"My soul is elsewhere, I'm sure of that. And I intend to end up there." -- Rumi

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Trabzon, Part 2

Ladies and menfolk -- we have internet!

Lord knows how long we will have internet, so by all means let's knock out some more wonderful Turkey experiences.

Day 2:  Julie and I both slept late, and woke up to the surprise of no hot water.  The management assured us it would be on within two hours.  (This was not true.)  I took a cold shower, then went for a stroll around the city by myself while Julie chilled in the room and hoped for hot water.  I got a light breakfast on Ataturk Square and walked around, discovering one of Trabzon's many markets and enjoying the perfect sunshine.  Trabzon is an incredibly beautiful city.

Pretty as a picture.
Pretty as an even prettier picture. :)
I met up with Julie and together we got lunch at an outside cafe.  Turkish food is awesome.  Then we walked around the city some more, ogling all the gorgeous markets and shops.

You seriously don't see fruit this pretty in Georgia.

I was also graciously allowed to enter my first-ever mosque -- shoes off and head covered and everything.  It was very peaceful and silent inside... no furniture except for a few benches near the back wall and a very squishy soft red carpet.  I only stayed for a minute and didn't take any pictures as there were a couple men praying when I was there.  Once again, I just can't say enough about the wonderful Turkish people and their indulgence to a grubby American tourist!

And then we discovered the Trabzon Museum in the restored Kostaki Mansion.

Yeah, I went to college and everything.
After the museum, we talked about either walking up to Boztepe Hill or grabbing a bus to the Ataturk Kosku, a restored mansion honoring the first President of Turkey.  But it looked like it was about to Monsoon, so we headed back to the hotel for a rest instead.  Then it was time for dinner... Julie, in an act of true friendship, granted my request and we ate at McDonald's.  No judging.  Georgian McDonald's don't even have chicken.

Then it was back to Efes Pub for a couple beers... we met three extremely cool Turkish men who invited us to join them.  They asked us to dinner the next evening.

Day 3:  Julie and I actually managed to get up early!  (For us.)  We caught a Turkish marshrutka (clean, modern, and utterly efficient, take notes Georgia) to Trabzon's Aya Sofya, a 13th century Byzantine church converted to a mosque and eventually to its most recent incarnation as a museum and tourist spot.  Utterly breathtaking, overlooking the Black Sea with gorgeously preserved frescoes on the interior.  Julie and I both loved it here so much!  If you see one thing in Trabzon, let this be it.

Breathtaking Aya Sofya
Amazing frescoes inside.
I was very probably not supposed to do this

There is a beautiful outdoor tea garden next to the Aya Sofya, and I suggested stopping there for brunch.  SO glad we did!  It was a perfectly gorgeous day, and so amazing to sit in the company of the Aya Sofya and the Black Sea, and sip Turkish tea... and gorge on a Turkish breakfast that might be one of my favorite meals ever.  Cheesy scrambled eggs, fresh bread with butter and jam, olives and cold meats, fresh veggies and mild white cheese.  Utterly perfect.  We lingered for quite some time here because we couldn't bring ourselves to leave!

But eventually we had to remember that there was quite a bit still to see in our newest favorite city, and walked -- with the aid of my finally-acquired map! -- through the city to the Gulbahar Hatun Mosque and Tomb.

Mosque we couldn't get into.
Gulbahar Hatun Mosque and Tomb
On the way here, we had tried to enter another mosque but weren't allowed for some reason (although they were still perfectly polite about it).  But we could go into this one no problem provided the head and shoes requirements were met.  And I was the only one in there when I went... so I risked a couple photos.

The Gulbahar Hatun Mosque and Tomb was right next to a lovely city park that housed a peacock enclosure and four swans swimming magisterially around a fountain.  We stopped for a Turkish tea and let the swans entertain us.

Then, I wanted to catch Bus 4 to the Ataturk Kosku, 7 kilometers out from the city.  But we missed the bus by literally like... a second, and after waiting for 20 minutes with no new bus in sight, decided to give up on the Ataturk Kosku in favor of dinner, and then... a Turkish Hamam!

