A Travellerspoint blog

Turkish Bath

Catching the midnight express

rain 11 °C
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Last weekend we took the plunge and visited our first Turkish Bath. We had convinced The Canadians to come with us and the four of us ventured into Sultanahmet and the famous Cagaloglu Hamam.

This particular Turkish Bath House has been regularly frequented by the rich and famous and appears in everything from local soap operas, video clips, advertisements and even an Indiana Jones Film.

So on a cold and wintery wet day the four of us ventured in. To set the scene try to imagine a vast cavern of marble, dripping water falling from the domed ceiling, the room full of steam, a huge marble plinth in the centre of the room, a hot room set off to the side, steam spewing out into the main hall.

Before you reach the internal areas of the Hamam though you check in through an opulent lobby area. You pay your tourist prices and are shown through (men to one side - women to the other) to the changerooms, individual cubicles - unchanged in 100 years. Disrobed, you then try to cover what you can with your insufficient tea-towel-of-modesty, and make your way through to the main arena.

Meaghan tells me that her experience was one similar to a harem of naked women, lounging around washing, moisturising and generally lazing around awaiting their turn to be pampered, washed, exfoliated, massaged and rinsed - gently. Well I can tell you that the men's side is a little more... Masculine.

On arriving at the main hall, Joshua and I were immediately confronted by 3 things - the heat, the nudity and the constant and somewhat concerning sounds of violence. Being new to the experience we were ushered through to the hot room, where we sweated it out with a few local guys. We commented on how loud it was, the sounds of slaps, moans and at times shouts of pain. We didn't have to wait too long though until our assistants came in and lead us off to the main arena.

For the next 20 minutes I was rubbed, slapped, hit, pulled, bent, kneaded, elbowed and squeezed until I was supple enough for the wash. Massage over I was dragged up to the wash area and sat down next to a vat of boiling water.

The next 10 minutes made the first 20 minutes seem like a walk in the park, I was drowned in boiling hot water, soaped up and bashed around - modesty was not even the slightest consideration as I was pushed, pulled, sat on, speadeagled, exfoliated, stood up, sat down and generally beaten up, in front of my newest friends - all enduring their own special brand of torture.

Then as quickly as it had started, it ended and I was left feeling somewhat vulnerable. My incredible (possibly violent) physical massage ended with another drowning with boiling water and I was left alone for 10 minutes to gather my thoughts. Just in time to see my comrade in arms - Joshua commence his ritual flogging at the hands of a guy that looked a lot like Magnum PI.

We steamed ourselves for another 10 minutes or so and left. On arrival back at the arrival hall, we were stripped of our tea-towel-of-modesty and wrapped up like a donor kebab in fresh towels to dry off.

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Returning to gather our belongings we made our way to the café and awaited the girls. A beer to too later, we were feeling pretty good about the experience and even before the girls arrived half an hour later, we were talking about the next time, and looking forward to it.

Posted by adamandmeg 02:03 Archived in Turkey Tagged health_and_medicine Comments (3)

Come up to my place and live it up

The sights and sound of İstanbul

16 °C
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Ok we promise we wıll put some more pictures on as soon as we get a chnace. Here is an update for now... pictures will follow soon...

Turkey has been in the news a lot lately due to the problems on the border with Iraq. There have been big protests in the centre of Istanbul and people are hanging Turkish flags off their balconies and from buildings. From our window I can see at least 50 or 60 flags, some of which cover the whole side of buildings. Due to lack of freedom of the press there is no real information in the newspapers but we are keeping up to date. We are also keeping a close eye on the DFAT travel advice website in case anything changes.

We will need to make a trip to the Australian Consulate next week to vote so maybe we will get the inside story! Speaking of voting, the election campaign appears to be in full swing and we are almost sorry we are missing out on all the mud slinging!! I hope the Australian Consulate puts on a sausage sizzle when we go to vote. Have your say and have a BBQ all at the same time . . . brilliant. . . . Australian democracy at its best!

We have also been doing a little tourism here in Istanbul. We actually scored some last minute tickets to the soccer a couple of weeks ago. We saw Besiktas play against a local Istanbul side. Besiktas fans had high expectations because the team had previously just beaten Liverpool in the Champions league.

A short insight to the crowd

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A draw was a disappointing result. The crowd didn't seem to mind too much though. Let me tell you the Turkish football fans probably deserve their reputation for being passionate. The stadium literally moves to the beat as the fan fluffers get the entire crowd singing and moving to well rehearsed call and respond chants across the pitch. In fact, for the uninitiated, the spectacle of the crowd is more overwhelming and interesting than the game, especially at a lack lustre Nil All Draw.

