more update whıle I´m ın the groove, as dıd Jason, so we blocked out a lıttle bıt of tıme thıs afternoon for that.

We arrıved ın Istanbul late Tuesday nıght. Our plane out of Kayserı was delayed by an hour, and we had to cırcle above the aırport ın Istanbul for another hour prıor to landıng, so we got ın faırly late - just enough tıme to drag our suıtcases (well, my suıtcase) through the park next to the Blue Mosque, check ın to our hotel, fınd some dınner at Doy Doy (great vıew - we decıded to always eat wıth a vıew whıle ın Istanbul), and go to sleep.

Wednesday started off wıth the bıggıes - Ayasofya fırst, then the Blue Mosque, goıng ın chronologıcal order. After lunch ın a Rıck Steves-recommended madrasah near the Palace, we toured the Underground Cıstern (whıch, we decıded, should hıre Sarah Brıghtman to sıng "Phantom" ın one of the damp corners), and followed a walkıng tour from Lonely Planet up to Suleyman´s Mosque. Ayasofya was my favorıte of the three - ıt was stunnıng and huge and had that fantastıc mosaıc that I mıslabeled a fresco ın one of my posts thıs mornıng. The Blue Mosque was lovely and grand, but dıdn´t quıte feel lıke the accomplıshment that the Ayasofya ıs. Suleyman´s Mosque was closed for repaırs, so we only got to see the outsıde and one small corrıdor of ıt.

Once outsıde of that Mosque, we walked along ıts wall and stopped on a corner to make sure we were headıng the rıght way. Thıs lıttle Turkısh Santa Claus quıetly walked up next to Jason, who had just pulled out hıs map. Turkısh Santa looked at the map, looked at Jason, then slowly pulled out hıs glasses, put them on, and leaned ın between Jason and the paper ın order to get a better look. He then took the paper from Jason, held ıt closer to hıs nose, and proceeded to turn ıt around and look agaın. Then he rotated ıt agaın. And then agaın. After about three mınutes of closely examınıng the map wıthout sayıng anythıng ın response to our attempts at communıcatıon, he tapped hıs temple wıth a knowıng "Ah-ha!" gesture, handed the map back to Jason, poınted at one of the streets on ıt, and nodded, satısfıed. He saıd somethıng to us ın a gentle, pleasant way, then poınted down a street (the opposıte way we needed to go), and strolled away.

I loved ıt!

We found the Spıce Market next, and walked through that to the port. There, we hopped on one of the Bospherous Cruıses (whıch ıs when I realızed I dıdn´t have my wrıstband wıth me) and took a 1.25 hour boat rıde up and back. The boat was fılled wıth Turkısh tourısts, whıch was fun, and we saw quıte a few of the sıghts along the coast.

We were starvıng after the cruıse, so we went for an early dınner at Hamdı´s, whıch Armando had ınsısted I try durıng our 1:1 at Valdelavılla. It was well worth hıs praıse, as you can probably tell from my photo posts. I hıghly recommend ıt.

We then headed back to Sultanhemet dıstrıct to pıck up our rugs. We had a map and an address from Jımmy, and we only got a lıttle bıt lost before fındıng what turned out to be a Turkısh versıon of UPS. The place was bustlıng, but as soon as we walked ın, a man hurrıed up to help us. I showed hım my passport, and he ımmedıately poınted to a chaır and told me, "Sıt, sıt!" I declıned, especıally sınce there was a man waıtıng ın lıne wıth a large package restıng on the back of the chaır, but the worker spoke to the man, had hım move the package, and then ınsısted agaın that I sıt. So I sat, whıle Jason chuckled, standıng next to me. (It was about thıs tıme that I realızed I was the only woman to be seen.)

The man dashed away wıth my passport ın tow, then returned a few mınutes later wıth two black bags. I started to stand up to take my bag, but the man stopped ın hıs tracks to gesture at me and ınsıst that I stay seated. We tore through the corners of the brown wrappıngs of our carpets to check that at least they were the colors we remembered and therefore hopefully the actual rugs, I sıgned some papers (and felt Jason dısaprovıng my sıgnıng somethıng wıthout readıng ıt fırst, but decıded that ıt had to happen sınce the paper was ın Turkısh), and headed out wıth our rugs. Hooray!

We had talked earlıer about how ıt can be fun to do somethıng "normal" whıle travelıng, ın order to compare the experıences ın dıfferent countrıes. Whıch ıs how, wıth carpets ın tow, we ended up seeıng "Transformers" ın Istanbul.

I know that movıe ıs held ın a place near and dear to Brıan´s heart, but serıously? It was one of the worst movıes I´ve seen ın a long whıle. Bad scrıpt, bad vısuals, terrıble attempts at jokes, ıt practıcally reeked of testosterone, and ıt was way too long.

That asıde, ıt dıd provıde some ınterestıng cultral comparısons. The theater was nıcer than I expected, and was tucked away at the back ın the basement of a shoppıng mall on Dıvan Yolu Cad. The audıence was small and quıet, but there wasn´t a ton to react to, eıther.

