I Cannot wait to not have to shovel for 2 weeks!Feb. 27th 2015
Waking up early has never been my thing but getting up at 4am to be at the airport for 5am well that is just ungodly. This has been intensified by the fact that I couldn’t sleep last night. I was packed and ready to go. Sammy’s sitter was all lined up and had the keys and the detail he needed to look after my girl and my house. I had all my ducks in a row but still I couldn’t sleep. This is common when I have something I am terribly excited about… or nervous about.
I have never been anywhere in Europe. I am a travel bug but it really has not been on my radar due to the fact my two destination requirements are usually cheap and hot. The 3rd but not always necessary is somewhere new. Well my friend Dawn moved to Cyprus 2 years ago. She and her family built a house from scratch. (that is also a dream of mine) While we were chatting last summer Dawn asked me “How do you like living in PEI? It is too hot here I need to move back to Canada.” Alarm bells started to ring. Visiting Dawn in Cyprus has been on my list as soon as she moved there but I thought I would have tons of time.
This got my mind a whirling. This winter, it is time to go. The more I thought about it the more I knew a trip was in order. Not only that, as I was planning the trip I realized that my passport had expired. WHAT! That would never happen in the past. I usually get that sorted 6 months before it expires just in case. I guess my travel bug had been a bit dormant. But not now.
I reopen my suitcase and test that my laptop will still fit after added the cords and kobo reader. Yup it is tight but I am all good. I am bringing a full suitcase for Dawn and her family of odd things that she cannot get in Cyprus. Jello, a dvd player (the ones there don’t play Canadian dvds) and a laptop computer. Also her mom and sister have send birthday gifts and Christmas trinkets. So I am trying to fit all my things into my carryon. But I think I have done it. Unless I am forgetting something… am I forgetting something? Well if I am I will have to do without the cab is outside and it is time to fly. It is a bit stressful not taking Sammy with me but I do know I am leaving her in good hands. Just one more bit of puppy love and I am out the door.
Ok so the flight to Toronto wasn’t too bad. I think I slept a little. It is hard to know on a plane if I am sleeping or just closing my eyes. I am feeling quite groggy. We landed at 9:30am and I am having to wait until 4:30pm for my flight so I am meeting some friends at a little Mexican place on the Lakeshore. There was a pretty straightforward route from the airport. The Rocket to the subway for one stop then a bus down to the lakeshore but of course I got on the wrong bus. So I had to wait for a streetcar to take me the rest of the way down the lakeshore. This would not be such a big deal except I am not dressed for -30. I felt like I was standing on the street naked. The wind was blowing right threw my pants. The 10 minutes I had to wait felt like 5 hours. And by the time I got here I was chilled to the bone. But I do have to say that this place that Cj chose is amazing. At Huevos Gourmet everything is free range and organic. The coffee is bottomless and their hollandaise sauce is some of the best I have ever had. And they didn’t mind me sitting there for an hour waiting for my friends and staying 3 hours with them. I do have way too much coffee in my system right now.
Even though I have had 50 coffees I cannot keep my eyes open. I cannot wait to get this plane in the air and get some sleep. However I think I am going to have a bit of trouble. I am surrounded by children. Two babies and 4 toddlers. Don’t get me wrong. I love kids but on a plane when I have had 3 hours sleep in the past 40 hours… I am wishing that they had sound proof daycares on planes. We have not even left the ground and one child is whining another is jumping in his chair in front of me another is doing the screaming just to see how it sounds and the babies are going to start crying any second I can feel it. I have put in my ear buds in hopes it will block out the noise but to no avail. My only consolation is there is free wine on this flight. Lets get this hunk of steel in the air so I can drink myself in to a soundless slumber.
I arrived in Istanbul at 9:30 am and I have until 11:30pm until I connect to Cyprus. Ok there is a lesson in this that I have learned many times but it has not sunk in until today. Do not fly AirCanada. When I was booking this flight the agent found me a flight that connected better with Turkish Air but it was $300 more that Air Canada so I opted to save the money. WRONG! I didn’t mind the stop in Toronto as I had friends to visit but now after having traveled from 4am friday morning and having to wait until 11:30 sat night to get on my last night I am whipped. Not to mention if I had flown Turkish Air I would have been given a hotel to wait until my next flight. But Air Canada gives you nothing extra. They even made me feel bad about getting a second bottle of wine. Sure I downed the first one pretty quickly but I just wanted it to help me sleep (which did help a little bit) Then when I got up to go pee they yelled at me to respect the pilot. (he had put on the seatbelt sign I guess) But there was no need to yell. She also yelled at a little girl and made her cry. Thanks for that.
