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Published: October 23rd 2015
Ephesus was probably an ancient city too far. We didn't enjoy it very much – too many tour groups and too much restoration / rebuilding. So now it's on to the end of the Silk Road, Istanbul.
This is a real city – crowded, vibrant, noisy, chaotic, dirty in parts, run down and renovated buildings next to each other, every colour and creed of human, a huge choice of places to stay and eat, and a few fantastic places to visit. We like it, with one exception, the awful adhan's (Muslim call to prayer) that blare from the loudspeakers of the many, many mosques – why don't they choose a muezzin with a melodic voice ffs ?
Since we started planning this trip I'd decided a Turkish Bath was one of the things I wanted to do in Istanbul. Wandering around Sultanahmet the other day we stumbled across the historic Gedikpasa Bath, built in 1475. This afternoon while the weather was cool, grey and rainy I headed over there. It was an experience. Stage one is the steam room – bloody hell it was so hot it hurt to breathe. Mercifully after about 5-10 minutes it was my turn
for the next procedure, a body scrub. After being sat down on the marble floor and my head pushed forward and down toward my knees (thank God I was sitting not kneeling) the masseur – a big, hairy old Turkish fellow (they are always the same sex) proceeded to chuck scalding hot water over me before roughly taking the scrubber to my body. Then it was back to the steam room again, putain. After a few more minutes cooking it was back out for the soapy massage. The big marble platform they do this on slopes down toward the edge, I guess so that the water runs off, sounds like a good idea except a soaped up body also slides toward the edge so the masseur constantly pushed me around like a fish on the fishmongers slab. Rinsing was of course more scalding water being liberally thrown over me. Normally an oil massage is relaxing, lets just say it's different in a Turkish Bath. After a shower it was time for more soaping, this time sitting up, another rinse – you know the routine by now, and finally a dip in the pool. I'm happy I got to do it
but doubt I'll be rushing back.
The male same sex theme has been common right the way through central Asia, from men dancing together in Tajikistan, to walking arm in arm or hand in hand in eastern Turkey, to the masseurs in the Turkish Bath, to cafe's where there are no women customers. I guess it's a result of the religion that treats women the way it does. Their choice but to me it makes life less rich, varied and interesting as do all the other restrictions their faith places on them.
Asia is behind us now, tomorrow we head to Bulgaria.
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