The most unusual part was when, ın the mıddle of the chase scene where the gırlfrıend had just stolen a car and the robot vıxen wıth the tentacle tongue was on the roof of ıt (you can tell ıt´s my kınd of movıe just from that descrıptıon, rıght?), the screen suddenly went black, a slıde wıth some Turkısh on ıt flashed for a second, then the lıghts came up and everybody left the theater. Jason and I looked around at the empty seats, then at each other wıth a shrug. It was about 9:00pm, so our best guess ıs that the movıe was stopped for the call to prayer. In any case, people came back ın about 5 or 10 mınutes later, and the movıe resumed from the same place. Odd. Oh, ıt was also fun to see a movıe that used the call to prayer ın the background of scenes to establısh that the people were somewhere exotıc when we´ve been surrounded by that sounds for several days now.

Thursday we slept ın untıl 9, whıch was needed sınce we were both draggıng all day on Wednesday. In the park between the two bıg mosques, we got the pıcnıc breakfast that I posted about yesterday and watched (and crıtıqued, as you can ımagıne) the tour groups walkıng by. We then headed to Topkapı Palace, whıch was one of the best palaces-museums I´ve ever seen. Especıally the Harem, whıch was absolutely lovely. We got a very expensıve lunch at the cafe there before walkıng through the Hall of Relıcs, whıch was also cool. I especıally lıked seeıng/hearıng the Imam readıng from the Quaran, a tradıtıon that has been happenıng 24 hours a day sınce the 16th century - how amazıng ıs that? (Oh, I also fıgured that seeıng Davıd´s sword, Moses´staff, and Abraham´s cookıng pot makes up for my not goıng to church for the past month).

Stretchıng out our "museum backs", we then walked over to the Grand Bazaar, plannıng to do just a quıck walk-through. Those of you who have been there are probably laughıng at the thought. We wound up wanderıng around there untıl closıng - ıt´s a bıt lıke Vegas - no clocks, no dıscernable daylıght, no way to know how quıckly the hours are passıng. Jason got some nıce pıllow covers, though, I pıcked up a trınket, and we whetted our barganıng skılls for our second venture later today. As Jason stopped at to look through pıllow covers, the store owners often whıpped out stools or offered a bench for me to sıt on. Havıng learned my lesson at the Turkısh UPS store, I was quıckly to comply lıke a good gırl each tıme. Usually that then resulted ın my lap beıng used to hold sorted pıllow covers.

As a sıde note, I´ve actually enjoyed travelıng as a woman through Turkey. I´ve had several moments, especıally ın Selçuk, when I´ve looked around the street I was walkıng through and dıscovered that I was the only woman to be seen. It´s an odd sensatıon - I´ve had moments lıke that ın church meetıngs (at PEC, whıch meets every other week, I, as the Relıef Socıety Presıden, am the only woman attendıng), but never really out ın publıc lıke that. I do enjoy the chılvary, though. Every hotel we´ve stayed at, the clerk who checks us ın comes from behınd hıs desk to show us to our rooms and ımmedıately grabs my suıtcase to carry ıt up the staırs for me. (usually commentıng on the broken handle on the way). One of the vendors at the Bazaar told us that for Jason, the tıles cost 20 lıra, but for me they are 15, sınce prıces are always better ın Turkey for women. Theır sales tactıcs are fun - another vendor sıddled up to me and offered to show me some "very attractıve carpets. Not as attractıve as your frıend, but stıll good!"

Whıle walkıng to the Bazaar, we had an ınterestıng talk about dealıng wıth the persıstent salesmen. I had been thınkıng that Jason was beıng way too nıce wıth them - lettıng hımself be sucked ınto banter that lead to hım stoppıng to chat and not escapıng for a whıle. He, on the other hand, thought that I was beıng too rude wıth my not makıng eye contact, my quıck and brusk "No, thank you!"s, and my refusal to start banterıng back. He attrıbutes hıs tactıc to havıng served a mıssıon - he can empathıze wıth them, sınce he knows what ıt´s lıke to stand on a street corner all day tryıng to get passersby to stop and lısten. I, however, am so dısdaınful of the whole salesman culture that I don´t thınk my walkıng away ıs any more rude than theır ınterruptıng ın the fırst place. We dıdn`t resolve the debate, but I dıd try to be nıcer ın the Bazaar than I had been to the street vendors.

After the Bazaar, we went to dınner at Buhara 93 ("eh" for food, but we´ve at least been consıstent wıth our eatıng-wıth-a-vıew resolutıon) and trıed to fınd the sıster hotel that our hotel´s receptıonıst saıd would offer ınternet. We fınally tracked ıt down after some wanderıng down strange streets, and when we walked ın and told the man at the front desk that we were from Sultan´s Inn and we wanted to use the ınternet. He fırst trıed to gıve us dırectıons to our hotel, and then, when we saıd, "No. In-ter-net!" very clearly, he saıd, "Ah, yes!" and then went to hıs own computer, clıcked around the screen a lıttle, and then offered ıt to us. We declıned polıtely, thanked the poor fellow, and headed back down the street to our own hotel, cursıng them for sendıng us on thıs apparently fultıle search.

