Washed By A Turkish Man


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Middle East » Turkey » Marmara » Istanbul
July 31st 2011
Published: July 31st 2011
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Turkey


July 18th - August 1st, 2011


Made it across into Turkey with no issues! Spent the first night at a beach resort town called Oludeniz Beach. Sarah had a friend recommend a place called Butterfly Valley which is where he has been and would be leaving the day we arrived. Butterfly Valley started in the 60’s and was a place where hippies went to be one with nature. Talking with much of the staff, it seems like it has kept its charm but due to new ownership this year, has begun to change quickly. The only way to reach BV is by a 30 minute ferry from Oludeniz which was rather interesting. On the ferry we met a German guy traveling solo who was living in Istanbul for 6 months and we ended up spending most of our time there with him also, it also helped cause he spoke some turkish! Sarah and I spent the first two nights in a tent that they already had setup but due to the heat, we spent our third night in a open-air bungalow which was much cooler. Sarah’s friend took us on this trek through the valley and up a mountain to a cool waterfall nearby. It is on this trek that BV gets its name cause there are something like 50 kinds of butterflys, many found only in this valley, that mate here. The valley itself is surround by mountains that are roughly 7,000 feet tall. The valley starts to narrow the deeper you walk in and you suddenly hit just cliffs which you have to climb to get to the waterfall, which has two parts. The bottom part was a pretty easy 10 minute climb to get to but then you reach the ropes they have setup next to signs that warn you about the dangers if you continue. This is how you get to the top part of the waterfall where you have to climb cliff faces with the rope that are between 10-20 feet each with nothing to stop you from falling hundreds of feet to your death. It was worth it. The waterfall was amazing. Afterward, we spent the rest of the day swimming in the nice waters and on the beach.

The next few days were spent mostly on the beach to give Sarah a chance to catch her tan up to my shade (so she thinks). This is when we met many of the workers and other guest, and wouldn’t you know it, it was mostly guys and they seemed to all flock to sarah, lol. But this is when i met a girl from Poland named Margret. We both happened to be playing with some of the rocks nearby but the only english she knows is how to count to ten. I did spend some time with her during the next two days but before my family gets all excited, she is 8 years old. Her dad did speak english and said he couldn’t believe that she liked me so much cause she never talks with guys. I felt lucky cause she was the most adorable thing and everyone there was trying to play with her, but she just followed me. We also learned that several turtles had laid eggs on the beach a few nights before but we didn’t see anything except the roped off areas. To escape the midday heat and the many tourist boats that come just for a few hours, i went to the common area and the german guy and some turkish people taught me how to play backgammon, a HUGE game here in Turkey. Who could have guessed a mathematical game that benefits risky players was right up my alley. Turns out i only lost a handful of times out of something like 30 games i played and i quickly became obsessed with it and plan on buying a good set when i get to the grand bazaar in istanbul. At night they would play a movie with a projector and a huge sheet hung between two trees which also let us see how big the spiders and other creatures were that are all around us when we sleep. In the middle of the movie, a spider bigger than my hand crawled on the screen and just sat there cause nobody wanted to be the one to move it. BV also had some great sunsets as you can see in my photos, which probably don’t do it justice. The ferry back turned out to be interesting and fun cause the waves suddenly got really big and choppy that the ferry couldn’t get close to the shore. We all had to jump overboard in our clothes (many with life jackets on) and swim for shore. The crew then put all our luggage into garbage bags and would toss them overboard and hope the makeshift assembly line was able to get them ashore, which I turned out to be part of and was swept off my feet several times cause of the waves. Luckily, all of my stuff and sarahs made it and surprisingly wasn’t wet.

That night we spent in a beach city called Fethiye which was pretty nice. This area is known for the turtles that are in the area and come in the beach to lay eggs. Once again, all we saw were some signs marking these areas. We did happen to get pretty lost and about 2.5 hours and three wrong buses later we had a bus driver just call our hotel which kindly just picked us up from some bar. To save some of my manhood, i had us pretty close to the hotel but the sunset quickly and when it started getting dark we asked directions and the guy gave us the absolutely wrong way and sent us on a packed bus 35 minutes in the wrong direction. Then we had to take it back which was just
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Our tent is in the back
as fun.

