Turkey Stories and Tips

Turkish Bath and First Day in Istanbul

We arrived in Istanbul on a night train from Sofia, Bulgaria. This made two night trains in a row. The evening before we had ridden from Romania to Sofia. Desperately in need of a shower, we headed to a Turkish bath to get ourselves cleansed. For $20, we got the works—soaped, scrubbed, exfoliated, massaged, and bathed. Definitely one of the wisest $20 I have ever spent. The bath we went to was single sex, but there are co-ed baths if that’s your thing. This is how it works ...

The bath people give you a key to your own private room with a bed and you strip and leave all your belongings there. Wrapped in a towel, you walk out and are greeted by a wrinkled old obese woman. (Guys, perhaps you are greeted by a senile fat man?!) She takes you into the marble bathing area and instructs you to leave your towel behind and lay naked on the marble slab. So that you feel at ease, she too, is unclothed. Not exactly a pretty site, but you can just close your eyes and relax. The woman scrubs and scrubs ‘til she gets all the nasty grime off of you. Believe me, I was rather embarrassed at how much dirt came off of me, but after 6 weeks of traveling and sweating, the grime really builds up. Anyway, after she finally gets all the dirt off to reveal your real skin, she soaps you and gives you an invigorating full- body massage. Then she washes your hair and gives you a scalp massage. After she soaps you, you can take your time rinsing off at the faucets and soaking in the large bath. When you’re finished bathing, you go back to your room and can lie down and rest on the bed. When you’re dressed and ready to leave, the woman brings you hot apple tea and you slip her the well-deserved tip. There’s no doubt that you’ll leave the bath feeling relaxed and squeaky clean.

Since we had been rejuvenated, we decided to book our overnight bus to Ephesus for that evening. (Now that I’m a whopping 2 years older, I can’t imagine how I was able to sleep 3 consecutive nights on trains and buses, but I was young once....) Once we took care of that, we headed to the Blue Mosque and then wandered through the Covered Bazaar which is an experience in itself. There are a zillion stalls set up there selling everything from jewelry to spices to rugs to tacky T-shirts and Turkish Delight (a chewy candy). If you are Asian like me, all the vendors will think you are Japanese (I’m not) and follow you around saying "Sayonara or Arigato." Maybe they think that I will be impressed by their extensive Japanese vocabulary and buy something from them. It’s irritating, but I’ve learned to ignore it.

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