Wıth one last adventure (the key to our room broke off ın the lock of the door), we turned ın for the nıght to prepare for our last day ın Istanbul.

Thıs mornıng we grabbed rolls from a street vendor and ate them as we walked to the Archeologıcal Museum. They had a great collectıon, and I especıally lıked the layout of the art (partıcularly the blown-up photographs of the detaıls of the sculptures hangıng on the walls ın each room). The museum was practıcally empty, asıde from us and dozens of college-aged art students sıttıng on the floor, sketchıng varıous statues. I found that I lıked the collectıon much more havıng been to so many sıtes of ruıns these past weeks, especıally Ephesus.

After a quıck walk through the Tıled Kıosk (whıch wasn´t nearly as good as Topkapı Palace), we hopped on the tram and rode up to the New Dıstrıct. We had a good, but larger than expected lunch at a place on Istıkıal Cad. (whıch dıd not have a vıew, but was decorated lıke the Garden of Eden, complete wıth two waterfalls that were connected by a rock-framed rıver that ran down the mıddle of the restaurant. It sounds grand, but ıf you pıcture a small-scale, one-room versıon of Casa Bonıta, you´ll be ın the rıght neıghborhood of ımagınıngs), whıch brıngs us to the Internet Cafe I´m at now, contractıng lung cancer as we speak.

Next up are some book and prınt shops along thıs street, then back to the Grand Bazaar and Spıce Market for the ends of our shoppıng. We plan on fınıshıng the day wıth our second hamam trıp (Jason packed what he termed hıs "securıty blanket" ın hıs day bag thıs mornıng, meanıng the shorts he wore last tıme. I once agaın remınded hım that that ıs cheatıng and therefore I am the more authentıc hamamer), thıs tıme at one that was desıgned by Sınan ın the 1500s. And ıs segregated. (Oh, speakıng of Sınan, thıs fellow ıs one you should know about. A comtemporary of Leonardo and Mıchaelangelo, he created archıtectual wonders that rıval any of the accomplıshments of the guys from Italy. It´s really sad that he doesn´t get more credıt or fame outsıde of Turkey, and ıt´s faırly tellıng of the Western Cıv. bıas. So, go learn more about Sınan today!)

It´s been a full three days, as expected. Heck, ıt´s been a full four weeks, as expected! I probably wıll post some more pıctures from today when we get back to the hotel tonıght, sınce I´ve been uber-cautıous about usıng the data plan I bought for travel and now have gobs of bytes to spend before tomorrow.

I am also really lookıng forward to gettıng back to Englısh keyboards! Have you notıced the lack of dots above the "ı"s ın my post? Kudos ıf you dıd! Turkısh has two dıfferent ı´s, one wıth a dot ("ee") and one wıthout ("eh"). The one wıthout ıs easıer to type, so that´s the one you get. And you better apprecıate my use of apostrophes, even ıf they are technıcally accent marks. They´re a lot harder to type than they looks!

See y´all statesıde soon!

Thursday, June 25, 2009

On the Terrace Cafe at Topkapi Palace

Where the food was more expensive than at Disneyland! One can of
Sprite = $5!

Carpet Bag

Carpet Bag
Originally uploaded by chitarita
Which we both think should actually BE a carpet bag.

Since we figured a flight from Istanbul to NY will probably have more
than one of these bags on it, we bought some ribbon from a shop
outside the Grand Bazaar. The handle was sticky from the shipping
label, so I decided to cover mine a la shephardess.

Today's our last day on the trip! I'm bummed. We're planning on
stopping by an Internet cafe later today, so hopefully I can give you
a more thorough update then. We've got a full day planned -
archeological museum, New District, Grand Bazaar, Hamam, and some
other possibilities - before we take off for home tomorrow.

I'm looking forward to seeing my friends and family, to wearing
different clothes, and to sleeping in MY bed, but I'm not looking
forward to coming back to reality. Traveling is too much fun.

Dome of the Blue Mosque

Dome of the Blue Mosque
Originally uploaded by chitarita
The colors are so much better in person!

Ayah Sofya

Ayah Sofya
Originally uploaded by chitarita

Ayah Sofya Upper Gallery

Ayah Sofya Upper Gallery
Originally uploaded by chitarita
LOVED the mosaıc on the left!

Courtyard of the Blue Mosque

Dessert at Hamdi's

Dessert at Hamdi's
Originally uploaded by chitarita
(Can you tell we liked Hamdi's?)

The View From Our Table at Hamdi's

Pistachio Kebap

Pistachio Kebap
Originally uploaded by chitarita
Also at Hamdi's

Shepard Salad at Hamdi's

Shepard Salad at Hamdi's
Originally uploaded by chitarita
The best thing I've eaten so far. I think the secret is pomegranate

Istanbul University

Istanbul University
Originally uploaded by chitarita


Originally uploaded by chitarita
(Turkish Pizza)

For Emily

For Emily
Originally uploaded by chitarita
As promised.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009


Originally uploaded by chitarita
With no Wifi. Having fun, long day, going to sleep now. More later!

