Istanbul Day 4

Continued from Istanbul Day 3 Part 2.

Woke up to an overcast day. It’s supposed to rain later today. Istanbul in the rain.

Please don’t rain yet.

Good morning sunshine!

I came to Istanbul and the Blue Mosque stole my heart.

I really wanted to get a photo of the Blue Mosque from a vantage point. We walked around the tram station area in search of a building that would provide me with a roof top patio. I know they exist, but while doing my research, I kept on getting mixed answered as to which one is the best one to go. I decided to just walked around and find my own.

Found a cafe with a roof top and this is the small elevator that leads to the roof. It has a maximum capacity of two people. The roof top is closed today due to the forecast for rain, but they allowed me to go up there for a photo.

Yes! Come on, tell me that isn’t from another planet.

Lunch time at the cafe with the rooftop. I took the photo, and now they take my money and give me food.

And beer.

Nom nom nom. I am liking mixed grill quite a bit. I miss meat after being in India for so long. The Turks aren’t shy about meat, and I love that.

During lunch, it starts to rain, and then starts to pour. Good thing we had planned ahead and all the things that we want to do today will be inside and around the area.

Look, it’s wet but the ground isn’t disgusting. Hooray for Istanbul being cleaner than India.

We ate, walked out and it’s still raining. Let’s just slip into a dessert place and have some sweets and coffee. No need to brave the rain just yet.

Everything looks beautiful. Too bad they only had one table in this shop, and it was already taken. We saw another shop just down the block, gonna go try that one and see if they’ve got a table available.

Shop down the block. The display here is even more impressive.

Talk about a sugar rush, then coma. I love the taste of condensed milk in baklava! Ah, the benefits of traveling with others. You can sample more food!

Of course, a cup of joe to round off the experience.

The underground cisterns!

Yes and no. We paid 10TR each to go in here thinking that this was the basilica cisterns. But no, this is not it. It was some other cistern that isn’t as touristy and I felt kind of cheated out of my money. They had turned it into sort of an events space. There was nothing to see here really, so we left after about 3 minutes of walking around wondering how to get to the nonexistent underground. There were no photos allowed, don’t know why not because there’s nothing to see here. For spite, I took the spy photo above.

Came outside of the semi fraud cistern to the sky pouring down. My feet got soaked. I hate wet feet with a passion. We walked in the rain, got wet and had a little bit of trouble finding the real cisterns.

Eventually, we found a policeman, and we asked him where we can find the basilica cisterns. He just sheepishly pointed across the street and said “Do you think that is it?”. Ha! We thanked him and crossed to street go to underground and dodge the rain.

This is the basilica cisterns that we were looking for. Really, it looks very similar to the semi fraud one that we saw just before this. This one, however, has some water in the bottom(I am sure just for effect) and nice mood lighting. It’s all about the presentation.

Fish in the water. And people throwing money away for absolutely nothing.

More fish and more wasted money.

The highlight of the basilica cisterns, the two Medusa heads at the base of two columns.

No one knows how they got here, but here they are. The cisterns were just alright. I had to come and see it, and now I can check it off of my list but it’s not something that I’d come back and visit again.

Rain died down some and it’s time to visit Hagia Sophia….well…it’s 4:01PM and they literally just closed the entry doors. Even though the museum stays open longer, last entry is at 4:00PM. Doh! Those three people with the umbrellas were snubbed like us. Oh well, time to go back to the hotel and get dried up.

Beautiful in the rain.

Nothing compares to the Blue Mosque in the rain though…I have a problem.

We walked through the courtyard of the Blue Mosque and on the other end, saw that they had all these faucets for the people praying to wash their feet.

Cold and wet out, so of course that calls for ice cream.

Cold and good.

What better thing to do on a wet and cold day than to go take a Turkish bath!! We came back to our hotel, and inquired the front desk about which one we should go. He recommended one not too far from us, and they would even come and pick us up. Awesome. We made an appointment for a bath at 6:00PM.

At 6, we went down to the lobby, but the driver was 30 minutes late in picking us up. There was a traffic jam, maybe due to the rain?

Finally in the car and it’s still raining. Turkish bath is going to be awesome!

We were stuck at this intersection and we blocked everyone behind us because we were trying to turn. Honking and honking. Another driver behind us even came up to bitch at our driver. This feels a little bit like India!

We drove a few more blocks, then the trash truck in front of us stopped and started trash pick up. Our driver put the car in park in the middle of the road, then we all got out and started walking.

Less than a minute of walking later, we’ve arrived at the Turkish bath. Since 1475!!

Upon entering, the first thing that I noticed was a MASSIVE dome. It was so big that it wouldn’t even come anywhere close to fitting into one photo.

What it looks like under the dome.

Bath and massage it is.

All the staff here spoke very limited English, so communication was a little bit of a problem.

First, I was led into one of these change rooms that surrounded the whole area under the big dome above.

I was given a key to lock the door.

The door is see through. Why have these change areas that someone can just peer see and see you naked? The men and the women all change in the change rooms under the same dome, but I am guessing that the women have a section on the other side of the room.

I was told to just strip down and just wrap myself in a towel that they provided me. I did that, went downstairs not knowing what to do. Then a guy found me, and tried to tell me something in Turkish. I had no clue, so he came back to the change room with me and somehow communicated to me that I can just leave everything in the room. Ahhh. These are not only change rooms, but they are also our own personal lockers.

