My trip to Istanbul has been over a year in the making. My girlfriends and I had a week long trip planned along the Turkish coast last summer, but we changed it last minute due to the political unrest. Our replacement trip to Croatia more than sufficed, but I still had a flight voucher to Istanbul and an itch to check out the city.
Jon and I made it a family affair and met his sister, brother-in-law, nieces, nephew, and mom for a long weekend in Istanbul.
Because I’d had a year to think about this trip, I had a bucket list of things I wanted to do. High up on that list was the Turkish baths. In search for the baths, we stumbled across the Grand Bazaar and figured we might as well check it out. Boy was it grand.
Prior to the trip, while packing, Jon laughed when I told him to pack an extra suitcase for our new rug. This was no laughing matter in my opinion, so he unwillingly threw it in anyways. When the first rug store salesman asked if we would like to come in, I quickly agreed, and within seconds we were seated and tea was served.
They started pulling out rugs that didn’t suit me, but they did spur the discussion of what I really wanted. The man turned to me like he had a secret and said, “I think you are going to like my personal designs.” He proceeded to bring out the most beautiful rug I’d ever laid eyes on. There was no turning back. It took us a full hour of talking Jon into quadrupling our rug budget (granted his budget was way off to start), but I’m happy to report that our extra suitcase was 100% necessary. The rug is ours to keep. (picture coming soon!)
Next up were the Turkish baths, also known as a Hamam. We opted for the body scrub and massage package at the Cemberlitas Hamami. I changed into my Turkish towel and provided undies, and headed to the warm room.
Upon entering, I was led to the large marble slab where you laid on your towel under the domed skylight until it was your turn. I was warming up and thinking about how great it would be to do yoga on that slab, when suddenly my thoughts were interrupted by a big splash of warm water all over my body. I guess it was my turn. A Turkish woman, dressed in her bra and undies, started scrubbing me all over. Then a 6 inch layer of foam formed over my body. Then she lead me to the sink where she washed my hair, all the while pouring warm water all over every chance she got. It was totally weird and totally awesome. After my scrub down, I was feeling awfully clean. A new woman gave me a 30 minute oil massage, but it should probably called an oil rub down. Not much massaging going on. Jon and I both agreed that next time, we skip the massage and just do the body scrub. We left feeling so fresh and so clean, and ready for the rest of the day.
The family arrived and they were hungry. We ate all forms of kebab.
And went back to the bazaar to eat some more. Turkish delights in particular. Ooh were they tasty. Little bites of gummy candy filled with any and all kinds of nuts.
And while walking back to the apartment, we stopped for some fresh juice.
And some window shopping.
The next day, we wanted to take a cruise along the Bosphorus. We headed down to the water and grabbed some fish sandwiches under the Galata bridge before boarding our boat.
We enjoyed our short boat ride down the river. I don’t recommend the 5 hour ride…2 hours was plenty!
We made a pit stop at the Spice Market before our dinner reservations. I wanted to buy one of everything, but I settled for a few spices that I need in order to recreate the delicious Turkish food.
We found our dinner restaurant, Imbat, and we were seated on the roof of a hotel, away from the hustle and bustle of the city streets. Dolmas, shrimp, and meat…
and a great view. I highly recommend it!
On our way home, we got to see the Blue Mosque at night…
and we decided to wake up early and take the tour on our last day.
I guess I imagined the inside to look similar to a Catholic Church, forgetting the part that it’s an entirely different religion, thus a different place of worship. We were given head scarfs and fabric to cover our legs before heading in. We took off our shoes and entered the carpeted and completely empty room.
The domes and ceiling were beautifully decorated, but the whole time all I could think about was the massive Mosque without a chair, table, or any furniture in sight.
The last piece to our trip was a Turkish cooking class. I took so many pictures that it deserves it’s own post, but I’ll give you a little sneak preview.
What a wonderful city. I can’t wait to return and explore some of the smaller Turkish cities to get a better taste of their true culture. Though I have to say, touristy Istanbul tasted good enough to want to go back for more.