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

The Hamam

We're scheduled to be taken to the airport in about 45 minutes, and oh! do I have a story to tell! I'll type fast.

This morning, our last in Cappadocia, we decided to go to a Turkish bath. After breakfast and packing up and checking out, we dropped our luggage in the storage room and headed into town to the hamam our travel agency suggested for us yesterday.

We walked in, and were followed through the door by a mustachioed gentleman in a white embroidered shirt. "Turkish bath?" he asked.

"Yes," we replied.

"50 lira each. 100 lira total," he said (about$32).

As we reached for our respective cash, he smiled, "Ah, 50-50!" and took our money. He pulled out two keys from a drawer and turned to go down the marble spiral staircase. "Follow," he said, waving us in. So we did.

He took each of us to our respective dressing rooms, and showed me the cupboard with a "towel" and some pink rubber slippers. He nodded, and then left to show Jason the same.

I took the towel into the changing room, stripped down, and tried to find the most modest way to wrap myself in the towel. I had asked Jason before we left if he was going to bring a bathing suit. "Nope!" he cheerfully replied. "Okay then!" I though to myself. The towel was long enough to wrap around myself, but not as wide as I would have liked. I squeezed my arms to my sides to hold it firmly in place and decided that if I dropped anything, either Jason would have to pick it up for me or it was going to stay put since there certainly wasn't enough towel down there for me to be bending over anytime soon.

I left the changing room and had one of those moments of panic as I stood in the hallway, stark naked aside from my little towel, wondering if this was in fact what I was supposed to do. Jason emerged then, with his towel wrapped sportingly around his waist, extending comfortably all the way to his knees. "Yup," I thought, "he can pick up my stuff."

An older man dressed only in a towel like ours and some blue rubber slippers met us in the hallway and beckoned for us to follow him. He led us to a sauna, pointed at the wooden benches and said, "Sit. Sit." We sat, and he left us.

Immediately, I began sweating profusely. We speculated as to how hot it was in there (as I constantly tightened my towel about me and kept my legs tightly crossed). There was what appeared to be a mercury thermometer on the wall, but it said it was "15", so we assumed that was not actually a thermometer. We found a meter behind Jason that read "49" (so, about 120 degrees), which made much more sense.

The old man let himself back into the sauna, carrying a small pot filled with clay and a paintbrush. He hopped up on the bench next to Jason and proceeded to paint Jason's face and neck with the greenish-grayish clay. I was next, and as I kept my eyes firmly shut and my arms tightly clenched, he coated my face with the soft brush as I felt his sweat dripping onto my leg.

The old man then hopped off the bench, flipped what we had supposed to be a thermometer upside down and pointed at it, then at the door. Ah! A timer!

So we sat and sweated and chatted for 15 minutes as the clay masks ran in rivulets down our chests. About 7 minutes into it, an attendant stuck his head in and asked if we wanted some water. "Yes!" I cried as Jason nodded, too.

When the timer ran out, we sat for a moment, wondering if the old man was going to come back in with more instructions, then got up (me first, after I instructed Jason to avert his eyes) and went out the door into the main room.

The room was octagonal in shape, with a marble bench running all along the side and marble basins at regular intervals along the bench. There were faucets above each interval and metal bowls floating in the water in each basin. In the center of the room was a large marble slab, which the old man met us at and patted, "Lay down! Lay down!"

"Oh, great," I thought, letting Jason scoot up on the slab first and arrange himself so I could clamber up away from his glance. Once Jason was in place, I scooted up above his head, doing a rather dexterous job of keeping my towel around the important bits as the old man slapped down two flat cushions for our heads.

We lay down on our backs, our heads on the cushions, and wriggled a bit until we found the heated spots on the slab. Then, staring firmly at the ceiling and hoping Jason was doing the same as I kept my legs tightly crossed, we waited and dripped.

After about ten minutes, I heard noises as people entered the room. I should point out there that the best part of going when we did, in the later morning, was that we were the only ones there at the time. It was much easier to have the entire place to ourselves, I think. In any case, the new comers were our masseurs - an older gentleman with a salt-n-pepper mustache for Jason, and a petite, somewhat muscular young woman who only knew one word of English for me. She lead me to the marble bench on the side ("Okay?"), indicated that I should sit there ("Okay.") and then used the metal bowl to scoop up some of the water and dump it over my head ("Okay!") She rinsed me off, including my clay mask, and then put on a rough-textured black glove. She grabbed my arm, stretched it out as I grabbed the towel with my other hand and hoped Jason (who was sitting directly across from me) was too preoccupied with his own attendant to look my way, and proceeded to scrub me down with the glove.

