Saturday, March 17, 2012

Istanbul: March 6th

Our morning started out with an academic visit to the Turkish Economic and Social Studies Foundation (TESEV) where we spoke to the head of the democratization department about minority issues and rights in Turkey, focusing on the Kurdish question.

Then Koray took us to the Spice Bazaar where we got our first taste of marketplace life in Istanbul.  Upon entering, we were beckoned by every single shopkeeper to sample their Turkish delight, various teas, look at their huge selection of scarves, etc.  Never in my life have I been called "beautiful," "angel," or "California" in such rapid succession.  Also, the whole place was like sensory overload with so many stands selling almost the exact same things.  On top of that, I really don't enjoy haggling, and I'm really bad at it.  Aside from all those pressures, it was a lot of fun!

Inside the Spice Bazaar
So much Turkish delight.  
The rest of the day was reserved for small groups to go on their relevant cultural/academic visits.  Since my group had already done our visit to the Greek Orthodox Patriarchy, a few of us decided to venture over to Çemberlitas Hammam.

What is the Çemberlitas Hammam, you ask?  It's a traditional Turkish bath dating back to the 1500s.  Now, what is a Turkish bath?  Basically, you lay on a huge warm stone in a steam room and are washed/scrubbed down by an attendant.  At first consideration, the whole concept seems strange/awkward, but we had all heard such great things and decided to give it a try- for the story, if nothing else.  Obviously, I have no pictures,  but it was definitely unforgettable.  Only in Turkey.

The whole Turkish bath affair was a good couple hours of relaxation, and after we were sufficiently bathed and exfoliated we meandered back to the hotel.  We spent the evening wandering the city, stopping to grab some kabob for dinner, chat over a glass of wine in a café, and finally visiting the candy store for some baklava and Turkish delight.

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