The last day of our honeymoon came to a close in Istanbul, although it started out in Crete. Our flight left Crete at 6:30AM so we had to leave our villa at 4AM in order to get there in time, return the rental car, and get through security. Thankfully the Chania airport is, frankly, dinky, so we didn’t have to run through the place to get anywhere on time. During our flight from Crete to Athens we witnessed a wonderful sunrise. I wish we were sitting by the window so I could have taken a million pictures. But, I was in the middle seat, I totally asked the stranger at the window if I could lean over him and get a good photo though! Once in Athens we boarded another flight to Istanbul. There we would spend the next 20 hours or so finishing up sightseeing and bumming around at the airport until our flight Saturday (my birthday!) at 6AM.
We first took the Metro to Asia. Yes, to another continent. Istanbul is in two continents, Europe and Asia. They recently built a metro line that goes under the Marmara Sea and to the ‘Asia side’ of Turkey. There was still some minor construction going on but the metro was still in full swing. I guess I can say I’ve been to 3 continents now.. although I was only in Asia for an hour or so. While we were there we grabbed some döners and cola. Döners are the ‘fast food’ of many european countries. It’s sliced lamb or chicken in a pita with lettuce, tomato, pickle, and even french fries. It’s delicious, and really cheap.. our favorite combo! After lunch we walked along the sea, watching the old men fishing with their massive poles, we weren’t sure what fish they were going after with such huge poles! It looked like they could catch something as big as a human! While walking along the sea we stumbled upon some padded seating on the wall of the sea. We sat down and were brought some traditional turkish tea. Coincidentally we were about to go and find a place to have some, so we lucked out! The tea was ok, it was black tea from what I can tell, not sure what was so Turkish about it, besides the fact that people here literally drank it ALL the time! I’m sure they would prefer to have an IV of it if the option was available.
The same Metro took us back to Europe where we visited Basillica Cistern. It was full of tourists, but I had been wanting to see it, so we did. For being a place that just held water for the city, think an underground water tower, it sure was beautiful. The lighting was very dim and it felt a bit spooky, but that’s what made it so special. There were huge columns every few feet, each with intricate designs, and also gigantic fish swimming in the water that was surrounding us on the ground. Once we visited the cistern we had some time to kill so we relaxed in the park in the middle of town. I closed my eyes for a bit and soaked in the sun. We didn’t have a place to sleep that night so we had to occupy ourselves until about midnight, when the last train ran for the airport. After getting annoyed with the stray cats begging for food, we decided to head to the spice bazaar one last time and look around. At the spice bazaar we picked up a few things for our family and ourselves. I got a tile that I want to put into a frame and also a bracelet for myself.
It was about time to grab dinner so we found a place in Çemberlitas. It was right next door to the turkish baths (hamam) that we were wanting to take after dinner. We ate on the second floor of the restaurant, enjoying the view of the people below going about their day. There were some young kids picking through the trash and then wheeling these dollies 10 times bigger than them around, full of trash. We were trying to wait until the latest possible second to get our Turkish bath, that way we would be spending less time in the airport. At around 815PM we headed into the Turkish bath. It looked super shady from the outside but I had already seen photos of the inside so I knew that there was nothing to worry about. We headed inside and experienced the most amazing ‘outside of our comfort zone’ situation ever.
When you first walked in you looked at the menu and decided what you wanted with your treatment. BHW got the traditional bath and I got that plus a 30 minute massage. After paying we split off into separate areas of the bath, the men and the women are separated for the entire experience. Once inside there was a changing area with lockers. I was given bathing suit bottoms, a wrap, and some sandals. I had done a wee bit of research before entering so I sort of knew what I was getting myself into. What I did expect was all the people, it was getting late on a Friday, didn’t people have a party to go to or something? For some reason I was expecting the place to myself! haha! I opened the door to the hamam and there were about 30 ladies, just in their undies, laying on this huge marble stone underneath a dome that was letting in the last of the days light. Around them there were other women (mainly older ladies), in bikinis, scrubbing everyone down with mitts and about 8 inches think of bubbles! I tried not to act shocked and found a place on the marble stone. The stone was warm and the room was steamy, opening our pores for the bath part of the experience. I laid on the stone for about 15 minutes and then someone poured water on my foot. I was near where some ladies were getting bathed so I thought it just splashed my way and ignored it. I then got a little smack on my foot and heard ‘Lady, come.’ I got up and was greeted by a really sweet lady who spoke little english. I don’t know her name, but she wore a badge (kind of like a name tag) with the #40 on it. I don’t want to refer to her as a number, but it’s all I’ve got. She instructed me to lay on my belly and she poured warm water all over me. She then took a mitt/loofah and scrubbed me. I was then told to flip over and was scrubbed then to sit up and was scrubbed so she could get me squeaky clean. The woman noticed I had a sunburn on my stomach and pointed to it and made a face of sympathy. That was one thing I was nervous about people seeing, not me, completely exposed, but me with a weird sunburn line. After the scrub I flipped back to my belly and was met with the weirdest sensation! I actually don’t know what was happening because I couldn’t see it, but it felt like I was being engulfed in a bubble of bubbles! It was like she was pouring bubbles on me! I couldn’t stop smiling. After the washing, which included my hair, she rinsed me off. I was then told to go to the jacuzzi and relax for as long as I wished. I got up to go to the jacuzzi, went to grab my wrap, now soaking wet, to cover myself a little more, when she ripped the wrap from me and wagged her finger at me. She said ‘jacuzzi first, then get green wrap.’ Well, ok then. There went all my chances at being modest. I scurried to the jacuzzi, only a 15 foot walk, but while walking there I got an overwhelming feeling of empowerment. I’m not sure why being in a room full of not so clothed ladies made me feel that way, but I was oddly comfortable with the whole situation. I got to the jacuzzi and hopped in for about 10 minutes or so. There were a few other ladies in there but no one spoke, except for the few people that came in little groups of 2 and 3 together. I’m not a fan of anything hot; summer, bathtubs, saunas, etc, so I didn’t stay in there for too long. I got out and went to the waiting room for massages. There was a long line but I sat calmly, soaking in what just happened in that crazy marble room. It was finally my turn for my massage and I was taken back to a room that had 6 massage tables in a row. There were no dividing curtains but I was pretty used to that seeing as what just happened in the bath. The massage was decent, icing on the cake from the bath. Once finished, I met up with BHW at the cafe inside and we talked about our experiences. Both of us came away with a positive experience, feeling relaxed and refreshed.
We then headed to find some hookah and tea before our journey to the airport. The man at the cafe of the hamam told us to go to a little place down the street. I was glad we took his advice because it was a good place where the locals went, not a single tourist around. We got a big hookah and I ordered a turkish tea, this time apple, while BHW ordered a Sahlep (a warm milk drink with cinnamon). We relaxed there for an hour or so, enjoying the quiet alley where the hookah cafe was. We started getting nervous about missing the last metro to the airport so we left and caught the metro. Aside from the fact that we were packed in the metro car like sardines, the ride there went smoothly and we arrived without a hitch. Once we got to the airport we thankfully found a couch and snuggled in for a good rest, or so we thought.
At our wedding we had the guests vote on where they thought we should go for our honeymoon, and they voted Greece! So, 11 months later, we are finally making the journey! Turkey and Greece, here we come!