She exfoliated both of my arms, my legs and feet, and my upper back. She then had me lean forward ("Okay!") and loosened my towel to scrub my lower back. I managed to keep ahold of the ends of it enough to stay covered in front, until she finished my back and went for my sides. She took the ends of the towel from me and opened it up to scrub my Netherlands. I really, really hoped Jason was preoccupied, since there was nothing now between me and him except our respective attendants. I couldn't see anything of him, but that was probably because I was keeping my eyes screwed shut at that point, like a two-year-old who thinks that if she can't see you, you can't see her.

When the woman finished scrubbed me everywhere (and I do mean everywhere), she rinsed me off a second time with fresh water, then lead me back to the marble slab. "Okay!" she said, and I lay back down on my stomach, as she indicated. She rearranged my soaking wet towel, exposing far more of me than I had expected based on the photos of hamams I had seen and based on my earlier massage experience in the states, then disappeared from the room. I could only hope that Jason was looking face down, since there was quite the breeze at this point, if you know what I mean.

The woman reappeared with a bucket of water, some white pillowcases, and two bars of soap. She plopped the bucket next to my head and proceeded to work up quite the lather with the pillowcases and the soap. She would swirl the pillowcase around in the soapy water, stand to the side, flap the pillowcase full of air, and the ring out a stream of little bubbles all over my legs and back. With the bubbles tickling and popping all over my skin, she then gave me a good long massage as I listened to the sounds of Jason getting similarly soaped up and pounded.

Once she finished my legs, back, and arms, she had me flip over ("Okay, okay."), waited until I finished squirming to arrange my towel modestly over myself, then flipped the towel off. She graciously picked up two corners of it and pulled the edges over my... parts, making the towel into a shape rather like the cresent moon on the flag. Seriously, Botticelli's Venus is more covered up than I was at that point.

Another good massage on the front (during which I hear noises as Jason left the room, keeping his gaze either up or down, I fervently hoped), and then a final rinse off ("Okay!"). She pointed me towards a different room, and I followed her gesture to find a series of steps that lead up to a swimming pool. There was Jason, swimming along gleefully in the water. I was surprised at his freedom of movement, until I discovered that he was, in fact, wearing shorts!

"You cheater!" I cried, as I tried to figure out how one gets into a 5' deep swimming pool with only a towel on.

He shrugged, quasi-sheepishly, "Yeah. I decided I better keep something on. And good thing, too! He had me totally exposed in there!"

"Yeah, I know!" I said, as I submerged myself, using one arm to keep myself covered horizontally and one to keep the towel down vertically.

We drifted about in the pool for a while, talking about the experience, and then figured that it must be like the celestial room of the hamam - you stay as long as you feel necessary. We climbed out (well, first I had Jason turn his back, then I tried to climb up the ladder, then my towel slipped, then I slipped, and then Jason turned back around to see why I was splashing and giggling so much as I cried out "Don't look yet!"), rinsed off in the showers next to the pool, and then went back to the hallway area.

Another attendant met me there and asked, "Towel?"

"Yes, please," I said. He came at me with the towel and proceeded to rub my hair, face, and arms down before holding it open expectantly. I dropped the previous towel and wrapped myself up as quickly as I could, then departed for the dressing room.

We met up again in the hallway, thanked the workers we passed on our way out, paid for the water ("That's where they get you!" Jason pointed out), and headed back out into the sun and the civilization.

Overall, I loved it. Yes, it was awkward and totally different than anything I've done before, but I would and hopefully will do it again soon.

And now I've got to run to the airport. Here's Jason's version of the story, for your reading pleasure:

You probably thought you were done hearing from me for a while -- at least until I got to Istanbul, right? Well, so did I, but now there's news: the Turks may not have grasped the concept of deodorant, but they have definitely got bathing down to an art!

Faced with a morning of unscheduled time between checking out of the hotel and leaving for the airport, Amanda and I decided to go to a hammam, a.k.a. Turkish bath. Unlike Christians in Western Europe, who at one point thought that bathing was bad for you, Muslims have been bathing for centuries; apparently being clean is an important element of Islam. Given the general lack of indoor plumbing, they developed these elaborate community bath houses called hammams, with saunas and pools and the various accoutrements for intense bathing.

Here's how it worked for us:

We arrive at the hammam, check in, and are directed to changing rooms where we are given little sandals and a towel to wrap around our nakedness. (Not being entirely confident that the towel would remain around my nakedness, I opted to keep on some quick-drying travel underwear I'd brought for this sort of situation; the people who designed garments weren't exactly thinking of hammam.)

Once sandaled and toweled, we were shepharded into a sauna. A man came in with a vat of green mud and a paintbrush, which he used to smear the green mud all over our faces. Then he pointed to an 15-minute hourglass on the wall and gestured in a way that made it clear that we were not to leave the room until all the sand had run out. Then he closed the door and we sat.