In theory I thought I could use the time to wander around Istanbul. Which I did for a bit. Normally I love wandering around for hours but I just couldn’t do it for the whole day. I did take the metro to town and went to the Hagia Sofia Temple. This building was extraordinary. Marble floors and wonderful paintings and stone collages filled all of walls. To get to the second floor there was a spiral tunnel made of stone. No stairs it just gradually spiraled upwards. On closer inspection I noticed some of the walls were marble and stone and others were painted to look like stone. However it was hard to tell which was which unless you were a foot away. The skill of the artist was amazing. The only drawback was that everyone in this beautiful building was looking at it thru the lens of their phone. It was quite disturbing. They were missing the atmosphere by trying to get it on their phones. I am not against photos but walking around looking at your phones not lowering it to see the art with your own eyes just makes me sad. However that is their choice. I tried to block out the lights of the phone screens but in the end I just wandered outside where the glare was a bit less noticeable. At this point my lack of sleep started getting to me. I tried to go to the Blue Mosque but it was closed so I walked around the building. I walked to a street side cafe for lunch but it did not increase my energy it just made me want to sleep more so I decided to head back to the airport.
The metro in Istanbul is easy and fast they really do their city transit right. I just wish I knew how to buy a day pass. But $2 a ride is not too bad. When I arrived back at the airport I needed to get my guitar. I had left it in a luggage hold but I couldn’t remember where that was. Oh doing things when you are over tired is just not easy anymore. I should have just gone to a hotel for the 14 hours I was here. Live and learn. So I went about searching for the coffee shop that was beside the luggage hold. “Well no rush I still have 7 hours till my flight leaves. Grrrrrrr.”
I did finally find the place and wandered over to my gate and found 3 empty seats to stretch out on and I have to say this sleep anywhere thing was much easier when I was 25.
Sleep didn’t happen. This is so frustrating. Now that it is closer to my flight time I guess I am instinctually just keeping myself from falling asleep for fear of a deep sleep that will end up making me miss my flight. So I decided to pull out the guitar and play a bit. Well it has given me a second wind. Music is like candy, it can give you a little boost of energy and this did. Not to mention a few people thanked me for the music and some little kids came over and danced a little in front of me. They were so cute but still I was hoping they are not on my flight. Unless turkish air has a daycare section. That would rock.
Finally I have arrived at Dawn’s house. She has welcomed me here with hugs and whiskey, my two favorite things. I am not sure what I am more excited about, having a shower, sleeping for 10 hours in a real bed or not having to shovel. Ok yup the bed wins.
March 1st 2015
My first day in Cyprus. Well I slept until 3pm. The lesson is hammered home. Next time spend the extra $300 for less travel time and a hotel to sleep in the stop over. But waking to a hot shower, warm sunshine on my face and eggs that have just come out of the chickens in the yard well life just doesn’t get better. Oh unless you add fresh squeezed orange just and lemon water. Everything here is about good food and a comfortable life. It is not as warm today as usual but it means I will not feel bad about sleeping the day away.
March 2nd 2015
We woke up pretty early today because we are heading to Greece, well the Greek side of Cyprus that is. Cyprus one country however it is divided in half on one side, where we are is the Turkish side of Cyprus on the other is the Greek side. This is the only country where the capital city is shared and there is a boarder where you get your passport stamped. Also this capital city has two names. Lefkosa (the Turkish side of the city) and Nicosia (the Greek side). However the names are not inclusive to the side you are on. Both names are used to refer to both sides but both cultures. Some Greek Cyprites you speak to will refer to the whole city as Lefkosa and vis a versa. Lefkosa/Nicosia is considered a shared capital however there is a stretch of buildings running down the middle of the city that divides the two sides. They have been abandoned, and possibly mined, Thus no one goes in that area.
