Sunday, January 6, 2013

Istanbul Part III

Photo Time!

Our apartment was on a lovely twisting road in Sultanhamet, the old part of Istanbul. 

During our first full day, we checked out Hagia Sofia and the Blue Mosque. The line to see Sofia was monstrous.

Worth it.

After Aya Sofia, we headed to Tokapi Palace. The lines, again, were long, but the palace was cool. I especially enjoyed walking around the harem. 

Here are a couple of views from the palace.

The sun actually came out after the first few chilly, cloudy days. I was so excited! This is the Blue Mosque.

Emily and Talia were brave enough to take a Bosphorus Tour. (I hate small boats and opted to take a ferry to the Asia side later. The ferries are bigger.) Beth and I stayed on the shore, but I did take a photo of the guy selling tickets in case they didn't come back. :) 

 One of the most interesting parts of Istanbul is the Grand Market and the Spice Bazaar. It seems that I only got one photo of the Grand Bazaar.

Here is the Spice Bazaar. Lovely! 


After the girls left for Cappadocia, I headed to the newer part of the city (Taksim) and explored. Here is the inside of a huge vintage store.

And perhaps the creepist picture of the entire trip is below. This is NOT a good way to display child mannequins! (This was a common way of displaying them, by the way.)

 I also went to the Balisica Cistern and the Asia side of Istanbul, but I forgot my camera. Whoops. You should totally check out Beth's blog: The Grand Adventures of Anna Ravioli for more photos. She's a lot better at taking photos than I am. (I'm notoriously picture impatient.)

This post is brought to you by Ryan Adams, Oh My Sweet Carolina. (Oh the sweetest winds, they blow across the south.)

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Istanbul Part II

One thing I was both excited and worried about upon arrival in Istanbul was the hamam. A Hamam is a tranditional Turkish bath. On our first night, after dinner, we decided to scrape off the travel (literally) at Çemberlitas Hamam, one of the oldest baths in the city. It is, admittedly, very touristy and probably more expensive than other, lesser-known, baths. We went around 10pm, however, and had the place to ourselves. All of us opted for the full bath experience. It was around $60 and included a bath, a scrub-down, a massage, and a shampoo. Seems simple enough?

Not so much.

First off, the bath is not a bathtub. It's a giant cavernous room with sinks along the walls and a big heated rock in the center. Kind of like the Chamber of Secrets. I expected a giant basilisk to appear at

First, you strip down and "wash, wash, wash." Then you rinse. Next, you lay on the giant rock platform in the middle of the room. I felt a lot like a lizard. Once you've sweated out, you "wash, wash, wash" again and rinse. Then you repeat. (I couldn't take photos for obvious reasons, so here are some from the website. They don't show how giant the place is in reality. You can see more photos at the site.)

Here is the ceiling of the room.

This is where you "wash, wash, wash!"

This is where you sweat on the warm rock. 

After about half an hour of this, the real fun begins. The bath assistants come in and, while you lay on the platform, soap you up and scrub you down with a mitt. And they scrub everywhere. This is not an experience for the faint of heart. After you've been scrubbed, they take you to a basin to wash and rinse you. Then you go back to platform and get a massage. It wasn't the best massage I've had, but it was a good part of the experience. After your massage, you sit near a sink and have your hair shampooed. Next is a rinse. (My lady was quite clinical and simply dumped a bucked of water over my head and tossed some water in my face.)

And it's over. The whole thing takes about an hour. You go back to your little room where you left your clothes and dress. They had hairdryers in the room, which was good since it was chilly outside and I didn't want to walk back to the apartment with a wet head.

I was worried about my sensitive skin, but the bath products make me break out or anything. I do recommend taking body lotion with you since the soap is not moisturizing and it's good to moisturize having your skin scraped off.

This bath had separate areas for men and women. Some baths are specifically for couples and families. It was a great experience and a great way to bond with the other girls at the start of our trip. It's hard not to be friends with someone after you've seen each other spread-eagle on a giant warming rock in the middle of the Chamber of Secrets.

This post is brought to you by "I'm Going to Wash that Man Right Out of my Hair."

Friday, January 4, 2013

The "Not an Istanbul Update" Interlude

I know, I know. I need to update the blog with the rest of my Istanbul trip and the promised photos before I forget all of the awesome things that happened.


Or Sunday.

I just got back from Riga. It was fun. I bought some shrimp chips and sriracha at a fancy-pants grocery store. I'm not sure they will taste like the ones I buy at home. Oh well.

Additionally, People in Riga clothe themselves in dresses made entirely from paper. See? (Riga is Panem.)

This bird chased me away from my park bench. The picture is fuzzy because I took the photo from Estonia.

I hate birds. I really, really do. Except chickens. Chickens are badass. I'd share my croissant with a chicken, but not this giant devil bird. (For perspective, here is the giant devil bird on a trashcan.)

This post is brought to you by Birdy, Skinny Love. Because it fits.