Which one should we go to? This one costs double the price, so is it better, or is it just more because it is physically one of the oldest Turkish baths? There are so many questions when it comes to Turkish baths, or Hamams, for us Canadians who are very used to wearing lots and lots of layers of clothing. The Lonely Planet Turkey travel guide suggests three in Istanbul: the Cagaloglu Hamami, the Cemberlitas Hamami and the Yesildirek Hamami. The first two range from 80-100 Turkish Lira for the full Turkish bath experience, which is a steam room, a bathing and a massage. The third, Yesildirek Hamami, is a gay hamami which costs 30 Turkish Lira. A staff member at our hostel suggested we go to one called Sultanahmet Hamami which only costs 40 Turkish Lira for the full-deal. It’s also just up the main street from the Blue…Continue Reading
Below the streets of Istanbul, beside the famous mosque Aya Sophia, is an underground tank, called the Basilica Cistern or the Turkish name, “Yerebatan Sarnici” ¬†meaning “Underground Palace”. It was constructed in the 6th century during the reign of Emperor Justinianus. The cistern is supported by 336, 9-meter tall marble columns. Istanbul used the cistern to store as much as 100,000 tones of water. They most likely used the Roman aqueduct, as well as newer constructed aqueducts to transport the water the 19 kilometers from the Belgrad forest to the cistern. In fact, the cistern is featured in the James Bond movie “From Russia with Love”. When the movie was shot the cistern was not open to the public. However on September 9, 1987 after renovations, removal of 50,000 tons of mud and the construction of a wooden walkway for vistors to make their way through the cistern, it was…Continue Reading
Our friend Colin has been pestering us to show “the truth” of the places we visit, rather than the stuff you can find in “any art history text book.” He wants to see the gutters, poverty, deprivations of every kind. Mostly that’s just his own twisted personality, but it presents some problems. Turkey is simply not that depraved. Yes, there are issues. There is unemployment. There is poverty by Western standards. But in a country that is 99% Muslim, there is a definite lack of depravity. This isn’t Vancouver’s East Side. There are no overt drug or alcohol addicts. Even young Turks prefer to drink tea or juice when they go out to hit the down. Crime is minimal, and tends to be of a mild “fleece the foreigners” variety. On the whole, Istanbul has presented the type of warm hospitality Turkey has long been known for,¬†blighted occasionally by the…Continue Reading
UPDATE: (a couple more photos added) Aya Sofia was built about 1500 years ago by the Byzantine Emperor Justinian, and served as the most important church in Christendom for about 900 years before being converted into a mosque by the Ottomans in 1453. Even after all this time it is still impressive. Suffice it to say, we are in Istanbul. I have a feeling Laura will have more to say about the Aya Sofia, so I’ll just put up some pics for now.