Published: October 26th 2012October 26th 2012
Mom admiring some old artifacts
Today was our last full day in Istanbul, which I am definitely sad about. I had an absolutely fabulous time here and I would definitely recommend Istanbul as a city to visit. Anyway, today was a day that we were on our own without a tour guide which was a nice change of pace. We were on our own schedule (which was good because I woke up late after last night's hookah excursion), but still had plenty of things planned. Shahar and Aunt Dalia left for Israel early in the morning and Uncle Keith, Grandma and Grandpa went on a cruise on the Bosphorus. This left myself, Mom, Aunt Karen and Uncle Jeff in the city on our own left to our own trouble-causing devices.
In an attempt to do at least one thing educational, we went to the Archeology Museum in the morning. I was not expecting much because I hadn't heard too much about it on the trip (except from Aunt Dalia who kept telling us all to go - and she was right), but I actually was pretty impressed. All I really knew about it was that it was outside of the Topkapi Palace and so I
One of the most magnificent pieces at the Archeology Museum
figured it was a small little museum that had a few things that were found in the ground when they were building the palace, but that is totally not what it is. It's a massive collection of archeological artifacts from all over the world - not just Turkey. I normally am not a huge fan of these types of museums (I wish I was, but it just isn't something that can usually hold my attention for long periods of time), but there were some really cool things! Their collections of sarcophagi (carved stone coffin-like boxes from all over Europe) were super impressive! I have never seen so many in my life in one place and they were in excellent condition. It was worth going just to see these pieces. We did not stay too long, so we definitely did not get a chance to see everything we could have, but it was definitely a place where someone could spend several hours if they wanted.
After the museum, we set out to do a little more shopping (as was actually the original plan for the majority of the day until a voice of reason - and I'm actually not even
Mourning Women Sarcophagus
Aunt Karen and I in front of another sarcophagus
sure which one of us it was - insisted that we do something historical). We found a nice pottery store and ended up back in a rug store that Aunt Karen had already been to two or three times. We sat sipping tea and eating chocolate in the rug store (which is a common practice to reel you in) while they showed us various rugs until it was time for the real adventure for the day - the Hamam.
We had been waiting all week to do the Hamam, which is more commonly known as the "Turkish Bath." I had a little bit of an idea about what this would be like - I knew that there was an area where the actual "bath" took place, which I just sort of assumed was a big communal jacuzzi area, and I also knew that some sort of "scrub down" was going to occur. I consider myself open-minded and I love experiencing new cultural things, so I was looking forward to it. (Let me pause here for a second and laugh at myself.)
Here is how it went down: Uncle Jeff went over to the men's side, while Mom, Aunt
The sneaky picture of the entryway room
Karen and I went to the women's side. The entrance area was a nice area where they had changing rooms, massage rooms, and lounge chairs to relax and drink tea - it looked lovely. I managed to snap a photo of the area before getting yelled at so I have included that as well. We were given little silk towels to wrap ourselves in after we changed out of our clothes and once the three of us were ready, they brought us into the Hamam. As I walked in and looked around, a little part of me may have died for a second. The scene before me was as follows - a large marble room divided into a few little sections that each had sink basins that filled up with warm water - and within each of these sections were naked women being scrubbed down from head to toe by older Turkish women in little silk wraps. Ummmm, WHAT?!
"It's cultural, it's a good story, it can't be that bad, you can do it, what on earth did I get myself into?" went my inner monologue as I took a deep breath and entered the Hamam clutching my tiny
Grandma sitting on her pillows at the restaurant! :)
silk wrap for dear life. They brought us over to the section that was facing the entrance way (great, everyone coming in will see me naked) and sat us down each next to our own basin. We all look at each other and soon we can't stop giggling, especially when one of the Turkish ladies comes over to the basin and uses a big brass bowl to completely drench my mother from head to toe when she was least expecting it. (She apparently was showing us that we need to keep drenching ourselves with the water bowl so that our pores open up.) We just start to lose it at this point - we are literally in one of the weirdest situations any of us has ever been in but there is nothing to do but deal with it. So I'm proud to say that is exactly what we did! When in Turkey, do as the Turks do and get a bath! We got scrubbed down, mud bathed, lathered with bubbles, washed off, massaged - it was literally a bath fit for sultans! My skin has never felt so amazing in my entire life and as weird as this may sound, I honestly would do it again. Once the initial giggle fit and waves of shock wore off, we really did enjoy ourselves. It was quite the experience and I would honestly recommend it!
After the bath, we all felt so relaxed and wanted to get a snack so we stopped in to a random little restaurant to get some grape leaves, lentil soup, Turkish pizza and some french fries (gotta have my fix every once in a while). We did a little more shopping, which ended us back in the rug store where we witnessed one of the most amazing feats of bargaining I've ever seen (bravo!) and the Abrams family (Aunt Karen) will be living this city with one more rug. We met up with Grandma, Grandpa and Uncle Keith for dinner at a place that had pillows for chairs and we sat enjoying each other's company for the rest of the night.
What a wonderful trip this was! I had such a fabulous time enjoying all of the things this city has to offer - friendly people, delicious food, amazing historical sites, beautiful scenery, great shopping, - I couldn't have asked for a better vacation, especially with my family! Istanbul, I hope to come back soon! :)