Thursday, November 5, 2009

The Blue Mosque and Hagia Sofia and a Turkish Bath. Oh my!

You read that like "lions and tigers and bears," right? Because you were supposed to.

I was apparently all about being a tourist and doing all tourist stuff yesterday. The Blue Mosque was amazing. For me it was about 10 times better than La Sagrada Familia in Barcelona. My pictures will totally not do it justice at all, but:
That section in the front (on the floor) is where the men pray. Visitors aren't allowed to cross a certain point into the mosque. When you arrive at the visitors entrance, you take your shoes off and put them in a plastic bag. Most people carried these with them, rather than leave them unattended. Women are supposed to have their heads covered, but I was quite surprised that a full 50% of them (I'm guessing) didn't. Now, I understand that the Blue Mosque is essentially a tourist's mosque, but it's still in use by practicing Muslims. I think it's disrespectful to not follow the culture. But they were still let in, so, whatever.

Then I headed to Hagia Sofia, right across the street. The Hagia Sofia is a cathedral that was constructed sometime around 532 A.D. and converted into a mosque when the Ottoman Turks conquered Istanbul (then Constantinople) in 1453. Again, my picture doesn't do it justice, but this is my favorite shot because it gives an idea of the size. And I like all of the columns and arches.
Next up was the Turkish bath. I had tried to go to one the other day, but wouldn't you know it? I got lost. Not too lost, but by the time I got there it was less than an hour before they closed and they didn't take credit cards, so I just gave up. The bath I chose was the Çemberlitaş Hamam. It was more expensive than the other one (55 lira vs. 25 lira), but it's well known and was very easy to find so it was worth it. Also, I couldn't take pictures (for obvious reasons), so be sure to click on that link if you want to see what it looks like.

The bath was quite the experience. Women and men have their own sections. When you arrive you're shown to a locker to chang
e and lock up your stuff. You walk (in a towel and flip flops) down to the massage room and are told to lay anywhere you can find a spot on the belly stone. (It's a hot slab of marble in the center of the room.) For someone who's never done this before, it's a bit of a shocking scene. Women everywhere are walking around naked from the waist up, wearing only underwear and flops. Wild. So you lay on the stone for awhile and it's kind of like being in a sauna. When it's your turn for a massage, you move to the edge of the stone. Cool water is poured over you and then you are soaped up and scrubbed. This lasts for about 15 minutes and then you're rinsed off and your hair is shampooed. From here, you have your choice of two pools, one at 38 C and the other 36 C. You can go back and forth from the belly stone to the pools as much as you want. When you're finished, you get a fresh towel (because you've been walking around without one all this time) and then head to your locker to change. It was strange, but you got used to the nakedness after awhile, and it really was very relaxing.

After my day of being a tourist, I met up with CSers for the Istanbul weekly meeting and rabble-rousing. I wanted it to be a late night because tonight can't be; I have to leave the house tomorrow morning at 8:30am to make my flight since I'm taking public transportation. I was successful in my mission! I stayed out until 4am or so and slept in til 11:30am. Today was SUNNY! For the first time since I got here. I went to the Spice Bazaar as that was the last thing I really wanted to see before I left.
Since it was so nice and sunny out, I had lunch in a square outside a mosque and wrote postcards while I watched stray cats beg for scraps. It was a relaxing day and a good way to say goodbye to Istanbul. And now, I'm heading out to meet up with a CSer for dinner. My next post will be from the African continent!


  1. The pictures you took are beautiful! I can
    imagine how beautiful it is in person. Your
    bath sounded relaxing, but you have more guts
    then me. Have a nice trip friday and let us know when you arrive. (I'm sure you will anyway). Stay safe sweetie love ya

  2. Shan I am enjoying your travels and the pics are great, I would have to agree with Mom, you have a lot of guts, but like they always say need to go with the flow. The spices looked great. Are they imported or do they come directly from there?


  3. Mom and Mawsie - Everything you do takes a little bit of guts, though. You just don't think about it because most of the time, you're doing something that you've done tons of times before. On the other hand, one person's guts is another person's craziness. :-) And Mawsie, as far as I know, the spices come from Turkey. They could be imported but I don't think they are.

  4. WOW.. so amazing. The spices look so wonderful!!! You sound like you are having the time of your life. How terrific!!! Be safe on your fantastic voyage.

  5. Linda, how perfect that you commented on the post that featured a spice picture! I hope you're still cooking a lot and making lots of yummy dishes. Check back soon because I'm going to have a post on some of the crazier Turkish dishes that I ate. :-)