Enjoying the company of naked men
Posted: Aug 27, 2003 3:50:31 PM
It is official: Turkey rocks! Over the last couple of days the only genuine annoyances have been the endless procession of touts that insist on trying to strike up a conversation before they try to sell me something I don't want (hmmm...a carpet; I'd love to carry that around Europe for the next four months).
The usual approach is to either ask if I need directions, comment on my ugly hat (those of you who have seen it will understand; the usual description is 'interesting'), or try to guess my nationality. This last one is actually a common passtime amongst the local crowd, apparently, as not only the touts but the ticket-sellers and bus-company representatives have taken a shot. So far the guesses have been: American, British, Australian, Canadian, Spanish, Brasilian, and Estonian. One was willing to bet money that I was either American or Canadian. So far no-one has tried New Zealand, although as soon as they find out they cry 'Kiwi!' and all is well. Incidentally, one of the people doing the guessing was Australian - he was convinced that I was British. Go figure.
Istanbul is fantastic, and I have explored quite a few places, although I'm saving Aya Sofya and the Blue Mosque (pictured) for my return to Istanbul in two and a half weeks.
Yesterday I tried the Istanbul Archaeology Museum, which had some astounding Greek and Roman Statues (liked the Nymphs...) and some great Hittite artifacts. Only those of you who know my particular fascination about Mesopotamia (and my fascination with ancient writing) will understand what an incredible thrill it was to actually see an original cuneiform tablet of Hammurabi's law codes from 1790 BC, or to touch a tablet with writing concerning the religious activities of Nabonidus.
I also went for a real Turkish bath, in a place that was built more than four hundred years ago: the Çemberlitaþ Hamamý. It was equal parts nerve-wracking and nerve-relaxing - I made one or two etiquette faux-pas, but generally had a great time being scrubbed down with rough silk gloves and doused in near-boiling suds. For the full story on what goes on in such places, the bath I went to even has its own website: Çemberlitaþ Hamamý. Yes, it is as fun as it looks.
Today I explored the huge Topkapý Palace, which was also amazing (I shall be using that word a lot, I predict), particularly the sword of Mohammed (and hairs from his beard!) and the Sultan's harem (now sadly empty but for us tourists - I didn't spend long in the Eunuchs' Chambers, either). After, descended into the bowels of the city to see the huge underground Basilica Cistern, built by Emperor Constantine so long ago it's not funny, and now I'm going to take a rest. Quite enough excitement for one day.
Tomorrow I set out from Istanbul on the Fez Bus, heading in the direction of Gallipoli. I will, as always, keep you updated on my progress.
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