Sunday, July 19, 2009

Turkey: City Orientation and Turkish Bath

We arrived in Croatia yesterday morning, I got up at 6am to watch us pull into port. Istanbul is the largest city in Europe and is the only one to sit on two continents, Europe and Asia. Istanbul is on the Bosphorus Strait and is surrounded by many bodies of water. It has a population of around 14 million people and is the largest city in Turkey but is not the capital. My City Orientation took us around Istanbul yesterday. We saw the Golden Horn (body of water), Patriarch of Istanbul for the Greek Orthodox religion of Turkey (similar to the Vatican), Rome Aqueduct, Balat (Jewish Quarter), City Walls, Crown Prince Mosque, Blue Mosque, Haigia Sofya, Hippodrome and the Basilica Cistern. The mosques were gorgeous and huge. They were really strict about women covering themselves because the mosques are still in use. The Haigia Sofya is the 3rd to be built upon the land where the current one stands. It was first built as a church and was later converted into a mosque. The Blue Mosque is known for its 6 minarets and the blue- tiled interior. The minarets are built towards heaven and have a spiral staircase in them leading to heaven.

Last night we walked around Taxism square and had appetizers and drinks and then just walked around all night. The street with a ton of shops is miles long and there is a ton of stuff to do. We got ice cream from a man who twirled the ice cream and did tricks while he was putting it into cones- it was pretty cool.

Today, Tessa, Elissa, Mckinsie, Carly and Juliana and I decided we would find our own adventure. We started with a traditional breakfast in a local restaurant. Elissa and I shared a plate of assorted items including a rice patty, cheese sticks, potato sticks, salami, cheese and a few other things. It was very good and the waiters were very friendly. It was a deli where you pick your own items and then they had meats hanging from the meat counter. It was like a small market I suppose. After that we decided to try out a Turkish Bath- It was the coolest thing. It is separated men and women and you go in and everyone is naked (they give you underwear/bathing suit bottoms) and a towel and it is just a big sauna room. You can lay on the hot stone in the middle of the room and then a lady attendant takes you to the edge and she scrubs your body. She pours cold water on you and then a ton of soap bubbles and scrubs everything and anything off of you. Then you go into a hot and cold pool and just lounge until you are ready to get out. We also paid for a facial and oil massage. The lady took us into another room (still a sauna) and put white cream on our faces which we washed off when it was dry. Then I had the most amazing massage with warm oil and she also gave a face massage. All of this was pretty inexpensive compared to the States and it was a blast. We were there for about 3 hours just lounging around. The cool thing is that this wasn’t necessarily a tourist trap, there were locals there too and evidently the locals go to these baths all the time. It was the most tranquil and relaxing experience.

After we left we went to Taxism Square where all the shops and restaurants are. We found tickets for a soccer game tonight between Italy and Turkey (we think) and then got some munchies. We are very excited for the game, a lot of kids from the ship are going.

Tomorrow I am doing an SAS trip about Jewish Tradition in Istanbul and then maybe going to the Grand Bazaar either tomorrow or Tuesday.

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