What an amazing destination! A land draped in ancient tradition, breath-taking monuments and giant meat rotisseries.
We are staying in a little hotel fairly near the center of the old city. Each night we go to bed listening to the chants that fill the night sky. It is so atmospheric.
The boys have embraced this wonderful culture and can be found at the breakfast buffet, filling their mouths with olives, goats cheese, meats and cucumber. I’m not so enamoured by such fare first thing. I can be found sitting at my table for one (the tables only fit 4) drinking black tea and trying not to watch Tom eat his cold boiled egg with cucumber.
We visited the Blue Mosque, which has a gigantically proportioned outside and an interior that is intricately decorated in blue mosaic tiles. The boys loved watching me don a headscarf for the entry and I think Robb secretly fantasised about the idea of a dutiful, subservient wife. (Joke)
I had heard about the Hamams (Turkish baths) and was keen to try one out. So after a bit of googling I settled on the oldest one in Istanbul. On arrival, I was asked to change into a bikini and shorts. Ok, except that the bikini top was not exactly made to measure. It would have been ok for a 12 year old on the verge of puberty, perhaps! Anyway, I awkwardly made my way to the communal, marble room. There was a heated, giant, marble slab in the center and around the perimeter were taps and basins that could be filled with cold water. The room was heated to between 40 and 60 degrees. The idea was to lie on top of the slab amongst the heat and humidity. I was at the taps within about 10 seconds. After an excruciating half hour, I was called by a young Turkish lad for my bath. He took me to a little room just off to the side and had me lie on a slab. It was here that he loofered me to the bone. After that shock, he threw cold water over me (i was boiling) and the extreme temperature change lifted me into the air. Before I had time to recover, I was being slid up and down tha marble slab and savagely manipulated. I think that was the massage. Then I was covered in a mountain of foam, scrubbed again and doused in the freezing water. Finally my hair was washed and pulled from my scalp simultaneously. Then it was over. I shuffled across the marble floors in little wooden shoes that had been provided and deliriously burst through the exit doors and into a sitting room. I was both shocked and invigorated. If skin could sparkle, mine would have been gleaming.
We also meandered our way through the halls of the Grand Bazaar. Shop after shop pedaling an assortment of ware. I was surprised to see many ‘Fake’ collections of designer handbags, jeans etc were also on display. For respite, we sat at beautifully decorated cafes. Chairs with padded seats and rich colored cushions added an exotic element to these eateries. Robb savoured the Turkish coffee, whilst I became a fan of apple tea. The boys were in awe of the water pipes. Having been brought up in an anti smoking era, they had no qualms in expressing their distaste by coughing and spluttering every time a waft of smoke blew their way. The Turks were oblivious, however, the odd Aussie tourist glanced at them sheepishly.
The sunsets in this land are magnificent. One balmy evening, we decided to eat dinner in a terrace, to capitalise on the view. We arrived in the full light of the day and sat and watched as sky performed it’s magic. The grey smog of the city slowly changed to amber and orange as the sun began to fade. Then an unexpected finale! The amber hues dissolved and in their place, layers of fairy floss pink and vibrant shades of violet hugged the silhouettes of ancient mosques and the expansive land wall, that for centuries has separated Asia and Europe.
This is our last night in Turkey. Henry and I went strolling after dinner to buy some fresh and chewy Turkish delight to take with us. Walking back to the hotel, we soaked up it’s sounds and smells as we walked hand in hand. His little nine year old face looked up at mine, brimming with happiness and life.