It is quite fascinating. I think these old buildings could be renovated in a way that would add to the breathtaking appeal to this thriving city. But instead they are used “in theory” as a kind of wall to separate the two cultures. But it seemed to me that the two cultures feed off of eachother a little bit taking the best of eachother and bringing it into the fold. (whomever invented their styles of coffee deserves a metal) I have started to learn a bit about the history of Cyprus and it seems the power of each era have passed this little island around like a peace, or war, pipe. Conquering it for one dynasty and loosing it to another. But most of the people I have met so far, on both sides, just want to live comfortably, eat well and give a good live to their children. Because of rulers, conquerors and politics there is a wedge that has been driven into the people and has made it very difficult for people to really look past the horrors of a few idiot rulers. I guess this has not changed a whole lot. We have a bit of a power driven idiot running our country. But I digress.
Today we crossed over to the Greek side to do some shopping and look at the different antique stores. Wandering thru the streets I notice the aged architecture. They really don’t build things the way they use to. Some of the 100 year old walls and balconies seemed to be crumbling a little bit but on closer inspection they were not going anywhere. They have stood the test of time. Maybe they could use a facelift here and there but the craftsmanship was just spectacular.
I popped into a coffee shop and my expectations for coffee is alway pretty modest when I travel. Keep expections low and you will never be disappointed. But on this gorgous island the coffee is outstanding. The way they make turkish (and greek) traditional coffee here is a very fine grind bean and they just leave the grinds in the glass with the sugar. Then they wait for the grinds to settle and, boom, you have your coffee. Apparently some folks drink the grinds as well but I have been leaving the last centimeter in my glass. The flavor of this coffee is second to none.
No only coffee was hitting the spot but the pastries oh my goodness the pastries were amazing. From a coconut cake with chocolate drizzel, to a buffalo milk cream carmel right over to chocolate covered bread. I am going to love it here.
March 3rd 2015
Well motivation has set in time to explore and wander. One of my favorite ways to see an area is just pointing myself in a direction and walking. As the Simmons family was busy today I took the opportunity to have some alone time so I set off to wander the countryside. The the day was a bit overcast with the sun popping thru on occasion and air was a bit cool making it the perfect day to explore.
I started walking down to the almond field, wandering in between the trees that were covered with pink flowers a calm entered my whole body. I took a deep breath that was scented with the sweet aroma of the field. I found a trail at the back of the field but as I made my way down the hill and the trail it seemed to end at a large fence. I backtracked and found a second trail but that one also ended abruptly however it had taken me a bit farther and I notice another trail started up about 40 feet ahead of me so watching for snakes I made my way thru the mustard flowers. Dawn gave me the heads up before I left “You don’t have to worry about the black ones. It is the lighter beige colored ones that you have to watch out for. They are deadly.” Well I didn’t see either and that is fine with me. I made it to the next trail and walked along the hill that was covered in mustard, poppies, and 3 other flowers that I didn’t recognize.
The birds were chatting away around me and I could hear some chickens and cows commenting in the distance. I got to the point where the hillside turned and the trail once again ended. Off in the distance I could see the sea and in that moment I decided I should try and make my way there today. At the top of this hill was a house that was partly built and then they just stopped mid build. This is a phenomenon that I have seen all over the world. Grandiose structures are begun and because of money, permits or changing minds they just stop. Gary was telling me that there are no mortgages here. You buy a house when you have enough money to buy one. If you are building a house and you run out of money you have to wait till you have more money to finish it. So homes usually get built in stages. It is an interesting concept. But because of this there are partly built houses speckling the countryside. My plan of attack was to climb up to the house as there must be a driveway that connected to the road running down to the sea. I was wrong. This house had been sitting for a while and the road that once was here was overgrown by trees and shrubs. There was one space for me to fit thru so I hopped over the construction debris and thru the shrubs covering the drive to land me on the desired road. Too the Sea.
Although this was the main road to the little village I was staying in there was little to no traffic making the walk quite peaceful. To my left there was a shepherd and his flock going for their daily walk in the hills. To my right way off in the distance and up one of the hills I saw another group of sheep on their daily stroll. Then the music began. Every day there is a lone voice that rolls over the countryside. Call to pray happens 4 times a day. There are large pillars called minarets built around the mosques where speakers are mounted as to reach as many people as possible with their soothing melodies. I stopped for a moment to appreciate the song combined with the beautiful view. I felt all the tension I had been carrying just fall away on the wind. I did try to capture the moment with my video but the wind stole the show on that footage and in retrospect I think the way my memory holds that experience will never be matched with anything I could try and document. So I will just say you should put it on your bucket list. It really was an uplifting moment. I continued my walk to the sound of this haunting voice and each step seemed to be lighter and easier.
