12 days in Istanbul flew by so very quickly. We are currently in the middle of our 12 day cruise and are in Mamaris, Turkey. The internet has been scarce so there hasn’t been ample opportunity to post. Anyways, since we have found the net, here’s the last post for Istanbul. A lot that has happened, so I will try to keep this post as succinct as possible.
The must see trio – Topkapi Palace, Underground Cistern, Blue Mosque and Hagia Sophia
These are the typical tourist destinations, and don’t really need my commentary on how wonderful they are!
This is a MUST DO peeps! Definitely something to do when you are in Turkey! I have always been quite conscious of my body, and so when I heard that you were to expect to be topless when having a Turkish bath, I was a little nervous. But within minutes of entering the ‘Hamami’, my nerves were replaced with confusion and that overwhelming feeling of curiosity and excitement.
Men and women are separated in the Hamami (this was very reassuring for me). Once I was given my little package (containing a small washcloth, black undies and a token for the traditional bath and for a massage) I was directed to go upstairs to change. The area where you change and where you can rest and have a drink. The first thing I saw were women relaxing with their friends topless. Their indifference and comfort in their own skins definitely made me less shy.
I got undressed and was ushered to the bath area which was a large marble room with a high dome with holes and stars cut out for ventilation. The bath was a sauna. There was this round, raised marble platform in the middle of the bath where I saw women laying on top of towels and resting. One of the wash ladies unwrapped the towel that was around me, laid it on the marble platform and motioned for me to lay on it. So I did.
As I slowly grew comfortable under the heavy damp heat of the sauna, I stared out into the dome above me and started imagining how it would be in these ancient baths back in the day. Suddenly, warm water was splashed onto me like a heavy slap. It shocked me, but then I realised this was part of the bathing experience. The wash lady then walked off to get another bucket full of warm water.
So, after allowing me to lay in the room for a bit, she then started scrubbing me with this rough towel. She scrubbed pretty much everything, which was surprisingly relaxing it felt really clean. She then soaped and washed me. I couldn’t help but imagine that I was Daenerys from Game of Thrones. Tee hee.
Ok, there are these blue cartoon-looking eyes everywhere in Turkey. They are keychains, necklaces, pendants, wall decorations, towel patterns etc. In our apartment, our landlord had a towel hanger with this eye on it. We asked him what they were and he explained that these blue eyes were ‘The Evil Eye’ which the Turks believe are a sign of protection. They kind of freaked me out, but after hearing that they are for protection, I began to warm up to them.
Later, we found out that the eye is supposed to represent the mirror which Perseus used to show Medusa to turn her to stone.
Now, I wasn’t a big cat person. Not that I didn’t like them, but mainly because I am a BIG dog person and I never had a cat. Turkey is THE country for cats. There are stray cats everywhere and they are so adorable! I couldn’t help but fall in love with them and want to pat them! They are so affectionate too! I have a theory that it is because a lot of them are stray cats and do not have a home or people to pat them whenever they want, so any attention is savoured. They purr and meow so sweetly. They definitely have helped me feel less sad when I think about my dog Coco (Big cuddles being sent your way Coco!).
After writing the song for the MWSRP, I became a little inspired to try writing other songs on my ukulele if it came to me. As in the Maldives, I woke up early in Istanbul and was unable to fall asleep again. As frustrating as this is (especially being unable to go for a morning run due to it being completely dark and I didn’t want to kill my ankles on the cobbled street) it was the perfect time for a song to come to mind.
So I wrote this short fun song which I post below.
I was quite nervous filming it as it was in front of the Blue Mosque with tourists, tour guides, locals and Bosporus Cruise salesmen everywhere. It is guaranteed that when you walk around this area you will experience the exact conversation three to four times:
Bosporus Cruise Salesman (Salesman): Hello, hello! Where you from?
Salesman: AU-stra-lien?! G’Day Mate!
Me: Haha, hiiiii.
Salesman: Brisbane? Sydney?
Me (while walking away): Perth!
Salesman: Want Bosporus Cruise, give you special price. Usually 20 Euros, I give you for 18.
Me: No thank you… (now briskly walking away).
So when I was recording Is-tan-bul on the benches outside the Blue Mosque, and saw a salesman approach me, I was a little weary. But when he arrived the cheesy charming attitude was not there. Instead I got:
Salesman: You? Play? (shyly smiles as he points to my ukulele).
Me: Ah, a little. I am not good, just beginner.
Salesman (sits down across from me) Can I?
Me: You play? Of course!
The salesman took my ukulele and started plucking the strings. To me, he clearly knew his way around a stringed instrument, but he had this baffled amused look on his face when he realised the ukulele was different to the instrument he was used to. I was so fortunate that Kev ninja’ed a video of the experience! See below!
We spent a long time talking about music and he was amazed at how small the ukulele was. He had never seen one before. He kept saying that he was used to a bigger instrument but he loved the sound of the ukulele. I said to him ‘I picked it up because it sounds happy.’ He burst out with excitement ‘YES! Happy!’. I loved how in this experience I got to see a glimpse of the person behind the salesman. After that, other salesmen came over to listen to our conversation. It was nice to see them joke and interact with each other instead of hounding us to purchase a ticket for a Bosporus Cruise tour.
Looking back now, I realised that it wasn’t too much of a surprise that he was quite good on my ukulele. In Taksim, every second store was a music store selling guitars, violins, ukuleles, Turkish guitars, pianos, drums, you name it! Also, there were numerous talented musicians playing in the streets! It seems that the Turks are clearly musicians!
Our footprint: http://spiked.it/CuMDys9