We started our morning by walking in the rain to the Blue Mosque, or Sultanahmet. About 2 minutes into the 15 minute walk, I bought an umbrella, while Tara swore she could manage without one. Then about 2 minutes later, she bought one as well. The Blue Mosque was beautiful outside. It is located right across a large courtyard from the Hagia Sophia, though it was built in 1616, over a 1000 years later. The Sultan, Ahmet, built it to one-up
the Hagia Sophia, and although I must say his is more fantastic from the outside, it doesn’t even compare on the inside
. It is called the blue mosque because of the use of blue-ish tiles in all the floral mosaics that cover the inside (It really doesn't look all that blue).
Afterwards we headed back to our hotel, and found a restaurant nearby. I enjoyed the doner kebob, which is lamb cooked on the meat wheel and very popular in Turkey. It was excellent. Later that afternoon we went to the underground cistern. It is a cathedral sized, underground water reservoir, capable of holding 2.8 million cubit feet of water. Built by emperor Justinian in 532 A.D., it was built to supply water to this important part of the city (near Hagia Sophia and the Topkapi palace), and was complete with a water filtration system. Despite mediocre reviews, we both really enjoyed the cistern. It had a very eerie ambiance and neat history, including hundreds of years of being forgotten about, and a romantic scene from the 1960’s Bond movie From Russia with Love
, before a walkway was added when a boat ride was the only way to see the cistern.
Later that night we went to the Turkish Bath. Despite reading about it, I still had no idea what to expect. We came in together and were quickly sent our separate ways as the baths are segregated. I was told to go to the upstairs balcony to change
. There was a small room with a glass door with a bit of tempered glass that overlooked the check-in area, not all that private but hey, I’m never going to see any of these people again. They supplied slippers which must have been a men’s size 9, not quite cutting it for my size 12 feet. I came back down in my towel and tiny slippers and was instructed to go into a dome shaped room with a giant raised marble slab in the middle, and faucets which looked like old-fashioned marble bidets all along the wall. From my reading, I knew to go to pour water on myself for a while with a small bucket from the faucets, so I did just that for about 10 minutes, before moving to the hot slab. After about 10 minutes of sweating on the slab, an old Turkish guy came over to me and started soaping me up and took the scrubbing glove that I provided him (I heard they reuse them if you do not supply your own). Once I was all soaped up, he slid me around on the slippery marble and began giving me a massage. He would slide his hands, aided by the soap, across different parts of my body. It felt like he was pushing all the blood one direction and then I’d have the painful sensation that the outermost part of whichever extremity he was massaging was about to explode from the pressure as I grunted in pain. After the massage, he started scrubbing me down, starting with my legs. The glove was quite rough, and this also was a bit painful. He worked his way up my body, and when he finally got up to my arms, I was able to see where he was working and that he was scraping off an unbelievable amount of skin
. It was rolling up all over my arm. I didn’t know if I should be embarrassed about having so much dead skin, or if that was a typical amount of skin to lose at the bath. He finished by scraping my head and face, which I couldn’t help but think was awfully backwards. I’d rather the scrubbing glove be clean and new for my face, and dirty and full of skin for my legs and feet. He then dumped water over me for a while and massaged my head and sent me to take a shower. After the shower, he sat me down outside the bath and wrapped me up in towels, then sent me back upstairs to get dressed. I felt very refreshed and clean, although I think one Turkish bath in my lifetime is plenty.
After about 15 minutes, Tara returned and we compared notes. She had walked into a very crowded room full of old topless women all over the marble slab, and was scrubbed and massaged by a burly, topless Turkish woman. She enjoyed her experience, despite also having several "what am I supposed to do now?" moments.
We went back to the hotel right afterward, and crashed immediately at about 10pm.
I woke up at 6 and in vain tried to go back to sleep. Finally I got out of bed at 7:30 and we went down to the lobby for breakfast. For breakfast they had, as we would learn is a carbon copy of a Turkish breakfast everywhere you go, French bread, 2 types of cheese with which I'm unfamiliar, hard boiled eggs, cucumber, tomatoes, black and green olives, and Turkish tea and Nescafe instant coffee. It’s a pretty satisfying breakfast, and that instant coffee grew on me so much I actually bought some after getting back home.