Sunday, March 30, 2014

Exploring Istanbul

Last week we fulfilled one of my life-long dreams and went to Istanbul. The mix of ancient and modern; sea and land; Europe and Asia--I just couldn't wait to see it in person. It did not disappoint.

We spent a long weekend there, and it was just the right amount of time. I wish we had time to explore more of Turkey, but I'll just have to come back to see Cappadocia and Ephesus. Traveling with an almost-nine-month-old means going at a much slower pace than we're used to, but I am actually really enjoying it. We get more opportunities to mingle with locals who can't seem to resist Zahara's charms.

Seriously, I don't know what it is about Turks, but they LOVED Zahara. Turkish men were especially fond of her. I've never seen anything like it. Men would pinch her cheeks and make kissing noises. Twice at a restaurant, people actually lifted her out of our arms and kissed her before passing her around the table. One man even gave us money! It was only 5 lira, but he insisted it was for good luck.

We got so lucky with great weather. We stayed near the Blue Mosque and Hagia Sofia and walked pretty much everywhere. I was surprised at how big the whole city of Istanbul is, but most of the big tourist attractions are located pretty centrally.

I'll tell you more about the big sights in my next posts, but first let me tell you about one of the best experiences I've had in a long time: an authentic hamam (Turkish bath). Dan and I researched places in advance and made bookings at Kilic Ali Pasa Hamami. This establishment is very traditional; men and women bathe separately. This actually worked out well since one of us was able to watch Zahara while the other bathed.

From the moment I walked in the door I was instantly transported to a state of pure zen. I was given some quince juice (so good!), a towel and some slippers. The bath was a gorgeous marble room with stunning skylights. I could have spent all day laying on the giant heated marble slab. I really enjoyed the whole process of washing, scrubbing and massaging.

Lobby [source]

My favorite part was when my lady grabbed the clean rag from the soap bucket, swung it around a few times and then wrung it out on top of me creating a giant bubble bath! It's hard to imagine, but I was covered head to toe in bubbles!

Steam Room [source]


I spent around two hours being pampered while Dan hung out with Zoey in town. He had his turn the next night when the bath opened for men. There's a Turkish Bath in Harrogate that I have yet to explore. Have you been there? Was it a similar experience?

I'll be back soon with more Istanbul highlights!

Read more about our trip to Istanbul:
Istanbul: Mosques and Markets
Istanbul: Final Thoughts

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