Things are not always friendly though, a quick search of the net will show some rather disturbing news articles of tragic events surrounding wins or losses in Turkey. We went to the game with our flat mate Helen, and Josh and Jess (The Canadians) well aware that our personal security may well depend on the outcome of the game.

We have also spent a bit of time recently strolling around the market and old town areas of Istanbul. A favourite is the old Egyptian market, or Spice Markets.

We are slowly getting to know this city and we're really excited about having visitors - Jen and Steve are the first off the racks so we'll try out our limited local knowledge on them.

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Fıshıng on the Bosphorous

As we are spending so much time on our room lately (due to our inability to forge long lasting, considerate adult relationships with our flatmates) we have spent some time, and money, making it our home.

The piece de resistance of our efforts has to be the A3 sized photos of our trip we blew up and put on the walls. We are so excited - Meaghan really has taken some great photos and it is so nice to see them in poster size prints.

Speaking of Meaghan, it was her birthday last weekend, and we had a lovely day over on the European side of town walking around Hagia Sophia and the Spice Markets. We had planned on staying over there in a flash hotel but a local legal requirement put an end to that.
(Apparently it is law that you carry photo identity at all times - we do now).

We did had a nice dinner in the Editors Pick (Lonely Planet) restaurant overlooking the mouth of the Bosphoros River and the Galata Bridge. What a view!

Of course the other news is that we have a new addition to the Adam and Meaghan family. His name is Dennis, and although he will only be with us for this month, we have both come to like him quite a lot and will be sorry when he goes. I've put a picture here for you.

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We can't wait to come home at Christmas!!!!!!!! We are counting the days and they are flying by.

Posted by adamandmeg 06:22 Archived in Turkey Comments (0)

Working Hard to Make a Living

Ahh the working life

overcast 20 °C
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Here we are still in Istanbul and working our way through our second month. We have settled into a strange routine of waking up, running (or talking each other out of running) having breakfast, preparing for our lessons and teaching until late in the evening, coming home and repeating the same process for 5 from 7 days.

It's not all bad really.

Our first teaching experience has led to a couple of realisations. We have met some like minded people, having a break from professional careers, travelling the world on the ESL superhighway, cool, super-communicator English teachers fully conversant with the trade and the local environs.

Not everybody in the teaching English trade meet this description. The teaching English gig, due to its part time nature and high demand, also attracts people that otherwise may not hold down adult jobs. Like us for example.

Yes, slaving away for a salary. It is a tough life this working gig, let me tell you!!!! I have a vague recollection of what working is all about and in the words of Richie Benaud . . . .

"Yeeeess, welcome back".

The teaching is reasonably easy and often hilarious. Adam and I spend most of our classes trying not to open cans of worms . . .and if by chance we do open a can of worms, we spend the rest of the class trying to stuff them back in!! For example:

"Does anyone know what a dozen is?"
"No."
"It means 12."
"Ok . ."
"Let me tell you about a Baker's Dozen."
"What's that?"
"It is 13."
"Ok, what's a baker?"
"It's someone who bakes bread."
"What's bake?"
"Cooking. You know, hot. . .oven. . . . "
"Oh right. . . .why is a Baker's Dozen 13 and not 12?"
"Umm, I don't know."

The teacher in this story shall remain nameless, however just for the record, it was not me (Meaghan). These moments in our classes are now referred to as "Baker's Dozen" moments and again for the record, I have had plenty!!

There are two words in the English language that I would never have expected people to mix up. It turns out that these words cause all manner of confusion with students and have been interchanged on three separaate occasions that I am aware of. . .and it is really funny. . On a second glance at the words in question there are a number of similarities - 'Aubergine' and 'Aborigine'. Because aubergine is a national dish in Turkey it is a word that they learn early on in their English studies. The students are also very interested in Australian Aboriginal culture hence the confusion. We had one student tell us that his great grandfather was an aubergine!

The first Saturday working, I had to go to Otokar (a business in another city) to slog through 3hrs and 45mins with my students. I think Adam was concerned for my well being because he wrote out my name, address and telephone number on a piece of paper and packed it in my school bag in case I got lost!

Meaghan successfully swapped out of the Saturday class, by offering to do a higher level class insetad, so she now spends her weekends, lounging around writing emails and thanking a higher power for the day off.