The next day we caught a four hour bus ride to Pamukkale. Pamukkale actually means “Cotton Castle” in Turkish and it was easy to see why. Despite it being roughly 100 degrees, there was a mountain that looked like it was covered in snow. It is actually a UNESCO Heritage site cause of the hot springs and travertines which are terraces of carbonate minerals from the water flowing down. On top are many ruins cause this mountain was used for healing purposes for several thousands of years. The clay or mud left behind is very similar to that of the dead sea in Israel and is very good for the skin, and i can say first hand it felt good and i had a good time soaking in it. There really wasn’t much else to do in this small city so Sarah and I just relaxed at our hotel, which by the way, was amazing. I couldn’t believe it by the look from the outside, but was pretty awesome. That night we caught a 10 hour overnight bus to Cappadoica. I slept maybe one hour. It’s funny cause even though i don’t sleep for long periods like most people, when I am tired, i could probably fall asleep at a rock concert. But for some reason, I can’t sleep on overnight buses. I sleep alright on planes, regular buses, cars, etc. but the second i know its an overnight bus i dont sleep. The seats were alright but this company, Metro, is supposed to be one of the best. The wifi didn’t work, the TV only had volume on one channel, which happened to be a channel that showed American movies, except the movies were dubbed over in Turkish. Thats what did it for me. I was watching a movie without volume, and if you know anything about me, my OCD and my love for movies, you would understand i couldn’t take my eyes off this two inch screen while listening to my ‘Total Eclipse of the Heart’ on my IPod. Alright, i wasn’t only listening to Total Eclipse.

Anyways, we pulled into Cappadocia about an hour after sunrise and right when the sun peaked out from behind the mountains (still about an hour away) i noticed in the distance 30-40 hot air balloons so I guessed that must have been the place. I
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BACKGAMMON!
don’t really know how to describe Cappadocia, its really not like any other place i’ve been. Like many places, the locals here are so nice and helpful but it’s known for the landscape. I guess i will begin by describing it as if fairy’s or gnomes really live on earth, this is where they would live. The entire time, sarah and i keep saying we expect a gnome to just jump out and start walking by. The area was formed by many lakes and rivers millions of years ago, but due to weather and volcanos in the area, it formed how it looks today over time. The unique structures are called Fairy Chimney’s cause well, thats what they look like. During the last few thousand years, people would carve their homes, churches, and everything else into these rocks which formed the city. There are also cities which are completely underground. All the hotels, restaurants, homes, and everything else are still built within, so everything is basically a cave with lighting. With so many unique geological sites in this one area, tourism is their main business and everything centers around it. As you will see, you can explore the area in just about anyway you wish.

After we checked into our cave hotel, Sarah and took a twenty minute walk in 100 degree weather to the Goreme Open Air Museum, another UNESCO site. This is basically how the city looked 1,000 years ago. We got to walk through many of the rock formations and see what each was used for. Most were churches (1,000 years ago was the Roman period when Christianity was the dominate religion in the area) and houses. After not sleeping and the heat, i could only stand to be there for about an hour or so which was actually plenty of time. Sarah stayed out and shopped, i went back to the hotel and slept. That night we had got tickets to see a whirling dervish show. This is when men would spin in circles as a form of meditation. I should have looked this up before going cause i knew nothing about it, but it didn’t live up to my expectations. I dont know exactly what i was expecting. First a bunch of guys in black spent 20 minutes walking out one by one and bowing, not saying a word. Then the band started playing some relaxing meditation music. About 10 minutes later 5 guys in white started spinning in circles for about 30 minutes to this relaxing music while another guy in black just walked in between them on this small floor. Then another 20 minutes of them taking a bow and leaving. That was it. I know this is a mediation practice, but i was expecting some more “show” to it. However, after the show it seemed like most people loved it, including Sarah. I guess i’m a little to hyperactive to appreciate it, maybe i should start meditating...

