Around the world travel, Backpacking, Bucket List, Istanbul, long term travel, Travel, Turkey

A Tourist or a Traveller?

The past 2 days have been jam packed and I have literally not stopped. I’m not used to traveling at break-neck speeds, but being with Marisa and Jody, who only have a few days to see Istanbul, has lead us to really cramming it all in. I feel like I’ve seen a lot, but I don’t really feel like I’m soaking in what I’m seeing. I’m feeling more like a tourist and less like a traveller, and my favorite moments of the past few days have been when we’ve really slowed down- to sit and smoke nargileh at a cafe or soak in the Turkish hamams (baths).

We have one more day of sightseeing together, before Marisa and Jody leave for Israel and I head east into Turkey. I’m thankful for an additional couple of days in Istanbul at the end of my trip, where I can just roam aimlessly. Until then, I will resort to copious amounts of Turkish coffee to keep up with these two!
Istanbul has such a rich culture and its deep historical roots are still so apparent in what is today a modern metropolis. With 17 million people, it’s no wonder the city feels so big and busy. Yesterday we toured the Blue Mosque and Hagia Sofia, both which left me awestruck. The serenity and peacefulness inside these mosques is difficult to describe, and the cathartic call to prayer has become part of the daily city sounds for me now. The Blue Mosque was especially beautiful and the domed ceilings are so ornate and colorful, it almost seems like you’re looking at a faberge egg.
We toured a few more significant sights and had a delicious Turkish dinner at Cafe Adremos, then ventured to a very authentic open air cafe in Cemberlitas to smoke nargileh and drink apple tea. Groups of Turkish men of all ages gather around small tables and stools, smoking from the hookah and watching the world go by. The only females here are tourists. This is a traditionally male habit. Still, we are all ushered in to a small sofa, and choose from the list of flavored tobaccos, apple, orange, mint, cappuccino ???
The following day, we spend the morning at Topkapi Palace, take a kebap for lunch and then head to the Hamam (or Turkish Bath). This was up there on my list of things to do while in Turkey, and we’ve scoped out a historical bath in the Sultanahmet district. I am ready to be scrubbed and rubbed.
The three of us check in and select and pay for the services we want. We bid farewell to Jody, and Marisa and I head to the changing rooms. We don our pretty black panties (one size fits all), and wrap ourselves in a thin, cotton checkered cloth. We take our scrub cloths down to the entrance to the baths, where two burly Turkish women take us by the arms and lead us to a heated slab of marble, where we are left to sit and relax on the warm surface.
It really is just how I had pictured – a scene from Greek and Roman times, women sitting, or laying in pairs or groups, either lounging or being scrubbed and then doused with water. My lady comes over and sort of grunts at me to turn over and begins to scrub me down with a cloth and soap. I flip and same thing on the other side. After about 10 minutes, this is over and I’m ushered over to a tap, where she fills a bucket with luke warm water and begins to pour it over my head. I’m left thinking, “That’s it?” I had anticipated a real scrubbing, sort of like a grueling, fingernails turning white kind of experience. Marisa and I retire to a pool in the back and share a look of disappointment.
After a soak, we get dressed and head to the lobby to meet Jody, who has the look on his face of a kid who has just seen Santa Clause. He details his experience for us from start to finish, and Marisa and I listen with envy. First the man threw away his scrubbing cloth and said, “This is for tourists.” He then pulled out a real scrubbing cloth and Jody got the real Turkish treatment, with a massage!! He then lets us in on his secret. He tipped the guy before the service. And then because it was so good, he went back and tipped him again at the end. Marisa and I vow to find another hamam the next day and try Jody’s trick.
We head for more apple tea and nargileh at the open air cafe and then part ways for the afternoon. I need to organize some travel for the following day so I head to Walkabout Travel where I meet Ferhat. We spend the afternoon playfully arguing over me buying a bus ticket versus me buying a whole Turkey package deal. One thing that I find so surprising is the number of people who book travel packages and travel in tours. This isn’t my style at all. I decide to go it alone, and Ferhat sells me just a bus ticket. Two hours have passed, and I promise to visit him at the end of my trip to tell him all about my travels and how much money I saved 😉
Previous Post Next Post

You Might Also Like