We are finally settled in at home, back from Turkey. All I can say is I loved it. We were there for a total of twelve days: three in Istanbul and nine in Bodrum (coastal Turkey). The country is rich with history, culture and amazing food. Istanbul, being Constantinople during the Roman Empire, was especially filled with facts and history.

One of my favorite parts was visiting the mosques, including the famous Hagia Sophia (above). Each mosque was special in its own way, whether it is the design and architecture, or the murals and decoration. They had a very welcoming feeling that, despite it being sweaty and tourist-packed, made you feel like it was just you and the mosque. Another place we saw was the Topkapi palace which was amazing. It was covered from floor to ceiling in the most beautiful décor. It is hard to put into words the magnificence of the palace. One cool thing I left out was that in less than two minutes, we went from Europe to Asia. Turkey is divided by the Bosphorus River, part in Europe, the other in Asia.

Our first lunch out was at a great restaurant on the Bosphorus river. We (the four of us) had a grilled sea bass with vegetables. The fish was so fresh and all it had was a squeeze of lemon. 

Each day was packed with places to visit and things to do. Another place we went to was the Spice Market, otherwise known as the Egyptian Bazaar, because the Egyptians used to trade and sell their spices there. In my opinion the bazaars are a bit too stuffed and just have a heavy atmosphere, but it was an interesting experience. But that didn’t change my opinion about the food there. Here are some pictures of the Spice Market:

As you can see, there were heaping piles of Turkish delight (good at first, but if you eat too many, they get a bit nauseating), spices and nuts. Unluckily for me, I am allergic to nuts, so I had to be extra careful. We left the market with some black pepper, curry, cumin and a few others I can’t recall.

After that, we went to a café and had Turkish coffee, which is kind of muddy, but had an interesting, yet nice taste. For a few hours each day, we had someone guide us around the city and teach us about the sites. She claimed to know how to read Turkish coffee, so she gave it a try on my sister and told her some things I cannot say, but seemed pretty accurate! Turkish coffee reading is simply interpreting how the coffee residue dries and trying to relate it.

The next day, we had an experience of a lifetime: we had a Turkish bath (hamam). Our guide took us to her neighborhood and recommended a Turkish bath for us. In case you don’t know, a Turkish bath is where you strip down, and sit in a steaming hot marble room, and later get rubbed to death with a rough cloth so your skin peels off like a cat being skinned. First you wash yourself with cool water and after, you lie down on a giant marble slab in the middle of the room. It wasn’t the cleanest of places, but that helped make the experience what it was. I, fortunately for you, do not have any pictures of that. About twenty minutes later, a husky Turkish man casually strolled in and snapped his fingers for me to sit down next to the faucet on a little bench. And, WHAM, he slapped my back and started rubbing all of my dead skin off. A few minutes later, he motioned me to lie face down on the marble slab, and I didn’t know what to expect. It was a quick full body massage with hands of iron. He got into my deep tissue, cracked my whole back, and rubbed my muscles only to make me yelp, but later to be in a very relaxed, kind of paralyzed state. Then I had the joy of seeing the rest of my family have their turns.

Keep posted for Part 2 of my trip to Turkey!