Since we saw so many hot air balloons on the way in, Sarah and i decided we should join every other tourist here and sign up for a ride. No problem, except it leaves at 4:45am. They did pick us up from our hotel and serve us breakfast before the flight took off about 30 minutes before sunrise. There were about 10 of us in our balloon and before you know it we were off. I was surprised to learn that the only thing the pilot controls is altitude, i did think they had some steering control but they really only
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This is what we climbed to get to the waterfall
can go where the wind blows. The whole time we are in the air, they had a pickup on the ground following us cause they have to land where ever they can, mostly on people’s farms. This was pretty amazing to see all the unique rocks, mountains, volcanos, towns and about one hundred other balloons in the air. The ride lasted about an hour and a half, but the last half hour was a bonus cause when we went to land, there were power lines directly beneath us and we were so low the wind wasn’t moving us. So we had to climb again. Then when we went to land the second time, we were directly over a river that was lined with buildings, so once again we couldn’t land and had to rise. Well first the pilot had a little laugh with us by telling us we have to land in the river and took the balloon about 5 feet above the water, i really thought then we were landing as well as everyone else, i did get it on video and will try to post that eventually. The third time we did end up landing on some hill
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The waterfall
pretty far from every other balloon. After we all got out, some easier than others, they had a little celebration party of champagne (or orange juice) and we all received medals (silver not gold). It was a real good time. After which, you might have guessed it, we took naps as the highlight of Sarah’s trip was approaching that night. For those that don’t know sarah, she loves horses and rides all the time, including show jumping. So she surprised me and signed up for a 4 hour horse ride through the valleys. It was me, her, and her new love, a turkish cowboy that spoke only a little english. This was basically the second time in my life i have ever been on a horse, so i had no idea what i was doing and my horse took advantage of me right away. She would stop at every bush and eat it and since she sensed i was nervous, she did that the entire 4 hours, although i did get a little better at stopping her. The other problem i had was when i was able to stop her from eating, she would start to run! That did not
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The waterfall. From left to right: Joe (the german), Brad Pitt, Sarah, Dave Stone
sit well with me and my private parts. The cowboy kept laughing and would say things like, “Your horse is much faster than ours so if she gets away we won’t be able to catch you.” We all had a good laugh, but he did say he wasn’t kidding, she was much faster but he did have an eye on her the whole time. As for the rest of the ride, when i was able to look up, the scenery really was just amazing. One of the best sites of my life, and Sarah said it was the best she has ever seen, i just didn’t know if she was talking about the landscape or the turkish cowboy. We did get to see the sunset over the mountains and make several water breaks which allowed us to talk to some locals. Another popular option to see the sites is by ATV, which is what I was hoping for and they were all around us. In the end though, i am glad we did the horses as it really was amazing, and you wouldn’t be able to get that same feeling flying by on an ATV. Afterward, we hung around the
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This is what we climbed to get to the waterfall
ranch for a little so sarah could talk horses and drink tea with them while i played with the cats wishing i had an icepack to place on my bottom.

Our last day in Cappadocia we went to the underground cities, after i took several pain pills. My butt, hips and everything in between were in so much pain and were actually swollen. It hurt to walk, stand or sit but I toughed thru it. There are several underground cities nearby and we choose the main one, Kaymakli. There are roughly 100 tunnels that go up to 8 stories underground, although only four floors are open to tourist. Everywhere you looked there was several tunnel options and if it wasn’t for some small little arrows over some, you could be lost in there for a long time. I thought the coolest part was the ventilation shafts which you couldn’t see the bottom of but felt a strong breeze of cool air always coming though. There were rooms used as storage, kitchens, churches, stables and living spaces, but most were labeled storage. After one claustrophobic hour in there, we headed back to our hotel and got ready for a
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This is my friend Margret. She followed me often
12 hour overnight bus to Istanbul.