As previously mentioned in an email we are having a difference of opinion with our employer. They have assigned us classes in local businesses which requires us to travel anywhere between 90 minutes to 3 and a half hours a day, five days a week. After lengthy argument (well it was a bit one sided actually, they simply ignored our questions and refused to give us an answer for a month), they have finally decided to pay us for the time travelled. We collected our November pay shortly after utterıng the following words

"Somebody should call the company İ am supposed to be teaching tonight. My pay is incorrect. Until İ am paid in total - İ am not working."

Berlitz Istanbul is a very tight company - for example, they will not let teachers use the photocopier or print any extra material for their classes. The director believes that the Berlitz books are enough to make the classes interesting and engaging. It is clear that this man has never stepped foot inside a classroom in his life or opened one of the Berlitz teaching manuals!!

The big news is that we have actually given notice to Berlitz to ensure we get our leave at Christmas. As a result we are free from our commitment to the flat and Berlitz. So we are actively seeking out new digs. We want to find a flat in a much hipper part of town, we are interviewing potential flat mates at the moment. So far the Canadians are winning the race, they can communicate, they clean up after themselves, they are rational (most of the time) and appear to act like adults most of the time.

No contest guys.

Posted by adamandmeg 06:16 Archived in Turkey Tagged educational Comments (0)

Istanbul...Constantinople...Istanbul

The Orient Express

sunny 25 °C
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Arriving at Istanbul train station in the past, passengers on the Orient Express would have been well rested, having endured the trip surrounded by silver service and white gloves. We were a little less fresh.

We were met at the statıon by a dude from Berlıtz - the language school that we work for - and taken to our apartment ın Istanbul. We lıve on the Asıan sıde ın the suburb of Kadıcoy. It ıs pretty good actually - we are a short walk away from the maın shoppıng strıp whıch has all the old favourites. . .McDonalds, Starbucks, Glorıa Jeans, KFC, Burger Kıng (last tıme we saw a Burger Kıng was ın Sarajevo and ıt was called Hamby Kıng. . .how funny ıs that?) and a plethora of posh, expensıve shops that we wıll not be able to afford to shop at on teacher wages. We share the apartment wıth two other teachers, Matt and Helen, who have both been here for a year. They have been very helpful wıth explaınıng how to get to places because the Lonely Planet does not cover travel ın the Burbs!! We are gettıng worked over by Berlıtz already who have an ınabılıty to communıcate very well. I thınk ıt wıll all be fıne once we get our teachıng schedules and we start work proper.

We managed to fıt ın some sıghtseeıng in whıch was great. We went to The Basilica Cıstern, the Grand Bazaar and the Blue Mosque. In order to get to that sıde of town we have to flag down a random mını bus outsıde our apartment, go to the port, catch a ferry and then walk. Thıs part of town has changed a lot sınce I was here ten years ago and there are heaps of tourısts but ıt was stıll amazıng. There are plenty more thıngs to see, so we should be busy over the next few months.

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The Blue Mosque

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Haghia Sophia

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The Grand Bazaar

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The Cistern

The whole shoppıng for grocerıes thıng ıs quıte annoyıng. The shops are small and there appears to be nothıng ın them. Of course we made the standard mıstake of buyıng salted yoghurt ınstead of mılk (we are so cosmopolıtan!!!), but I'm sure thıs happens to all the new guys. Anyway, once we ıron out all of these errors thıngs wıll fall ınto place. Not to worry - the beer ıs good!!

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Our room

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Some reputable businesses in our suburb

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View from our apartment

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Our apartment block

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Posted by adamandmeg 02:07 Archived in Turkey Comments (1)

Serbia

Last stop before Istanbul

semi-overcast
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SERBIA

The bus trip to Belgrade was uneventful except for the navigational inability's of our poorly skilled driver. Driving badly he even had to stop and ask for directions.

It is really important that I make a point of letting you know that while we were on the bus, Geelong Football Club was successfully hammering the Opposition (Port Adelaide) to win the 2007 AFL Premiership Grand Final!!!

We strolled around Belgrade for a couple of days. Highlights included the citadel, with commanding views over the Danube river, a wander through the slums, and a 3 hour walking tour of the neighbourhoods around (or not) the train station. Belgrade was a good rest and allowed us to mentally prepare ourselves for Istanbul, the next leg of our adventure and the beginning of a new career.

Then we caught the overnıght traın to Istanbul . . .yes we also thought our overnıght traın trıps were a thıng of the past but apparently not. It was super comfy though, we were ın a two berth cabın wıth a sınk . . .happy days. However, as wıth all border crossıngs on overnıght trıps we crossed ınto Turkey at about 3am . . awesome . . .so no sleep for us that nıght.

Posted by adamandmeg 02:01 Archived in Serbia Comments (0)

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