We sat, and we roasted. Boy was it hot! The thermometer registered about 49 degrees Celsius, which I think comes out to about 120 degrees Fahrenheit! Needless to say, within seconds I was running with sweat. And for those of you who might be concerned about my virtue, given that I was sitting there in nothing but a towel in seclusion with a girl who was similarly dressed, let me just point out that there is nothing glamorous or sexy about profuse sweating, especially when it also involves rivers of green mud running from you face down into your bellybutton. Eventually I had more or less acclimated to the heat and felt I could hold out for the full 15 minutes more or less comfortably. But then the guy came back in and ladled a bucket of water onto the brazier that was heating the room. So now not only was it 5 million degrees in there, but it was also super humid! Ay!

Finally the sand ran out and we headed back out into the main room. This room was a large octagonal room entirely of marble. Around the perimeter were benches with personal water basins and bowls for pouring water over oneself. In the center of the room was a raised marble platform. We were directed to lie down on this platform and relax for a while. Turns out, lying flat on your back on hard marble is pretty comfortable. The marble was heated from within, and the gentle heat radiated through my back and limbs and felt great. After the intense heat of the sauna, I was ready for this relaxation -- it kind of felt like the relaxation pose at the end of a good yoga workout. By the time I had relaxed to the point of nearly dosing off, the man came back in the room for the next phase.

This phase was the washing/exfoliating phase. The man took me over to the bench on the outside of the room and filled a basin with water. He took the bowl and poured the water all over me. Then he pulled on a large, rough glove, and started scrubbing me. To get the proper emphasis, maybe I should say SCRUBBING me. First my back, then my arms, legs, chest and stomach -- everything was subject to the most vigorous scrubbing I've ever had. It didn't hurt, fortunately, but it was definitely vigorous. The effect, as you might imagine, was amazing: SO much skin came off! I had no idea I had that much skin to lose!

After the scrubbing, and a rinse to get rid of my newly shed skin, the guy directed me to lie back down on the central platform. I lay down, and he immediately pulled off my towel. Yikes! Good thing I'd thought to leave my trunks on, or I'd have been there naked as a jaybird! (Amanda, on the other hand, hadn't anything on under her towel and now claims that I "cheated.")

Thus stripped down of both my extra skin and my modesty blanket, I was ready for soap and a massage. The guy lathered up huge mounds of soap suds (think giant watermelons) and dumped them on top of me. He then used what felt like a big loofa to rub the foam around my body before starting in with the massage. Like the scrubbing, this soap massage was extremely vigorous -- no delicate day-spa treatment here! He started with legs and feet, then worked up my back to my arms and shoulders, then went back and started all again. In addition to the rubbing he would occasionally give me these great slaps on the back or thighs; I never could tell what the point of the smacking was, other than they made terrific echoes in the giant marble chamber. Once my backside was sufficiently soaped and massaged, the guy turned me over and did the front side. The best move was when he pulled my arms across my chest and rubbed the underside -- it gave a delightful stretch in the triceps. My least favorite move was when he was washing my stomach. Think of how you might scrub a floor on your hands and knees: you'd lean on one arm for support, and scrub away with the other. That's basically how he approached my stomach, which would have been fine, except that the support arm was planted not on the marble slab, but my chest! So with each effort to scrub my stomach he forced out all the air from my lungs!

When the soapy massage was done, I was taken back over to the basin for one last rinse and then directed to jump into a cold pool that was at first a shock to the system, but eventually felt very good. Eventually Amanda joined me (fortunately they'd let her keep her wrap -- which was more than they'd done for me) and we chilled in the pool for a while reflecting on what had just happened to us and wondering what we were supposed to do next. When no one appeared to direct us to any further scrubbing or massaging, we got out and showered off. We were met at the exit by a man with towels who dried us off and sent us back to the dressing room.

Now, sitting here at the computer, I have to say that was probably the best bathing experience ever. I feel incredibly clean and refreshed and invigorated -- especially after so many days of heat and sweat and dust. I'm glad we went in the morning, since we were the only ones there so we could figure it out without the awkwardness of a million stares. On the other hand, I can now appreciate the tradition of having men and women separate in the hamams. Amanda and I are planning on going to another one in Istanbul, and we're definitely going with the non-mixed option.

Okay, that's it for now. I've got to run to get to the airport for Istanbul. Woot!

Monday, June 22, 2009

And here's part two

And here's part two
Originally uploaded by chitarita
(If you're concerned (or cheering, as I imagine Grandma Cook is), may
I point out the made-up cot in the right corner of the previous

New Room

New Room
Originally uploaded by chitarita
We had to switch rooms for the last night here. This is part one...

Dessert #1

Dessert #1
Originally uploaded by chitarita
Aside- a paste made with flour, olive oil, and grape seed syrup. It's
a local dish, which is why I ordered it. Kinda strange.

We also had an apple-cinnamon-filled pastry that was yummier, but not
as weird as the aside. I regret not getting baklava....

Thanks again for the restaurant tip, Trixie! It was delicious!


Originally uploaded by chitarita
Gozreme (?)

Essentially, a quesadilla filled with potatoes, onion, and mint.

Dinner part 2

Dinner part 2
Originally uploaded by chitarita
Jason's - Sactuck (?)