Once again, madness on the bus. Despite how spoiled it makes me sound, the tv hardly worked and had no english, despite the fact that only 6 people on the bus spoke turkish. Wi-fi didn’t work again. Then a group of 20-25 french students decided to sit anywhere they wanted and messed up everyone else seating arraignments. This wasn’t really a problem until those 6 turkish people came on and the two eldest (probably in their 80s) demanded their seats, which made a group of spanish girls demand their seats, which pushed the finnish and argentinian and brazilian back, and so on and so on. Sarah was trying to get back on the bus when this happened and claims she got hit by the older turkish later (I responded by saying, “Hit her back”). The best was when everyone was yelling at the bus assistant in English but he didn’t speak any english and was trying to sort everything out. Quite entertaining and for once i finally slept on an overnight bus!

We are now finally in Istanbul, the last stop for sarah. Since our hotel is near the Blue
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Margret and myself
mosque, thats where we started after getting some food. The actual name is Sultan Ahmed Mosque but the inside is covered with blue tiles where it gets its nickname. I didn’t think this was anything special, seems like other mosques i have been in. The outside was huge and pretty cool though. Right near the blue mosque is one of the other main sites, the Hagia Sophia, so we headed on over. This was interesting cause it started as a church, then a mosque and now is just a museum. However, for over a thousand years it was the largest cathedral in the world and the inside was basically one massive room. I thought the coolest part were the lights, which were unfortunately only added recently but that person who picked them out should be in the lighting hall of fame. It was also cool to see Christian art next to Islamic art.

After sleeping in, I decided to fork over the money and pay someone to wash me. Alright, it wasn’t just that, I went to an authentic turkish bath. Based on recommendations by my favorite travel website, OTP, and by other travel website, everyone said to
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MORE BACKGAMMON!
go to Cemberlitas Hamami. This hamam was built in 1584 and has different sides for males and females. I decided to get the traditional style wash with the Indian head massage for something around $70. Besides the girl at the front desk, nobody spoke english and on the males side, there were no other tourist around, so needless to say, i looked like a fish out of water. All i was given was a box containing a exfoliating glove in its box and two chips saying “Bath” and “Massage” and was told to go to the changing rooms and get into my towel. After going to the wrong floor someone called me and gave me a changing room. After taking all my clothes off and putting my towel on, I headed back downstairs to the washing room. When I walked in there was a huge marble platform where you are supposed to lay on. The room felt a lot like a sauna and there was only one other person in there, a 50 something turkish man, already get washed. After about five minutes of laying on the heated marble looking at the giant dome above, a man walked in wearing only a towel and happily yelled something in turkish and when i looked over he was waving me to sit over there. This would be my washer. I handed him my tokens and he laid me down and opened my exfoliating glove and the first thing he said in English was “tip?” Despite reading online that you are not supposed to tip them, he kept repeating it over and over again. A few questions came to my mind... Why would i tip someone anything before they do their job? Why did i just pay $80 if i had to tip them, was it for the soap? Why did he keep repeating it, i’m lying naked on a table, did he think i had money hidden somewhere? Well through broken english and hand signals, he suggested i should come back after everything is done to tip him and began to scrub me with the glove. He did make a point to show me all the dead skin coming off (not helping him get a tip). After scrubbing me front and back for about 5 minutes, he went over to some sinks nearby and filled up a bucket and came back and dumped it on me. After lying me back down, he began with the bubble wash and another few buckets of hot water. After changing towels, he took me out to another room where he concentrated on scrubbing my face and if i had hair, he would have washed it. Once again he asked for a tip, just in case i snuck money in somewhere he didn’t just wash (not many spots he missed). Next he pointed to another room which was the massage room. After being told to change towels again, i went into the massage room and waited for my masseuse to come in. After about 10 minutes he came in and began. I choose the massage that concentrated on back, neck, and face (my back and neck has been killing me since the horse riding). At first it was relaxing till finally another local and a foreigner came in and they told the local to sit and wait, the problem was they sat him against a wall directly between my legs facing me. This dude was forced to look up my towel from roughly two feet away for about 20 minutes while my masseuse kept yelling and joking with the other masseuse. Afterward i was told to shower and once again, change towels before walking upstairs to change back to my clothes. When i came back down to wait for sarah, guess who was waiting... my washer waiting for his tip, but since he is around the other staff he wasn’t actually asking for it. I went outside to get a drink and a quick smoke hoping he would have another customer. I came back in but he just stood behind a counter as I waited for sarah who came after about 15 minutes. I told her we had to get out quick and we double timed it. In the end, i am glad we did try it, if it wasn’t for the price, the “tip” guy, or sitting a dude between my legs while i’m naked, i really would have enjoyed it much more, but i did feel cleaner then i have since i left.