When I reached the sea I thought “I should jump in” But I have to say I am a bit of a wuss when it is a bit chilly. “I don’t have a towel or a swim suit. It is quite cool today. The walk home might not be as enjoyable if I am wet.”
Quite quickly I talked myself out of the idea however to my left was some rocks perfect for climbing so my sea swim changed to a sea climb. The sea combined with the wind had carved out intricate patterns in the sandstone hills made perfect holds for climbing the rock. However caution was needed as all of the beautiful nooks and crannies although made for stunning visuals and great pocket to grip while climbing they would not be very good to fall on if you made a wrong move. So I made my way carefully, as I was free climbing, not to challenge myself to a dangerous degree. There were a few areas however that I would love to go back to with someone whom I could trade off being a spotter for.
There was a fellow fishing off the rocks. The sea here sadly has been over fished by “the fishing industry” leaving the local fishermen with only small fish for their dinners but this fellow seemed to be quite happy to be our catching what he could. This is something I have started to notice about Cypriots. They are happy with what they have. Life is simple and that is ok. If they do want something they work to get it but live life in such a way that until that happens they are satisfied with what they have. Keep in mind I am a tourist and might be “positive side” focused but so far life here seems super sweet.
Climbing on the rocks raised my adrenaline and got my pump to walk back up the hill home. And a good thing too because as I was coming to the top of the hill I started to think “Maybe I went a little to far today” my legs and back started to say “Hello Ellie we are here and we are just letting you know you should stop for a bit.” When I arrived by at Dawn’s house I was welcomed with fresh squeezed lemon juice and a outstanding pasta dinner.
March 4th 2015
This morning while I was having my coffee Dawn called me in quiet direction “Ellie come here quick Bertha house chicken is laying her egg” This crazy chicken comes to the house every morning to lay her daily egg on the floor mop that is kept on the shelf at the front door. When I came over and popped my head out the door she was adjusting her body on the mop trying to find the perfect spot and I guess work the egg out of her body. she fidgeted about a bit then sat down. When she stood up again there was her breakfast gift.
I picked up the egg and thanked her for bringing it to me then took it to the kitchen where Dawn whipped me up the best eggs and toast I have had in years.
The yolks were a bright golden color and so filled with flavor. I hardly needed any salt at all. If you let nature do it the way it is suppose to you don’t need to spice it as much.
Once we all were feed and caffeinated it was time to head to the castle. There are two roads up to the castle on the way there we took the Old Road.
This road was not traveled my many as it was narrow and was not maintained. In spots the side of the road just dropped away. The temperature on this mountain was quite a bit cooler than at Dawn’s house. People here have cottage homes in the mountains in the summer to get away from the heat. Dawn and Gary took me past a couple places that they are dreaming about buying and fixing up.
The big struggle here is finding out who owns the house so you can make an offer. Before the war in the 70‘s the greek and turkish Cypriots shared the island but when the conflict set in people living on the “wrong” side fled. So now on both sides of the island there are homes that it is unknown who owns them so they are just left. It really was a lovely little spot I do hope they find a spot to enjoy for the summers.
We then continue up the road/path to the castle. Kantara Castle is located on the top of the Kyrenia mountain range and was a key defense point throughout history. In the 10th century it was built as an outlook post. In 1191 Richard the Lionheart captured Cyprus. On a side note one of my friends relatives did some family tree research and found out they are heirs of Richard the Lionheart. Pretty cool.
The castle was know to be impregnable. If you look at the archer windows you could see why. There is no way and archer from the ground is going to hit this guy. Well unless it was Robin Hood. Ha. From the top of the castle you could see both the north and the south coast of Cyprus. On a clear day if you look to the north you can see the coast of Turkey across the sea. What a view.
Another interesting note is this castle was traded thru the centuries by whatever powers of the day were. One of the inhabitance was know to have pet leopards that he used for hunting. This was discovered when some of the people restoring the castle found leopard skulls in a couple of the rooms. The rooms that were built at least 824 years ago were solid as they were back then. Some of the finer material have been removed like the large wood beams and the marble stairs but you were still able to walk on the stone roofs and the “water tank” (the room that collected the rain water) was still doing it’s job as well. We thru a stone in and sure enough there was water being collected.
