This is the first time I’m staying in a hostel. Usually I can find an Airbnb around the same price in a great location but not this time. The experience was going well and I thought maybe I was wrong about the whole thing. Oh, just give it time. Two new roommates showed up toward the end and they seem to be taking it easy for tourists but they were just resting up for the real fun. I was hoping to get a good night’s sleep before my flight the next day but I half awoke to the sound of my roommates stumbling in, at least one is drunk. They brought a guy in too. A hostel employee came to our room to kick him out. The situation keeps going but let’s leave it at that. I was too old for it in college and I haven’t gotten any younger.
Today is the last day in Istanbul. It always seems like there’s a lot of time but it’s quick. I got to visit all the sites on my list so I’m content with that but would have like to try more traditional food. Next time.
Here’s a twenty page paper on what a Turkish bath is like.
I leave my stuff at the hostel and head over to my appointment at Kılıç Ali Paşa Hamam. It’s a lovely place right next to a mosque by the same name. Unfortunately no photos are allowed inside. I didn’t read much about the Turkish bath experience otherwise I would have brought a second pair of underwear. All I know is the place has good reviews and the day is split so the first half of the day is for woman and the second half is for men only.
I show up sweating profusely from the late morning heat. I’m just happy I made it without incident. Everyone ignored the sweat and greeted me kindly. I sat at one of the tables to sign in and as every guest, was given a small glass of sherbet. It was delicious and I sipped it like the lady I am instead of demanding a gallon of water to chug.
I’m given a key to the locker/changing room. There’s four or five changing rooms with about 6 lockers inside. Inside the locker is a pair of slippers and a towel, which is all you wear plus panties for the next hour. I have my towel on, hoping it doesn’t unravel as I walk back downstairs.
Another woman escorts me to the first room. She adjusts my towel so it only covers the waist. I sit near the sink and she pours water from a bowl onto me.
I walk to the next room which is where the actual bathing happens. I was under the impression that it was private but it’s not. There’s a couple women already in the process of being washed. It’s too late to be shy now. I’m told to lay down on the marble center. The marble is warm and the room feels like a sauna. With my back, it’s uncomfortable at first but my body relaxes and I could have taken a nap. I’m there for awhile. I recieve a glass of water and it’s show time.
The towel is gone and I’m a healthy grown woman being bathed by a stranger. It is werid at first. She pours water over me and I’m never sure of its temperature. She puts on a mit and scrubs me down. This is suppose to be a big deal because the mitten is designed to take off all the layers of dead skin. More water is poured. Another mit is use– this is like sanding wood, you use the coarser one first and then a lesser grain to finish it off. More water.
Now it’s my favorite part. She has a cloth bag that’s all wet and soaped up. She moves the bag side to side to fill it up with air like a balloon. She slides her hand to the bottom of the bag and foamy bubbles cascade all over. It’s like the Hollywood movie with the most ridiculous amount of foam in a bubble bath. She does this several times.
Water is clearly not an issue as the basin over flows spilling onto the floor where the drains are. All bubbly, I’m washed down and lightly massaged. She finds the terrible knot I have from my purse. My hair is washed too. Then I’m rised off.
I’m dried and wrapped in a new towel along with one for my hair and another to drap over my shoulders. I’m back in the main room where I can lounge and order fancy drinks and snacks. I almost take a nap. That’s the whole experience. Is this what is spa is like because I need to keep this going. I proceed to sweat all over again on my way back.
I’m hungry so I stop for baklava at Karaköy Güllüoğli. I ordered a puff pastry filled with meat and cheese plus a chocolate baklava and I’m not sure what the other one is called. The guy taking my order was like “you gluttonous American, you’re ordering for five people” and so I got smaller portions. The savory was okay… Half of it was missing meat which was the best part. The chocolate baklava was so good that it’s probably best I discovered it on the last day. The pistachio one was also good but both are sweet and I really needed a salt stick. I pack the two remaining pieces (so sweet) and head over to the spice market where I buy two spices and sesame seed cover pistachios.
Last is towel time! I looked at a few other shops but prefered the patterns of the first. I got two blue chevron towels and a slightly thinner striped towels. They all use the same blue color. They’re being shipped home and was annoyed to find out that I could not include the spices. D’oh! I was told I could the day before which is why I bought them. Now I have to carry them everywhere.
I’m back at the hostel trying to figure out last details like how to get from the airport to the next hostel in Beijing. One of the employees wants to take me out for drinks or whatever and cannot understand that I have to get ready to go. Seriously.
I leave the hostel late and I’m frantic that I’ll miss my flight. At the airport you go through secruity twice– once to get in and again for your flight. It’s quick but of course I could not print my own ticket because the airline needs to check your visa first. Run, run. They could care less that I’m checking in late. Run, run. Secruity again. Run, run to the gate. Made it! On a full, cramped plane to Beijing!