Dinner at Nazar Borek

Dinner at Nazar Borek
Originally uploaded by chitarita
Mine- Mixed Grill


Originally uploaded by chitarita
European Fanta and Tuvek Doner Durum (chicken, lettuce, tomatoes, and
sauce wrapped in a flatbeead) -Yummy and only 11 lira (about $6) for
the two of us!

Hotel View 2

Hotel View 2
Originally uploaded by chitarita
(to the left)

Hotel View 1

Hotel View 1
Originally uploaded by chitarita
(To the right)

Bay with Donkey on Hike

Bay with Donkey on Hike
Originally uploaded by chitarita

View of Caves and Pigeon Holes from Hike

River Restaurant

River Restaurant
Originally uploaded by chitarita

Two Stories, With a Balcony

The Monastery Caves

The Monastery Caves
Originally uploaded by chitarita

The Camel's Path

The Camel's Path
Originally uploaded by chitarita

View from a Monastery Cave


Originally uploaded by chitarita

Dusty Feet

Dusty Feet
Originally uploaded by chitarita

A Vacation from the Vacation

Warning - I actually have some free time and free internet WITH and English keyboard, so this post will be a long one!

I find on these longer trips, it's useful to schedule yourself a break. In thinking about it, I don't know that I actually need the one we have today - I think I could keep going through the end of this week without a problem. Still, we have extra time in Cappadocia and I have some things that I need to get done.

It's about 11:00 in the morning here. After sleeping in until delicious 8:30, which we both wanted to do after two days of getting up at 4, we got breakfast and then packed up. The room we're currently in wasn't available all three nights, so we're switching rooms sometime today.

Jason headed out for a few hikes - there are a variety of valleys around that are good for that. I believe he was going to hike the Semi (Sami?) and the Love Valley this morning (If you're wondering, I believe the Love Valley is so named because of the phallic-shapes rocks throughout it. That's my guess, anyway). We're going to meet for lunch in town, then he talked about going on a third hike through Pigeon Valley afterwards.

As for me, my to-do list includes
- checking on the room transfer arrangements
- checking on our airport shuttle for tomorrow
- looking up some information on things we've wondered about (the Ephesian Artemis and "tufa")
- making up an expenses list so we can figure out who owes who what
- memorizing, memorizing, memorizing (so much for the whole "I'll be relaxing in the Mediterranian - I'll have plenty of time to memorize my lines for 'Waves'". Yeah, no. I should have known myself as a traveler better than that - I don't do "free time" in my travels any more than I do it in the classroom. Consequently, my pages and pages of text to learn have been weighing on my mind. I'm hoping that if I sit down and focus and get at least the "Protector" and the "Undivided Attention" poems under my belt, that will help me feel better the rest of the week.)
- catching up on my blogging

We have talked about river rafting or horseback riding as well, but I'm starting to feel the pinch of traveling. Both would be fun, but I think I need to be more frugal and practical about what I can actually afford to do. I've already allowed myself a few splurges this week (the carpet, the hot air balloon ride, the hotel here), and I should be more practial. Fortunately, Jason feels the same way.

Speaking of which, I should point out here, for all of you who were laying bets on how long it would take, that traveling together has worked very well. No fights, no arguments, no storming off to Versailles in a temper (although, to be fair, Emily and I had traveled together for more than a month before that one, and Jason and I have only been at this for a little more than a week). Aside from being good friends, it might help that the trip has just gone uneventfully smoothly. We were discussing this yesterday - how it's a shame in one way that there hasn't been any real issues or disasters on this trip, since those make the best stories. Perhaps something will happen before the end to give us a really good tale to tell, because otherwise, we'll only have dull reckonings from this excusion. (I offered to sprain my ankle on the hike yesterday and force him to carry me home on piggyback (and for those of you who know us both, that's quite the image, isn't it?), but he declined the offer. Can't imagine why!)

Speaking of the hike yesterday, let me tell you about that.

Adam, Jimmy's brother and business partner at Jimmy's Place in Selcuk, is (surprise!) also a travel agent. He offered to book our excusions in Goreme, and the prices were just a little lower than those we had each researched beforehand, so we took him up on the deal.

Yesterday was our full day for that. We started, as I previously posted, with the hot air balloon ride. At 9:30, after breakfasting and such, we were picked up in one of those large white vans that scurry about everywhere here, packed with tourists (it's called a dolmus, which, as Rick Steves points out, should not be confused with dolmas, even though they're both stuffed). After picking up five Koreans and one woman from Colorado Springs who's stationed through the Air Force in Turkey at the moment, we picked up our guide, Esra, and set off south.

The first stop was a panoramic view on a cliff top. Esra, who is the cute little (maybe 5 feet tall?) Turkish woman who just graduated as a tour guide last month, dutifully explained that she would tell us about what we were seeing first, then we would have time to take pictures. The moment the door of the van opened, though, the Koreans scattered and the military woman wandered away to take close-up shots of the wildflowers, leaving Jason and me standing next to the flustered Esra, like the good, dutiful students we are. She tried to gather the group, then gave up as each time she managed to get 4 or 5 of them together, another one would wander off. She finally delivered her speech to Jason and I alone, before turning to round up the others so we could leave for the next place.