I was led back down into the bath area. The man and the woman’s areas being separate is common practice, and this was the case here. In some of the more touristy bathhouses, they have combined baths.

No photos from inside the bath area, for obvious reasons. But, it looked really old. Almost all the surfaces that you can touch are made of marble. First I walked through an area where there were showers, toilets. Then it was into the main area where there’s big marble slab in the middle where 4 different people can get their massage and foam bath. Then surrounding the center marble slab are many different faucets and wash basins, all made out of marble, of course. Even though everything is made out of marble, I wouldn’t call it luxurious, it’s just old, which is pretty cool. Everyone had on towels, so no one is actually naked in here.

First, I was told to go into a sauna. I went in and sweated my ass off for about 15 minutes. While in there, different masseuse would come in and call for their appointed person. Eventually, I couldn’t stand the heat of the sauna anymore, and as I opened my door, my masseuse was right outside about to call me. Good timing. By the way, all the masseuses are also dressed in towels so they are indistinguishable from the clients.

He led me to a wash basin that lays on the perimeter of the center marble slab, and told me to sit. I sat down, and he pours water all over me from a bowl, then reaches for a kese to exfoliate me. I had brought mine, but at the last second decided not to take it into the bath area since I didn’t see anyone else bring their own. I didn’t want to be that one guy who was too anal to use the communal kese that everyone else uses.

Anyhow, my guy gives me a quick scrub. I’ve heard that it feels like you’ve just lost several lays of skin, but it wasn’t really that bad. The whole process lasts maybe 2 minutes, if that. Maybe he was taking it easy on me because he knows I am a tourist.

After scrubbing me down, he pours more water on me, all without telling me that he’s just about to pour gallons of hot ass water on me. Then he leads me to the main marble slab in the middle. I lay down on my back at one of the 4 sides and a different guy comes up. The towel is moved so that it’s just folded and covering the top side.

The masseuse take a cloth bag soaked in soapy water. He fills the bag with air, and then as he squeezes out the air from the bag, foam gets formed from all the holes in the fabric. That’s pretty cool. I get covered in foam, and he starts to massage me. It was a pretty short massage, maybe 10 to 15 minutes. While he was massaging me, I was able to look at the big dome above the center marble slab. The dome had little windows cut into it to let in light. There was a dome in Topkapi palace with the same concept. He flips me over, and then puts more foam on me and massages the back side too.

After my massage and foam bath, I am led to one of the basins on the side again. Here he washes my hair and massages my scalp. Tons more water gets splashed on me and he tells me I am done. I can either go back to sauna, swimming pool, or go back into the main area. I felt refreshed, so I just elected to go back to the main area and wait for SO. I am given a new dry towel to wrap around me, and upon exiting the bath area, I was asked to sit down where a guy dries me and wraps a towel around my shoulder and a towel around my head.

Arrrgggghhhh Matey! This is how I arrived back into my locker room.

I’ve got a lot of hair, and without some pomade, it just falls all over my face. SO had an extra hair tie, and a small pony tail solved that problem. I don’t think I’ve ever had my hair in a pony tail before….I think a top knot is probably more appropriate for me. Or maybe a bandana. Arrrrggghhh Matey!

The bath is tucked in behind some more modern buildings. You can make out the massive dome that towers hiding in the back.

That was a really cool and fun experience. For roughly $25 I got picked up and dropped off. I got to use a sauna, pool and bath area. I had a guy wash me and massage me. I got to see an old historic bath house. Great deal! And now, I feel so relaxed…and hungry.

Saw a big rat running down the street after getting dropped off at the hotel. Nice.

Felt so lazy after the awesome bath, so we just picked a close by restaurant to our hotel for dinner.

Nice small and cozy.

A different beer this time!

Of course, Yeni Raki.

Mashed grilled eggplant dip. Awesome! I need to make this when I get back to Austin.

Of course, my favorite, mixed grill.

Chicken casserole.

We wanted to look for another place to have another beer.

We walked by this place. This was the cafe that let us take their cups of Turkish coffee into our hotel a few days ago. We heard singing inside.

!!!!! We walked into all these guys singing and clapping in unison to what seems to me to be traditional Turkish folk songs. There was a 3 piece band with a string instrument, drums, and a clarinet(Never knew clarinets were so popular here in Istanbul) taking the lead. They were all smoking hookahs and having a great time. The energy in this place was amazing. This is something that we don’t have in the US. Everyone singing the same songs in unison and having that energy carry you into bliss. Look at how happy these people are, all smiling at us as we came in. We were the only tourists in this entire place.

We picked a table right next to all the singing men, and got some coffee. They didn’t serve alcohol here, but none of needed. The joyous singing was a better drug.

Of course, some hookah to finish off this awesome time! Hair still in pony tail.

Fucking bad ass time. I took a video of it on my phone, so if anyone wants to see it ask me for it. It’s awesome!

More heat!

Here we are leaving, after almost being here for an hour. The guys are still singing, clapping, smoking, and partying! Rock on!

It rained today, but within, it’s all sunshine.

To be continued at Istanbul Day 5 Part 1.

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