After the bath, we headed to the Grand Bazaar, one of the biggest and oldest in the world. It was built in 1455 and covers roughly 60 covered streets with over 4,000 shops with something like 300,000-500,000 visitors a day. Although there are so many shops, they all seemed to sell the same thing and you feel so crowded and hassled. I lasted about an hour and told Sarah i would meet her back at the hotel in a few hours. Since, i was on my own, i figured now would be a good time to search for a McDonald’s so I wouldn’t get yelled at but i couldn’t find one. Very disappointed. Ends up Sarah bought a good number of things, including a real nice backgammon with a Star of David on it, i am pretty jealous. After dinner we decided to just walk around all the major sites at night to see them all lit up. We ran into a free dance concert which was kinda interesting.

The next day we went to the Topkapi Palace, the primary residence of the Ottoman sultans. While in line to get tickets, standing right behind us was an Australian couple we had met the week before in Pamukkale staying in our hotel. We decided to skip the tours and the four of us would do the palace together and make up our own history for things. The items on display at first were all the jewels, “spoils of war” and clothes of the sultans. All i can say is ridiculous. There was so much gold and so many diamonds, emeralds, and other precious stones in everything. Their jewelry boxes had more jewels then i have ever seen. The prized possession is known as the Spoonmaker’s Diamond or Kasikci, an 86 carat diamond I believe is the 4th largest in the world, or something like that. If that wasn’t enough, it was set surrounded by 50 smaller diamonds. It actually hurt my eyes just looking at it. Then I learned its called the Spoonmaker’s diamond because a poor fisherman found it in a garbage dump in the 1600‘s and took it to a jewelers which told him it was glass and they would give him three spoons for it, and he sold it. Somehow through history, it once belonged to figures like Napoleon’s mother and Maria Antoinette. Another building hosts some other extremely important treasures of a different sort. Historical items such as a pot that belonged to Abraham, Joseph’s turban, Moses’ walking stick, David’s sword, Muhammad’s footprint, letter, clippings of his beard, swords, bow, and a tooth are all on display. It also hosts the keys to the Kaaba (Muslim’s most sacred site in Mecca), as well as a gutter and a door from the Kaaba among other things. I have always been pretty skeptical about items like that cause how can you really trace a broken clay bowl to one belonging to the Abraham from the bible? Either way, these items were very cool to see but pictures were not allowed inside anywhere, but i will try to find some online or I will check my camera cause it happens to just start taking pictures on its own when its told its not allowed. Afterward, the four of us did a little shopping (really only the girls) before we headed to the spice bazaar and for a quick coffee before finally getting out of the heat and relaxing. After dinner Sarah and i hit up a hookah/water pipe bar before heading back to the hotel.

On our last day in Istanbul, we basically tried to take it easy and just hit up the shopping areas for last minute souvenirs (once again, the only thing i bought was another external hard drive so i would be able to hold all the pics sarah took). After resting from all the walking, we started to pack our bags and swap photos before heading to a late dinner and to bed cause sarah has to be up at 4:20am to catch her flight. My flight isn’t till later in the day so I will be heading back to the Grand Bazaar to look for some t-shirts since somewhere along the way i lost at least one shirt and i’m sending sarah home with a few others i bought. Somehow my bag does not feel any lighter but we will see. Speaking of weight, our hotel has a scale and I now weigh 70-71 kilograms (roughly 155 pounds).

Now I have about 24 hours of flying and layovers ahead of me. I know what your thinking, where am I going now? My next stops are to Bali for a few days before heading to Australia. I can already hear you asking, “Didn’t you just come from southeast Asia?” Why else would a reasonably smart guy fly halfway across the world to an area he just came from? Well you will have to wait and see...


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Pamukkale

Now i dont need to shower for a week


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