Walking back to the car looking at this once grand structure I tried to envision it before the valuables were removed. Seeing the leopards wandering the halls beside the kings of the time. Marble and sandstone working in unison making the beautiful rooms and halls. It would have been a grand sight to see.
Leaving the castle we took the new road. This one was easier to drive much wider and smoother and no steep drop offs. It is funny however as everyone was driving much faster I felt a bit safer on the old road. People drive a bit different here. That is all I will say about that.
We stopped in Iskele for lunch. What a treat this was. The lamb was sliced thin and spiced to perfection. With it we got warm pitas pickled cabbage, carrots and cucumber with hot peppers. To quench our thirst we got the Turkish beer Efes. I really don’t know how this trip could have ended better. A thoroughly satisfying day.
Side bar… here is an interesting story that I found.
The Legend of the Olive tree
In the past the wealth of the people was measured by the number of olive trees that they owned. Weddings were only scheduled after the harvest of the olives in Templos, today’s Zeytinlik Village. The olive tree is a sacred tree which has economic, cultural and spiritual value. The sanctity of the olive tree is believed to be based on the legend about Jesus Christ. It was said that Jesus hid on top of an olive tree while he was trying to escape his enemies and after the enemies went by he said this prayer: “Live 100 years more than the person who cultivated you; give plentiful fruit, be a tree which gives fruit and oil and makes your owners rich.” The olive tree asked “What will happen if they cut me down and burn me?” He replied “The smoke which comes from your wood and leaves will protect you from devilry and envy” Today, for the people of Cyprus the olive tree has sacred meaning offering protection from evil.
Not to mention Olives are yummy!
March 5th 2015
So yesterday when I was wandering the castle learning about Cyprus history Bella was pushing out a litter of four, three boys and one girl. Today we went down to Dawn’s mom’s house to meet the little puppies and I think I am in love. They are so tiny and their little paws are reaching around in the air as their eyes are not yet open everything relies on touch. Bella the proud, protective mother stood close by and check us all out as we neared the puppies. I didn’t want to pick them up (well I did want to but I knew it would not be good for the dogs) as they were still bonding with their momma but as I put my hand in front of one of the little guys mouths he started to suckle it. Guess it is all about the momma buffet for the first few days. She took her spot by the pups and the all blindly made there way over to feast. On occasion they would let out happy feeding time yelps.(I still do that on occasion when dinner is super yummy)
I got out my travel hoops today and tried to video a sunset wiggle. But the wind decided to add it’s artist impression. It knocked over my camera in such a way… Well I will just leave you to have a peak.
Here are a few photos of Dawn’s art in the making.
March 7th 2015
The day I thought my dog died. Never send someone a message saying something cryptic about a loved one but add “I don’t want to ruin your trip” then not tell the person what happened because guess what. You are ruining their trip. The human imagination is awful, creative, deadly, wild and well down right scary than anything reality could possibly be so when I heard that something happened to my dog my mind was reeling. Was she dead, is she in the hospital with a missing limb, did she kill the new puppy next door and the owners put her down, did she impale herself on the fence (that happened to my dad’s dog), is she lost, was she stolen… of course my mind goes to the worst things first. Then I start to plan. “Well if she has stitches I will have to come home and drive to Saskatchewan with her. I am sure I could cancel my ticket and it would take 4 days to drive but I think I could do it. It will cut into my renovation time but I am not leaving her to heal alone. But what if she is dead then what to I do. (this thought is followed by a horrible cry and shaking and trying to get myself together)” I don’t really understand what someone could be thinking when they say something has happened but then don’t tell you what the something is. It is just madness. And cruel. But I am realizing as I am typing this that people most times are talking about what they are going thru because of the situation not what you might go thru knowing only half the story. One of the worst mornings of my life has passed with a happy ending. Sammy is fine. She was just howling in the backyard looking for love and it was mistaken for a cry of pain by someone who does not know her as well as I do. My baby lives and I may never take a holiday without her again.
Now I am off to perform for Dawn’s friends at her bake sale. Thankfully this was resolved before I had to sing as I am not sure what would have came out if Sammy was still dead in my mind. Oh my goodness I don’t want to think about that day.
Well my little gig today turned into more of a kiddie sing a long which also can be fun but I was not really prepared. So I tried to remember my rendition of Puff the Magic Dragon and the Frog Song but one of the little girls wanted to “riff” so I just played random chords and let her go at it.
