I have just returned from a mini-holiday to the south of the Marmara Sea. I went to Iznik and Termal with some of my friends from work and had saw some really amazing things.
Iznik is famous for its ceramics and tiles, but there were also a huge amount of historical sites in the city, seeing as it was founded sometime around 1000 BC! So naturally, I loved it. Unfortunately, both the Iznik museum AND the inside of the Aya Sofya were closed!!! That's what we get for travelling to a tiny little unknown town in the middle of the winter. We were absolutely the only tourists there, when we walked into the tourism office the girl working there got soooo exicted! She had this huge smile and look of shock and awe on her face, as though she got stuck with the s***ty deal of manning the tourist office over the winter months and we were the first tourists she has even seen yet. She was really sweet and helpful (?) "no, sorry that's closed," "oh, sorry, no that's closed too.." etc....
But, really there was still plenty to see and do in the 2 days we had. Julie and I did a lot of wandering through the tile and ceramic artisan shops, we met some lovely women who ran a shop and they sat us down, fed us tea and snacks and we tried to communicate a few words... They said that in the summer the cherry trees bear fruit and they said to come back in the summer, which I have decided to definitely do, hopefully I can see INSIDE the museum and the Aya Sofya then! We also went to the local hamam, which we had planned out becuase it is only open to women on thursdays until 5pm, so we managed to get there in time and have a lovely, lovely bath....
I find it hard to imagine anything more relaxing and divine than a Hamam, its like a combination of all my favorite things: Sauna, Massage, Bath and with a new wonderful thing, the pleasure of lying on hot marble slabs, which you might not think is so nice, but trust me, you feel like a cat in a sunbeam. Also, you can completely relax becuase the women there literally bathe you, so you just follow their directions (or what you think they are saying), in Turkish. "Go over there now, roll over, sit here," They even wash your hair and face for you! It is kind of weird at first, to have someone washing your face, like you are 5 years old again. You also get the most intense scrub down, exfoliation like you have never been exfoliated before, then massage, wonderful massage. If you are at all uncomfortable with nudity though, its not going to be relaxing for you to have an overweight, naked, 60 year old Turkish woman loofah-ing you all over. But I think the whole thing is just wonderful, you just have to get over your North American squeamish-ness with nudity. You learn all kinds of things too, for example I saw a really creative solution to underwear, modelled by a rather obese old lady. All you need is a dishcloth, which you simply tuck in to one of the creases between your rolls of fat on your stomach, and there you go! It is like a little apron/ underwear all in one! I mean, never mind that the rest of your ample body is completely exposed for the world to see, better cover up! ha ha ha.. Hilarious. All you want to do when you leave the hamam is curl up and go to sleep. Its heaven.
We spent one night in Iznik and then the next day we travelled to Termal, which is a tiny little town, but happens to have natural hot springs!! So we spent our afternoon sauna-ing, swimming and and drinking tea. We left Termal at about 6pm and were trying to catch the 7:30 ferry, but we were all so relaxed/sleepy that we totally missed our stop, and had a frantic run to the ferry terminal because we all had to work the next morning. Our boss would not be impressed to have 4 teachers not show up! ha ha, anyways, we made it back to Istanbul, tired, but very clean and very relaxed from a weekend of bathing in hot water. Perfect trip for the weather right now, which I would have argue is actually rainier and colder than Vancouver! What the hell!?!? Oh, well, at least I am used to it...
So last night my downstairs neighbors, who also teach with me at the same branch, came over for dinner and then we went downstairs to their apartment becuase Jonathan has bought himself a Nargileh, which, I hadn't had since Palestine. So we smoked Nargileh and drank tea and he played his guitar and sang Johnny Cash songs. He's really good too! He's from Baton Rouge Louisiana, so he's got the Johnny-Cash-like southern accent too.
Well, that's all the excitement for now!