Happy Tuesday my friends. Today for Travel Tuesday, which I’ll bring as a feature occasionally on the blog, I’m handing over my blog to my husband, Tom.
Tom and I love to travel together but we also travel separately. Last year he recapped his adventures to Iceland & Sweden and so I thought I’d bring him back to recap some of his other adventures. Take it away Tom…
Jen’s husband “Mr. Pretty Little Grub” here today, to provide a travel recap of another past year’s Mystery Trip. If you missed my previous post where I explained the concept of Mystery trip, check it out. I also shared a recap of Mystery Trip 2015.
In Fall 2014, my friend Alex of the group was the host for the second annual mystery trip. And he didn’t let the sociopolitical environment or the tumultuous conflict in the Middle East hold us back – instead he took us first to Istanbul, Turkey followed by the beautiful country of Jordan.
Istanbul is a huge city of 14 million people that straddles two continents – Europe and Asia. Because of it’s central location, it has experienced the changing tide of human civilization over the centuries and even today, displays a multitude of cultural influences: Roman, Ottoman, Persian, Egyptian, Byzantine, Christian and Islamic. There is so much to see and do, not just in Istanbul but throughout all of Turkey; however, we only had a few days in the capital, so we tried to make the most of it.
Well known for it’s many “bazaar’s” meaning markets, we wandered around Istanbul checking out all the goods on display including fish, spices, Turkish delights, jewelry, faux designer purses and pretty much everything else you can imagine. The most fascinating part was the immense amount of people. It was often a struggle just to get through the streets due to all the crowds.
Today there is a strong Islamic influence in Istanbul which is quickly recognizable by all the mosque’s dotting the skyline. We quickly checked out the Sultan Ahmed Mosque, which is also known as the Blue Mosque. It is a popular historic mosque built in the early 1600’s which had some interesting murals inside on the origins of great prophets and how many religions (Judaism, Islam, Christianity) were closely linked together in history.
Near to this mosque is the Basilica Cistern, built by the Byzantine Empire in 527-565 for use as an underground water storage reservoir which includes some beautiful marble columns. While we were wandering around this busy tourist area, one particular tourist stood above the rest and a conversation similar to the following proceeded among my friends:
Alex: Hey guys, check it out, is that an NBA player?
Mike: Alex! You can’t just say that because he’s a tall, black guy.
Alex: Dude, check out how hot his girlfriend is… AND she’s wearing basketball shoes, that’s definite proof.
Mike: That’s true, maybe you’re right. He does kinda look familiar.
Alex: Look how much taller he is than me.
*Alex goes to stand behind the suspected NBA player with his back to him to compare heights. Another random guy looking like a security guard steps in and pushes Alex aside*
Us: You totally called it Alex.
A quick Google search later and we confirmed that this was indeed Tim Duncan of the San Antonio Spurs. Apparently they were doing some international tour in the off-season and were playing a local team in Istanbul that evening. When we showed up at the arena later that night, tickets were sold out. But some promoters saw us and thinking we were American, offered us free tickets to the game. It obviously wasn’t as fast paced as a true NBA game would have been, but it was still an awesome experience.
Since we were in Turkey, Alex insisted we had to partake in a traditional Turkish bath. His first explanation of an all-male communal bath had us a little worried, but as soon as we walked into the Kılıç Ali Paşa Hamamı bath house, we were blown away by it’s elegance. It was built by the Ottoman empire in 1578-1583 and was adorned by a large majestic dome.
The complex is restricted to either males-only or females-only depending on the time of day. Once we checked in, we changed into nothing but robes and started the Turkish bath experience by getting dosed in warm water and made to lie on this expansive, hexagonal heated marble slap (called a Göbektaşı). Next, an attendant took us to the side where they exfoliated our body with a scrubbing mitten which was followed by a ritual known as the Köpük (bubble soap wash). We then rinsed and dried off and were invited to rest in the lounge area and drink some tea. It was all a very relaxing and intimate experience that I would highly recommend to anyone traveling to Turkey.
We left the bath house feeling like a million bucks and had one last night out on the town at the many bars around the famous Taksim square. Recently there had been some violent protests in the area as the Kurdish people were pleading for the Turkey government to intervene with ISIS forces attacking Kurdish people just across the Turkey border, in Syria. So there was a lot of police force around the streets but nothing that concerned us. Although it did give us a bit of a sense of foreboding as were leaving the next day to Jordan, a country bordered by Syria and Iraq.