Well this roller coaster day ended with a fabulous birthday party for Dawn’s friends Errol. His daughter was the freestyle rocker and his wife Fiona was this amazingly put together fashionista who has the personality of a comedic angel. The house was full of people good vibes and great food. Dawn whipped us up a feast to remember. She had marinated the deboned lamb leg for 2 days and it melted in my mouth. The home made hummus has ruined me for the store bought that I normally love. She had a shepherds pie left from the bake sale so she baked that up and the deserts. Oh my goodness someone needs to lend me their stomach because I didn’t want to stop eating. I think I am going to gain 10 pounds on this trip but I don’t even care because the food is making me so happy. As I am typing this she is talking about her cooking techniques and I am learning so much but I am not sure how much I will retain. Luckily she is about to launch her cooking blog www.canadiangirlincyprus.com I am so going to be cooking her food at home.
March 8th 2015
Yesterday Steph, Dawn’s eldest daughter, and I made a plan to cycle down to the beach. On the way down it was quite a leisurely ride as we were able to coast down the hill most of the way. The one thing I did have to watch was to not petal backwards as this was a cruiser and the breaks were on the petals. Other than that it was smooth sailing. It was the perfect day for the ride. Fluffy clouds speckled the sky offering us moments of shade.
I felt it was still a bit too cold to swim in the sea but I did take my shoes off and went for a bit of a wade in the water.
Then it was time to head back up that same hill we coasted down. My cruiser had 3 gears. Not my first choice for a ride up a large hill. It took us 10 minutes to get down the hill and 40 to go back up. What a work out. I did not envy Steph as her bike didn’t have any gears and I think her one gear was equal to my second. Yikes. I was missing my 15 gear hybrid but I learnt many years ago that cycling up a hill is all mind over matter so I just decided … “I am not getting off this bike” and that was that. Up and Up and Up we went. When we arrived at the house my Scotch and water tasted amazing.
Nothing like an uphill cycle to make your senses perk up and take notice. It was a great way to start the day too. That afternoon we hopped into the truck and made our way to the most northern tip of the island. Our drive started on the northern side of the northern side of the northeastern tip of the island. Gary wanted to show me how the wind had notched out a couple caves in the mountain. I had a strong desire to climb up to them but as I we were all wearing flip flops that idea was kiboshed. Oh well that will go on the next time list. That list is getting quite large. It is funny how the travel list never seems to get smaller as you check off one thing 5 more appear. We continued on to a beach where one of Gary’s friends owns.
His son arrived as we did so there was a bit of a kiss kiss chat session and they invited us in for food but we had just begun so we thanked them and left to walk to the beach lookout.
This beach was a stunner however Gary pointed out that if we were to walk down we would notice it was covered in plastic bottles. That made me sad. But it is not new to me everywhere I have traveled (even when I am home) I have notice that we humans are all the same in one way. Humans all over the world litter. Humans sometime suck. It is like when we are babies it is just instinct when something bores us or we are finished with it we drop it and go. Dealing with our own garbage is a learned skill and so few humans choose to learn this skill. I do hope some day this changes on a global scale.
Everywhere we stopped seems to have history. Marble mosaic tile trails where randomly found near the ruins of homes long abandon. Yet they still stood tall and carried a beauty that cannot compare to the new structures being built.
Our last stop on the northern side was for a drink on a cliff overlooking the sea but alas all the tables were full so onward we drove.
Weaving over to the south side of the north eastern tip of the island we drove thru a valley and over the hills that now grew smaller and we got closer to the tip of the island. As we came over the hill I found my favorite beach so far.
It was breathtaking. We stopped to take a few photos as I mentally added spending a few days, at this paradise, to my list. Now the road started to get thinner and windier Dawn got a bit quiet as she doesn’t like these roads.
You couldn’t beat the view from this road then to top it all off as we entered the reserve I met my first wild donkey. So cute he was. I got out of the car (like a stupid tourist) and tried to take a selfie with the donkey.
Every time I thought I got the shot he moved. He was just not having it.
Steph however was the donkey guru. He was happy to do a photo shoot with her. I don’t get it I am usually an Ass magnet. Ha.
The last stop was to be at the monastery that was located on the northern tip of the island however just our luck it was closed for renovations. So we had a we wander around then headed home. On the menu tonight was Dawn made Sausages and Gary’s famous chicken rub with salad. Bring on the meat! Yum.
