… and getting scrubbed like a Sultan!
For the last time, Good Evening London, Good evening world, Istanbul Calling!
Today started with a “reasonable” wake up call which resulted in a slightly less busy breakfast room… After a quick breakfast, I hot footed it down to “Tunnel” – to make my way downhill to Karakoy to make it over the Galata Bridge and to the ferry port.
The ferry company in Istanbul offers a pretty much full day tour – 10:30-16:30 almost all the way up the Bosphorous Strait to the North Sea… All for the very pricey sum of 65 Turkish Lira…. or £2.70.
In the queue to get tickets I made friends with Karen and Ed from the USA (shoutout to you if you’re reading!), all thanks to a man attempting to silently push in the queue… I used my best being British and a very quiet tut to ensure he was not pushing in!
The Bosphorus is BUSY – it’s a prime shipping lane from Russia and hundreds of ships per day pass through – 48,000 per year which is 3-4 times more than the Panama Canal or Suez Canal.
But there was also plenty of wildlife too… like this guy who kept flying alongside us…
As we sailed up the Bosphorus we passed lots of incredible buildings, mosques, palaces and all sorts….
Karen was, quite rightly obsessed with this MAHOOSIVE flag of Turkey up the hill…
Work decided to follow me…
There was genuinely LOADS to see from the boat
When you reach the top of the Bosphorus, you dock at the tinest town – Anadolu Kavağı on the Asian Side, just south of the Yavuz Sultan Selim Bridge. Looking at the bridge now, I have found its the 5th tallest of any bridge in the world and is one of the widest!
Anadolu Kavağı is really a tiny town, where it turns out they don’t speak much English… Karen and Ed had an amazing book (a bit like lonely planet) which recommended a bakery – we thought we’d get something to see us through before we went on a short hike.
What unfolded in the bakery, I cannot do justice to explaining here, but involved frustrated language from both sides, lots of gesticulation and shouting of the word “Potertoy” which transpired to be… Potato. I had my eye on the single roll left there, but after much confusion and me shouting “ONE-ONE” whilst doing single digit hand gestures, Karen got her pastry, I got my roll and we set off.
The cabaret of the bakery, however was concluded with us all trying the rather large pot of Potertoy pastry and each of us concluding it was horrible! The single roll was lovely, and we all shared that!
We left the town and hiked up the hill through the military controlled zone (We’re asking no questions… cameras away) to Yoros Castle…. or at least the remains of it…
What was lacking in castle was certainly not lacking in view!
Whilst hiking we made more friends with the most intriguing New Zealand couple, thanks the husband exclaiming “I don’t know about the Black sea… it looks blue to me!” – they have left New Zealand for a year, with no solid plans to basically travel the world with their son. Pretty incredible stuff and I’m sort of a little jealous!
Karen, Ed and I were hungry so decided to settle on a small waterfront Restaurant, looking over the boat so that we could keep an eye on things to ensure we didn’t miss it going back!
While the Restaurant had English menus, the staff did their best but did not really understand, causing another round of gesticulation and repeating… meanwhile I settled for, and managed to order a Fish… and we shared some surprisingly good chips before heading back to the boat.
After sailing back to Eminonu, we took a stroll uphill to the Grand Bazaar…. If I’m honest, it was actually a little overwhelming. Streets and streets of crap… I mean things… many shops selling the same stuff as you’ve seen all over Istanbul. I had a jaunt round before heading back to the hotel.
From the hotel I got ready for my Hamam. I followed the instructions from the Hamam and got some swimming shorts ready, left most of my valuables in the hotel and headed out to get some food.
I got food in a great bar where there was an American lady and her husband playing guitar/singing. She cracked out the Kazoo and I was happy!
From the bar, I pottered a little bit before heading into the Hamam.
Kılıç Ali Paşa Hamamı is a renovated 16th century Hamam pretty much within the grounds of the neighbouring mosque.
Upon entering I was sent upstairs to a small changing room to remove all clothes… “No Underwears” the attendant reminded me – you wrap yourself in a peştamal – a sort of wrap, before heading back downstairs.
Once downstairs, you are led into the Hamam. The warmth instantly hits you and the steamy air relaxes you… but it’s not as steamy as a steam room. You’re sat on warm marble against the wall, where you are washed from a fountain with a bowl. The water was a lovely temperature and it was a welcome warm up for what I was about to endure.
From the pre-wash, you are then led to a giant marble slab in the middle of the room. You lay out on your back to soften and relax for about 15-20 minutes. It’s warm and relaxing and I really took the time to unwind.
While lying there, the call to prayer started from the mosque next door and it really led me to relax even more, taking in the sounds, the ancient roof above me, and dreaming of what it would have been like here back when it was first built.
My daydreams were soon interrupted by my new friend Yasar, who came to take me to another warm marble bench for the scrubbing and bubbling.
I’m not even sure how to describe what happened next in words, but for the next 30 maybe even 40 minutes, Yasar and I got a little too acquainted for my liking… between the way he magically created endless bubbles from what looked like a pillow case, to the way he scrubbed nearly every inch of me with a bath mitt that felt a little like 80 grit sandpaper, we got close. We also established that I am tense, my back is a mess, I am VERY ticklish and that Yasar likes football… there was some connection to Hull City. (I’m still not entirely sure)
I was also reminded pretty boldly that my mobility and posture is actually pretty crappy and I hope this has kicked my butt into gear to take up something like Pilates back home!
After a the scrubbing was more bubbling washing and massaging including shampoo and my temples feel new… to the point I’m not sure I have ever been so clean in my entire life!
Yasar didn’t warn me that the final watering would be cold, which was quite the surprise! Once cold watered, Yasar wrapped me up like Sultan Steven the first and sent me out to sit in the lounge area on a sort of sofa bed to chill out.
I chilled for a while before getting dressed, paying and wandering out back toward my hotel… As I stepped out I was a little awestruck by the beauty of this small mosque…
I wandered up the super steep hill back toward the main road near where I am staying, where I had a little wander. It’s sort of like Denmark Street in London – LOADS of musical instrument shops, as well as shops selling knicknacks, clothes, turkish delight, etc.
One thing I haven’t mentioned yet is the size of the street dogs. There are street cats everywhere and a number of street dogs. While the cats are normal sized, the dogs are HUGE.
From the main street, I finally found some postcards, and made friends with the man in the shop called Tina – Tina, you’ve promised to send the postcard. Don’t let me down – the recipient is a huge fan of the blog. NO PRESSHA.
And with that, I think my time in Istanbul is pretty much complete. My flight out at 13:10 tomorrow means I will be leaving the hotel at about 10 to head to the airport (There are many question about how long it actually takes to get to Sabiha Gökçen airport so better be safe than sorry.)… I’m actually flying “Turkish Easyjet” – Pegasus Airlines, so am now off to pack, repack, measure and weigh my bags!!
Would I come back to Istanbul? 100% – while I feel like I’ve seen everything I have set out to see, it certainly strikes me as the sort of place you could come back to, see new things and enjoy old things again. I’m a fan for sure!
What next I hear you ask? Well, I have been a little sad this evening that I have not done anything official to commemorate Yom HaShoah – Holocaust memorial day… before I realised that the way I am commemorating this year is by flying to Israel! Not only do Am Yisrael Chai(the children of Israel live), but the Children of Israel thrive, and I’m super looking forward to another trip to Israel. I can’t think of a better way to commemorate the 6 million murdered by joining the 7 or so million living and thriving in our homeland for a few days!
It’s unlikely I’ll blog again from Israel, so until next time I’m somewhere new, thanks for joining me… and, I guess… Yalla Bye!