More Istanbul

Trip Start May 16, 2006
Trip End Aug 16, 2006

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Sunday, June 11, 2006

So... where did I leave off last time... the posh conference we crashed. The next day we decided would be a good day to travel up the bosphorous straight by boat and set our feet on asia for the first time. Intending to do just that, we ended up getting on the wrong boat, plopping us about a half hour southeast on the asian side. Oops. Neither of us are the type to get upset about such a thing, so we wandered about some, took a bus somewhere else, did a bit of shopping, wandered some more, and eventually took another ship back to where we came from. The main thing I took away from the day is a powerful respect for the unbelievable size of Istanbul. Depending on who you ask, the population is around 15-18 million. Oh, and I think that was the day we ate with Stephen Kinzer (author, once Brian's prof) at some famous restaurant. The food mostly wasn't my style, but what I did like I liked a lot. I met some expats, got some more e-mail addresses, etc. The meal ended with Turkish coffee. Quite nice.

The next day we were determined to ACTUALLY do touristy sightseeing (for several days we just never got around to it). We went on some tower, nice view. Saw some mosques (one very, very smelly). A museum. The grand bazaar (Hello, friend! Where are you from? Come buy some crap from my stand!). Walked around a bunch. Saw some more stuff. All very cool and very exhausting, preparing us wonderfully for.... the....... hamam.

Okay, for those of you (most I would guess) who don't know what a hamam is and have never experienced one, let me preface this description with a disclaimer. No words can do it justice, one must actually experience a hamam to understand. Basically, we start out by changing out of our grimy clothes into a towel. We then lay about on the very warm marble in a very warm room, getting nice and sweaty and prepped for the scrubbage. Then, you give the brawny turk the okay and he starts scrubbing you down with a glove-type thing, after he waters and soaps you up. This is the point where a writtin description no longer does the experience justice. He scrubs. you. down. It's called a soap massage, and some massage-like ancient turkish judo holds are thrown in for, I can only imagine, the scrubbers amusement. It's quite bizarre and wonderful, really. I did not notice personally, but apparently you shed of a good bit of skin along with the grime on your body you had no idea was there. It's roughly how I would imagine a whale is washed in seaworld, with some sort of industrial strength scrubbing system. Then he takes you into the slightly less warm room, scrubs your head, face, rinses you off, shakes your hand, and goes on his merry way to the next victim. At this point I decided to spring for the massage. Where the soap scrub rates somewhere in the 6-7 region on the simultaneously bizarre-unpleasant-and-somehow-great scale (a respectively high number, I think we can agree), the actual massage was roughly a 91. Once again, literary descriptions are inadequate. The guy I was assigned too looked like a lineman for the Steelers, and he uses every ounce of that muscle to terrorize my muscles. More judo holds. More weird pressure points. More incredible uncomfortable but still somehow kinda nice maneuvers. The most uncomfortable was the pinches on my trap. Try it yourself, pinch the top of your shoulder on that stringy bit of muscle... as hard as you can. 30 very long minutes into the massage, I was gestured that I was done, and pointed to the showers. My body was literally, not metaphorically, jello in state. I got my clothes, met up with Brian, and we headed home bewildered and amazed by the experience. It is something I will definitely do again while I am in Turkey. Unique, to say the least.

We went back to the hotel, slept, and I caught the bus the next day to Ankara.
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