September 14, 2004

Boating on the Bosphorus and Bathing, Turkish Style

Today we were joined by Luke, a fellow recovering executive of Kiwi descent, on a day-long excursion via ferry from Istanbul to the mouth of the Black Sea. Along the way we crossed over the continental divide between Europe and Asia many times and passed beneath the world's fourth longest bridge:

Not nearly as aesthetically appealing as the Golden Gate but still pretty cool

The Bosphorus featured some of the most scenic coastline we've laid eyes on and is dotted with remote fishing villages, one of which we disembarked at for a bite of fish and a bit of ice cream. While ordering the meal was an adventure and fraught with much confusion it was nevertheless quite tasty (especially the "fishcakes" -- really crepes with baked fish inside...yum).

We worked off lunch with a hike up to an old fortress perched on a cliff overlooking the mouth of the Black Sea (it looked as scenic as it sounds):

J and Friend Luke

The not so Black Black Sea

After our return trip J and I decided to treat ourselves to a Turkish Bath at the famous 300-year-old Cagaluglu. Franz Liszt, Florence Nightingale, Omar Sharif, Kaiser Wilhelm and even Cameron Diaz (she really does make the list more meaningful, no?) are among the bath's bathers. We opted for the "Sultan Treatment" which promised a feeling of being "reborn" post-bath for a nominal fee of $30 PP. While the death penalty is no longer enforced for men being caught in the ladies section, unfortunately my passage was limited to the guys-only side, as were the attendants working on me. However, when in Turkey...

After changing I was ushered into the "hot room" where the bath took place was certainly atmospheric -- a huge dome and marble floor to ceiling:

My Olympus (the CAMERA, sickos!) stood up admirably in the steam & heat

The temp and humidity was also better than "bearable" -- it was hot but not "oh my god I can barely stand this sauna" hot. After hanging for ~ 30 minutes on the warm, wet marble pedestal (starring at the star-like windows of the dome overhead -- way cool) my attendant came in to give me the roughest massage/pummeling I've had at the hands of a masseuse (not helped by the hard marble floor it was conducted on). He then directed me to one of the many bath sections facing the center of the room and grabbed an instrument that was part oven mitt, part brillo pad and proceeded to scrub me 'til the tears intermingled with sweat. Now you ladies may very well be used to loofahs and exfoliants (as Janet tells me they are called) but yours truly has been assured that this method could be best characterized as "industrial strength."

Of course when my attendant friend asked if the torture--err treatment-- was "good" I replied yes in the most manly tone I could muster. He then filled a marble basin with steaming hot water which he unceremoniously dumped on my exfoliated skin. Next he grabbed a bunch of soap and had me lay back on the marble. Now I certainly would characterize myself as a liberal kinda guy but the washing even made this fellow a bit uncomfortable. But I braved it and gratefully followed to a bench post-scrub. Our friend again dosed me with thankfully cooler water, then proceeded to wash my hair. Actually, washing does not quite capture it...picture a sopping wet dog in a wash basin getting his coat thoroughly scrubbed by an impatient owner. Then, more hot/cold water I was finished.

I have to say that I was glad I experienced it, but it would NOT be on the list of my favorite spa experiences. Janet's was a bit less on the gruff side, but a bit less gentle then she would have preferred. Next time -- if there is one -- I'm sneaking in to the girl's side.

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