Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Adventures in Istanbul! [Part 2]

After the pier and our delicious feast we did a boat tour of the Bosporus strait. It was freezing cold and not-that-awesome. But it was still worth the 10 lira to see the shoreline up European and down the Asian side of Turkey.

the group before we got on the boat

Rumeli Fortress

Dolembahce Palace

view of a port city

After the boat tour we went to the Spice Market. The Spice Market was absolutely unlike anything I'd ever experienced. It was filled with amazing colors and smells. There were piles upon piles of turkish delight, spices, teas, dried fruit, trail mixes, and treats! I walked around with Riley and Lesley and we sampled handfuls of Turkish delight and baklava. It was tantalizing and expensive but Riley and I split of box which we plan on nom-noming when we get back to Greece.

mounds of tea

all the turkish delight

some yummy treats
After the Spice market we took the tram and visited the Dolembahche palace. It was 40 Lira just to enter and nobody felt like paying so we just took pictures from the outside and then headed back to our hostel. After dropping of our stuff we walked to the "Old City Area" and had a traditional, rustic Turkish dinner. We ate mixed meat and cheese pita wraps, chicken dishes, and their famous Manti ravioli dish. Everything was delicious and we left the restaurant stuffed! Afterwards, we went to a high-end dessert place where we met the sweetestttttttt waitress. She talked with us for over half an hour and she wanted us to write down music recommendations. She was so sweet and friendly. Our desert was positively amazing too! Seriously, soooo delicious! We ordered different Turkish Baklavas and a Turkish waffle with nutella, chocolate, and mixed fruit on top. It was beyond delicious. We split those two plates between 5 of us and it just simply wasn't enough so after we left the dessert place Riley and I walked around and bought gelato and had some free baklava and bought orange juice. It was very dark by this time and it was just Riley and I walking around. We started to get a little nervous to be walking around in the dark with just the two of us so we decided to head back home to the hostel.

In the morning we woke up and headed to the Hagia Sophia. The Hagia Sophia is one of the 7 ancient wonders of the world and I was beyond stoked to see it. It was breathtaking. You could feel it's holiness when walking inside. I can't believe I walked those steps and basked in it's magnificence. It was breathtaking. Here are a few photos which capture almost none of it's awesomeness.

After the Hagia Sophia we went to a traditional turkish bath that was built in the 1400s. We separated from Alex (the guy) and went into the women portion of the baths. We stripped down to only our bikini bottoms and wrapped a towel around ourselves. We then sat in a sauna for 15 minutes. We were the only english speakers there, there was a handful of local women there. The women who worked at the baths all called us "lady" and simply used gestures to communicate. After the sauna, they laid us down on marble slabs and scrubbed our bodies top to bottom. They cleaned every nook and cranny of our bodies with a harsh scrub brush and then with a soapy towel. They then gave us a quick body massage which felt heavenly. After the cleaning, we all went in the pool and swam for a bit. It was a fairly small pool only 30 feet by 30 feet probably. At first everyone was pretty awkward being topless around each other but after the initial awkwardness we all got quiet comfortable and the bathing and massage put us all in such a good mood. In the pool we were all laughing and doing some classy water ballet. It was so much fun to hear our singing and laughing echoing throughout the ancient building. After the pool, we all headed back into the sauna for awhile to warm up again. We all laid in their, comfortable and happy.

Kelsey and me wrapped up in towels before the bath begins!

After our oh-so-very relaxing baths, we headed off to do a little last minute shopping and to grab dinner before we had to go back to our hostel at 7 to give ourselves a comfortable 2.5 hour to make it to the bus station on time at 9:30 pm. Riley and I went shopping together and got a few more items and then we headed to the pier so I could get Doner and she could get a fish sandwich. We both went a little crazy on the juices and foods, me more than her, and ate up on the bridge with the beautiful night-time city setting the scene.

Turkey was incredible and far surpassed all of my expectations. I was nervous to go there, my mother had warned me how conservative it was and how they looked at women in such a negative light. I had also heard horror stories about the Turkish baths how they scrub 7 layers off your skin and your massage is more like a beating with brushes and sticks. Luckily, nothing of that sort happened at the baths and I didn't feel looked down upon in Turkey at all for being a woman. 

I loved Turkey,  I would love to return again! I'm so glad I got to see as many sights as I did and I'm so glad I was able to go to the Grand Bazaar and to the Spice Market. Turkey feels much more connected to their roots than any other place I've traveled before. All the spices and goods all feel so authentic to their history. It appears to me that they have preserved their cultural integrity very well. The people there are so kind and eager to be of assistance. Yes, the men are on the sleazier side of life, but I didn't ever feel truly threatened. And what girl doesn't appreciate being constantly showered with endless compliments? Ok, we all got a little frustrated with them and they didn't appear always that genuine, but hey, when you walk up and a man goes: "Wow," that still makes you feel at least a little warmer inside.

I hope that one day I'm able to return to Turkey with my mother. She would love all the shops and all the jewelry and the feel of the country itself. Perhaps one day...

I wanted to include a few of my favorite photos I took with my handy dandy Canon 20D and just some of my favorite photos from the trip in general, so here they are:

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