This tasted even better than it looks.
The previous evening, our Turkish gentlemen friends told us about a Hamam right off Ataturk Square.  They did not tell us that this particular Hamam was only for men!!!  But, the wonderfulness of Turkish people shined through again, because when our waiter at dinner found out our plans, he took us by the hand (literally) and led us around the corner from the men's Hamam to the women's.

Now, I have no pictures of this (natch), but this experience puts up a good fight as being My Very Favorite Thing about the Trabzon Vacation.  The Hamam's women were so incredibly kind and patient and led us through everything, despite them not speaking English and our speaking maybe seven words of Turkish.  We were ushered into the main waiting/relaxation room where we were given a towel and proceeded to strip down to our birthday suits... then were led into the actual Hamam itself.

I of course wasn't sure what to expect... but I kind of thought Turkish bath implied maybe some sort of communal jakuzzi, where I would soak nekkid with a glass of fruit juice or something, and slowly prune with the other nekkid Turkish ladies.  Nope.  We were led to small marble bowls set against the wall, where hot and/or cold water could be poured according to your preference.  We were supposed to take small plastic bowls and pour this water over ourselves, and then when we were sufficiently drenched, proceed (nekkid) into a sauna, where we sweated until this was no longer fun, then went back out to pour more water over ourselves.

A very kind, very patient Turkish woman was my shepherd for the rest of the process.  I laid down on a warm marble table and she rubbed every inch of me with this special mitt that was pretty much the best exfoliation ever.  I did not have one molecule of dead skin on me by the time she was done (and it felt awesome).  So more water poured over me to wash away all the icky dead skin, then back on the table for the actual scrubbing and massage.  I have never, ever, in my entire life, been so clean.  She washed my hair too... but unfortunately for some stupid reason, sitting in this hot room and not being able to open my eyes (due to soap, while having water poured on my head at irregular intervals), triggered my claustrophobia big time.  I challenge anyone to try and communicate "I am seriously fucking claustrophobic and currently freaking  the hell out for no logical reason whatsoever, so please get this soap out of my eyes before I have a panic attack" while trying to cross a language barrier the size of the Black Sea, and while also incidentally being blind and naked.  But, my very patient attendant picked up that I was not happy and washed away the soap so I could see, and I think she may have cut that part of the service a little short, bless her.

That bit of unpleasantness aside, I seriously loved my experience at the Hamam.  It was strangely kind of liberating to walk around naked among strangers, and our Super Duper Cleaning could not have come at a better time considering the no hot water situation at our stupid hotel.

As I was resting in a lounge chair and waiting for Julie to finish up, I watched my masseuse emerge from the dressing room and begin to put on her street clothes.  Gradually it became apparent that this woman who had just had her hands on nearly every bit of me, whom I had seen in a bright red bra and matching boyshort panties, was a traditional Muslim woman.  I watched her assemble her layers like so much armor, cover her hair with her scarf, and suddenly I felt just so incredibly privileged to have gotten to experience this wonderful and intimate part of Muslim and Turkish culture.  This was a place for Muslim women to let more than their hair down.  It was a refuge.  I watched her leave, head and ankles and wrists properly concealed, and wondered how many other women in similar dress wore bright red bras or harbored other secrets you just might never suspect when meeting her on the street.

And then, after our already very full day, it was time to head to the hotel for a quick change of clothes and then to meet our Turkish gentlemen friends for a late dinner.  They picked us up and drove us to a place just out of town, to a place where you could actually order a glass of wine with your meal.  They wanted us to try raki, which is a lot like Greek ouzo -- very strong and licorice.  They ordered a bunch of sampler dishes of Turkish food, and we ate and drank and laughed on the shore of the Black Sea.  After dinner, I saw luminescent jellyfish lighting up off the coast.  So cool.

And then, finally, it was time to call it a night.  At least no one can say our Turkish vacation was boring!  And one more day still to go.

1 comment:

  1. WOW, Mary!! How wonderful. This was a magic time -- I can feel the exceptional vibes as I read!! This was such a great experience. You are so fortunate to have had this opportunity. So happy for you. This visit is why you've made this whole trip. So great, so happy for you. Love, mom