March 9th-13th coming soon
The Turkish Bath experience.
In my search as to which Hamami (turkish bath) I should go to one of the deciding factors was this history, being I have family roots in the Ukraine. Before reading this I was noticing the similarities in the facial structures of many of aunts and uncles. Also the babushka that the babas wear are very similar to the way they women where their scarves here in turkey. Now it makes sense. If the Sultan was gathering women from around the world to join his harem then it would be logical that the Turkish people would have roots planted in many different cultures. This is very similar to many Canadians that I know (like when I look in the mirror) who have descended from a variety of cultures.
So here is the history …
“Hurrem Sultan was born in Rohatyn within the borders of the Crown of the Kingdom of Poland, which is today western Ukraine. She was kidnapped by Tatars during one of their raids in 1520 when she was just 14 years old and taken under the protection of the Crimean Khan.
She was later presented to the Ottoman palace to start her life in the harem of the Sultan, Suleiman the Magnificent. Hurrem gained the attention of Suleiman and was one of the few women to be officially married to an Ottoman sultan. Her influence on Suleiman was well known and is thought to have even reached the politics within the Ottoman court. Hurrem commissioned many public buildings as part of her charitable work, including the Ayasofya Hurrem Sultan Hamam.
Together with Suleiman the Magnificent, Hurrem had one girl, Princess Mihrimah, and five boys, the princes Mehmed, Selim, Bayezid and Cihangir.
Hurrem Sultan passed away on April 18, 1558 at the age of 52, eight years before her husband Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent. She did not witness the enthronement of her son Selim II who became Suleiman’s successor in 1566 AD.”
As there were no photos happening I will try and tell you what my eyes saw.
As I opened the doors to the Hamami the busy city of Istanbul fell away and the aroma of the Judas Tree oil filled my nose and body with a calm peace. The room which has been named The Cool Room was not cold at all. It was warm and welcoming like a pleasant spring day. The marble tiles on the floor were intricately cut but yet fit perfectly together were a warm white. In the centre of the room was a beautifully carved marble fountain. The room was encircled with cushioned benches that were pressed up against marble walls that had little pockets cut out of them housing stain glass windows with lights inside them to showcase the blue glass. beside each pocket of light were throw cushions. Lining all the walls were hand carved wooden railings and stairs winding up to the 1st second and third floors on 4 different points in the room. Everything seemed to be about balance as if to facilitate if the room needed to balance on a ball. I am sure it could. As I didn’t have a reservation they showed me to a seat and I was given a tea to drink while I looked at the options. The receptionist told me that she would not be able to fit me in until 3pm (40 minutes away) but I was welcome to wait in the Hamami. This suited me just fine as it had started to rain right before I came in. One of the women working there showed me to the change room on the first floor. This was about 3 feet above the first floor and it encircled the whole room. She showed me to my locker which had a key code that I entered in to lock and unlock it. In the locker was a turkish bath towel to dress in, (thicker than a sarong and thiner than a towel) and slip on bath shoes. I got myself sorted locked up my things and went out to be greeted by one of the women who showed me into The Hot Room. We walked thru the door into a peaked hallway that could not have been more than 5 1/2 feet tall and was all solid marble. When we entered the room the tininess of the hallway added to the grandness of the room. Again it was all about balance. In all four corners of the room were doorways to smaller rooms. On each wall there were small alcoves with 3 large marble sinks each with 2 gold taps and a golden bowl resting on each. There was a marble bench all around the alcove and I was directed to sit beside one of the bowls. The woman turned on the taps and started to pour water on me while the bowl was filling up. Once it was full she passed me the golden bowl so I could continue to pour water on myself. I started to realize that it was very lucky that they could not take me right away. I started to drink in the beauty of this room. Every inch was marble that fit together perfectly. the floor trim was flawless marble. The hand carved crown moulding that was exactly the same in every corner of the room, the crown ceiling that went up 40 feet all of it was marble. The only exception were the gold fixtures and the center table which was black stone with gold weaved around the stones. This is where they did the bubble massage. But wait I am getting ahead of myself. Something was heating the marble from below the room so the floors and the walls were warm. As I sat waiting I would take a scoop with my golden bowl and pour the water over myself. Now it seemed to me the water was somehow moving a bit slower and was charged