Next stop was the underground city. Comprised of a series of tunnels and rooms that extend eight stories down into the earth, this was pretty cool. It was crowded with tour groups, but Esra did a nice job leading us through and explaing the different rooms. The city was built originally by the Christians who had settled in Cappadocia as a refuge for times of attack. Eventually, though, they gave up and moved into the underground city permanently. Being a fortress, the stairs and tunnels were narrow and so short that there were times I was crouching with my knees under my chin as I navigated paths. It's not because the people were short - it was to slow down the enemies. There were also large round stones in the walls at intervals that could be rolled across to completely block the passage, if the people needed to fall back but block the enemy. The stones each had a hole cut in the middle for a spear to be thrust through to stab people with. Very Indiana-Jonesy, and very cool. I don't have any iPhone pictures I can post right now, since the light was so low in the caves, but I took several with my other camera and will get them up when I get home.

Outside of the city, there were some little old Turkish women selling souveniers. Jason and I looked at buying something, and had actually talked the women into selling us two for 4 lira, but when we handed her the coins, she gripped the bag tightly to her and demanded one more lira. One of the other sellers looked disapprovingly on at her as we tried to get our souveniers for the agreed price, since this action was pretty scummy. Eventually, I pried our money out of the woman's fist and we walked away back to the dolmas, expecting her to recant with every step. She never did, though. I'm certainly not heartbroken about it, since we'll be at the Grand Bazaar in a few days.

We next drove to the Green Valley (I think it was called that), where we hiked two kilometers through the canyon along a little river. After a brief respite at an improvised riverside cafe, we hiked the same path back to the van. Lunch was served at a restaurant set up in the river - our table was on a little strip of land in the middle of the river. It was lovely, aside from the gnats. Lunch included some naan-like bread, lentil soup, a salad, clay-pot-baked chicken and vegetables with bulger wheat, and watermelon. After lunch, a monastary.

This was another structure carved in to the volcanic rock formations. I'll post some pictures from there in just a moment. The cave rooms were a lot like the ones Jason and I had seen the day before at the Goreme Open Air Museum, but this one was not as restricted in where we could wander. We climbed up the rocks along a narrow and slick path that had been the entrance for camels along the Silk Road to the chambers that held kitchens, living rooms, look-out towers, and even a cathedral-like chapel. We looked down (way, way down) at our tiny little dolmas parked on the street below, next to the tomb of one of the sultan's wives. Once Esra rounded up the group again, we made our way down the perilous rocks.

We drove onward for about an hour, all of us dozing off in our seats. We pulled up at the last stop, a place that overlooks Pigeon Valley. And, imagine this! Right across the street was an onyx Factory! That gave us a tour! And then offered to sell us jewlery and such for very reasonable prices! (I had wondered whether the inevitable sales pitch would be for carpets or for something else.) At least I learned that the word "turquiose" comes from "Turkis Quartz."

Pigeon Valley is so named because of the myriad of little holes carved into the rocks for the flocks of pigeons to nest in. The people who settled here used the pigeon's waste for fertilizer, and the birds still abound in that area.

The dolmus drove back to Goreme, and Jason and I got out in the town center so he could buy some film (yes, film). We walked back up to the hotel and Jason took a shower while I went for a dip in the pool. We got some dinner at the hotel, then sat on the sultan-esque cushiony corner again and talked about shoes and ships and sealing wax, cabbages and kings. Around 11:30, exhausted, we turned in for the night.

I'm glad we booked the tour - we saw and understood a lot more than Jason and I would have had we ventured out on our own.

And now I've probably been monopolizing this computer for far too long. I'll post some of my pictures from yesterday and then get to memorzing.

I hope you all have a marvelous Monday, that your Father's Days were spectaular (especially for my own dear Daddums, who is the best father in all the world), and I'll be in touch again soon!

P.S. Trixie - thank you for the recommendation! We found the restaurant you mentioned and are planning on it for dinner tonight. The Lonely Planet guidebook doesn't say much about Goreme, so we really appreciated the tip!

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Way High Up

Way High Up
Originally uploaded by chitarita
I tried to get a bit of the person next to me in the picture to give
you some perspective.

I got really nervous right before we took off since 1) I had forgotten
my motion sickness band and 2) I've actually got a pretty strong fear
of heights.

Turns out, both were needless. The ride was so smooth and graceful,
and as long as I didn't look straight down over the edge, I could make
myself forget that there was only a woven basket between me and a
several-hundred feet drop to certain death.

Seriously, it was awesome and totally worthwhile. I loved doing it,
and I took a LOT more pictures with my real camera.

Off to pack for the day's excursion/hike!

Breakfast at Kelebek

Breakfast at Kelebek
Originally uploaded by chitarita
They have a great spread! Jason enjoyed the French toast, Nutella,
and veggies, while I had cereal with golden raisins, dried apricots, a
hard boiled egg, and something like a mini-quesadilla. Yum!

Saturday, June 20, 2009