Istanbul Day 1 – 3.14.15

Hello again! Apologies that my semester in Sevilla sort of trickled off from the blogosphere – I was lucky enough to essentially be traveling every weekend and once I got back, I would have school, work (I was working for a psychology professor, helping him prepare for a conference in Alabama) and/or soccer/football practice and/or volunteer English teaching to do and before I knew it, the semester had flown by without enough blogging time! Photos recapping the rest of my weekends in Sevilla can be found here. Now I’m onto my next adventure!

For two years, I’ve been a part of HCAP (the Harvard College in Asia Program). This student organization hosts a conference on Harvard’s campus in January for 80 Asian student delegates and then we get to travel to one of the delegation cities during spring break. Last March I went to Dubai and right now I am in Istanbul!

We left for Istanbul from Boston on the midnight between Friday and Saturday. I was kind of (maybe) able to sleep on the plane, but was glad until I waited until after “dinner” to fall asleep. Usually I detest airline food – there are few things I feel this strongly about, but airline food is one of them. As we were boarding our Turkish Airlines flight, I saw two men in chefs hats walking up and down the aisle. They can’t fool me I thought to myself, the food is probably still going to be terrible.

But boy was I wrong – this food was delicious! There was (I think actual!) chicken, a lovely potato dish, a salad-type dish AND red velvet cake! After that, I dozed on and off. But then a second wonderful (well, depending on how you look at it) thing happened. Normally I can’t sleep on flights, but this time I must have fallen into a pretty deep sleep because I missed the flight attendants handing out breakfast (which I was obviously very sad about, but also psyched since it meant I was actually able to get some decent sleep).

We then arrived in Istanbul and our delegates were there to meet us at the airport! Traffic was horrendous (we had been warned about this though!) but soon enough we made it to our hotel.

The hotel is a police hotel (meaning police can stay in it for a discounted rate), right on the Bosphorus. It is in a great location (right across the road from the water and pretty close to Bogazici University, where the delegates attend school). After dropping our luggage, we went out again to get some food and then go to a Turkish bath.

Dinner was pretty good. I didn’t want to upset my stomach (especially since we were going to a Turkish bath right after!) so I just had some relatively bland chicken and rice, but both were delicious!

After that we were off to the bath! We were told that we could go in bathing suits, or we could go nude, with Turkish towels covering us (by now we had separated by gender – males were in one bath and us females were in another). Many of us (myself included) opted for the completely-nude-with-a-towel-option, to get the most authentic experience.

Turns out, that as soon as you get into the 100-degree room where the “bath” is, you drop the Turkish towel. Oh well, no way to quicker make friends than bonding naked in a Turkish bath, right? The bath itself was also not what I was expecting (I was expecting a Jacuzzi-like tub). Instead, there was a raised cube made of marble in the middle and sinks/taps all around. We were to bathe ourselves (by turning the hot and cold faucets on to make a temperature to our liking) by sticking a bucket into the sink and then pouring the water all over ourselves.

The best part, however, was when we took turns lying on the marble cube (yes, we were still naked, and by now naked female attendants had joined us as well). First they scrubbed you down – and you could literally see a bunch of your skin cells come off. After that, you wash yourself for a while (while other girls get scrubbed) and then the attendant lathered you up with soap and kind of massaged your whole body.

I must say, as awkward as it was, my skin still feels very smooth and it felt especially good to do this after a 10 hour flight. After that we went to the market briefly (to get some food/toiletries), then went home, chatted for a bit in Juan and Teagan’s room and then went to bed after a very long first (half) day in Istanbul.

TGT: I like to end all my posts recounting Three Good Things that happened the past day (to both end on a positive note and also provide a tl;dr summary)

1) delicious food (on the airline (!) and also in Turkey) 2) relaxing and entertaining bath 3) taking the bus from the airport to the hotel (even though we were stuck in traffic, that did mean that we got to see the city more!)

Until next time,
~JK

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