slightly. Ok maybe I was caught in the moment but I would really like to do a blind test with a gold plated bowl and a regular bowl. I think the gold charges up the water somehow. I was much more away of where the water poured down my skin. There was something magical about taking the bowl in both hands and pouring the water over my head. I would have been happy to do this the whole day. But little did I know the best was yet to come. After my glorious 30 minutes and 3 marble bowls full of hot water I was greeted by Amin (I am not sure if this is how to spell her name) the woman who would guide me thru my Hamami experience. First it was off to The Warm Room to be exfoliated. The warm room was a smaller marble room will benches and sinks on one side and the bathrooms on the other. Amin took my towel off and sat me on one of the benches she started by asking me if I wanted her to scrub her face as she put on the exfoliating mitten. “Why no” I responded. I closed my eyes and she gently rubbed my face is circles but that was the only gentle part of this experience. She started to scrub harder as she reached my neck and working her way down my arm the scrubbing became more and more vigorous. Don’t get me wrong however it felt great. I did get a big shock when I opened my eyes half way thru the treatment. There was so much skin all over the floor circling my body. I actually felt a bit embarrassed “was I that dirty?” went thru my brain. Well I don’t know if it is bad form to do this but I glanced over at the woman beside me getting the same treatment…Phew she is also surrounded by skin. The moment of stress left my body and I continued to relish in the rest of the treatment. When she finished my skin felt brand new. And I guess it was. She washed off all the dead skin that was stuck to my body then wrapped me in my towel and we went back to the hot room for the Bubble massage. Now I am glad that I saw what was to come while I was golden bowl bathing earlier. The women would take a cloth bag and put it in the soapy water then shake it until it was full of bubbles then squeeze them out of the bag onto the body. Amin did this twice covering my whole body with bubbles then the massage started. My new skin combined with the bubble made the body so slippery which bodes well for the turkish massage style. It is fast and hard. The movements are strong holds in a spot then a quick circle. It was quite unique and very relaxing. She would hit some key knots but never made me tense up as she would work them out gradually by revisiting the spots with the tension but not focusing on them at a great length at any one moment. I started to float off in my mind only to return when she asked me to turn over then she repeated the process on my back. After I had been thoroughly washed and massaged she then walked me over to one of the corner rooms I mentioned earlier. These rooms were the smallest I had been in yet and still completely marble. Here Amin rinsed me off with a golden bowl and water that was randomly hot and cold, warning me when some very cold water was coming. This process was exhilarating. Next she proceeded to wash my hair. There is nothing better than someone washing your hair for you. Massaging my scalp while washing my hair oh heaven. But wait there is more. Once this process was complete it was time for the Massage massage. Amin wrapped me in towels and lead me to the cold room for a turkish juice drink and Turkish Delight. Here I would wait while she go changed. I forgot to mention the women do all this work in towels themselves. And there are no cleaning people they clean the room as they go. So Amin went back and washed her stations and changed then lead me from the bottom of The Cold Room to the 3rd floor. Keep in mind all of the floors only circle the edge of the room leaving the center open 40 feet high. Just grand. This massage was done with the Judas Tree oil.
Again the massage consisted of quick motions and strong pressure. How do these women maintain the energy levels that they need in this job? When the massage was over she left me to rest for a few moments before we went back downstairs.
Ayasofya Hurrem Sultan Hamami was the perfect place to spend a rainy day. If you find yourself in Istanbul it is a must on the to do list. It was not cheap 105 Euros (around $150 Canadian) But I tell you what worth every penny. From this traveler it gets 2 thumbs up, 8 fingers, 10 toes, and everything in between.
It was still raining when I left the Hamami but somehow the cold didn’t bother me as much. I think I might have been weaving a little bit like a drunk and I stumbled on the stairs. My body is just not listening to my mind or maybe my mind doesn’t care I am not sure which. I find a little spot for a bit to eat before I head back to the hotel for my show. “How on earth am I going to play guitar when I am finding it hard to walk.”
Well somehow I pulled it off and everyone seemed to enjoy the music. Also the momma cat came and fell asleep right under my guitar. Guess she needed to take a break from being a walking buffet.
Now as I type this the Bath is hitting home. My eyes are closing as I type but I wanted to get it all down before sleeping as to not forget any of the extraordinary details of this my best day in Istanbul.