Hungover Istanbul & Day 4

Hello blog friends. Tonight’s blog post is brought to you from the city of Prague, where I am currently flopped on a massive hotel bed that is framed by a large, plush backboard and two beautiful hand-carved side tables, one of which is holding a cold, proper sized beer (you can thank the beer for the run on sentence). I’m here for a strategic conference which I find a bit wanky, but I’ve learned a lot and there’s free booze, and now I’m having some down time to chat with you :) All in all it’s been a whirlwind weekend, what with Halloween and Museum night in Amsterdam. Throw a stomach bug and a city trip to Prague into the mix, and yeah, laying here doing nothing for 45 minutes feels GOOD. I love traveling, seeing the world, working hard, and living fully. But sometimes a gal just needs 45 pillows and some alone time with her laptop. And I really want to share the rest of Istanbul with you, before I move on to Paris, and then Prague. Yes, it’s been a very busy travel month, and I’m looking forward to home-time this weekend :) But before that, let’s chat Istanbul!IMG_4128The reason this post is called Hungover Istanbul & Day 4, is because after our crazy night out, Amie and I were d-e-a-d. Like, went to breakfast and walked past the hotel concierge totally blushing because some definitely inappropriate things happened the night before, dead. We laughed hysterically over breakfast, because who the heck knows what happened the night before (ok we totally do but I’m not telling you).

Anyways, after eating weird spam and hot dogs and olives for breakfast (Istanbul, you’re crazy) we went back to bed for about five hours. So day 3 in Istanbul was almost a wash, but we woke up just after lunch, still in so much pain, and in need of food round two. So we dragged ourselves to Pandeli, which had been highly recommended by a Turkish friend. IMG_3992We could not find it on day 1, but after wandering around the spice market for two days, we accidentally stumbled across the somewhat hidden door. If you don’t know where to look, chances are, you wont find it, and your iPhone will be no help. The only hint I can give is this: make sure you check all the entrances to the spice market. It’s tucked just inside a pretty big one.IMG_4008The inside of Pandeli is classic. The walls are a bright turquoise, and the ceiling is high and ornate. IMG_3994IMG_3995We had no idea what to order, but were in need of some serious carbs and meat. We went for the goulash which sounded promising and tasted delicious. It didn’t photograph too well, but did a good job in assuaging the hangover. IMG_3999We then went to a turkish bath which was too intense for photos (I stole these next two pictures from the bath’s website). cemberlitashamami_11At the hamami, no one spoke English. We walked in and were immediately told to strip. I’ve never seen Amie naked, so we were laughing hysterically and still SO hungover. We were then pushed through a series of doors. At the end of a long, winding hall, we entered a large steam room with about 30 other women who were all buck naked, getting scrubbed down by tall round Turkish ladies. And the scrub was not a soft bubble suds. The women being bathed were laying on a large, raised, marble altar, being scrubbed vigorously with large sponges that resembled big wads of sand paper. Çemberlitas Haman baño turquoAmie and I were pushed up onto the raised marble surface and told to lay down in the middle. I tried to keep my eyes closed but every now and then I would peek at Amie and we would just start giggling. About 10 minutes into our steam, the bath ladies splashed us with a flick of water and motioned for us to come over. Then, they went to work. Splash. Scrub. Splash. Scrub. My skin turned red and peeled, but I’ve never felt so clean. The best part was sitting under a waterfall of water at the end, getting my hair conditioned and shampoo’d by the bath attendant. It was a very strange, very clean, and a very Turkish experience.IMG_4014After finding a litter of kittens and unsuccessfully trying to steal them (the mommy cat was having none of it), Amie and I went to check the Whirling Dervishes at a dinner show. IMG_4036The Dervishes are famous for their practice of whirling as a form of dhikr (remembrance of God).output_UQnZ4zThe show was mesmerizing, a once in a lifetime sight to behold. Following the Dervishes, a belly dancer came out to entertain the audience and lighten the moon. (Grandpa below is clearly loving it!!) However, Amie and I were dead at this point, and excused ourselves a bit early. After some greasy street meat, we went back to the hotel for a good night’s sleep.IMG_4093v v But seriously, how classy is the Turkish Water Pipe Cafe???IMG_4100On our way home we passed by the Blue Mosque.
IMG_4024And were inspired to check it out first thing the next day.
IMG_4120^ ^ The above photo is actually the Hagia Sophia, which we did not go inside.IMG_4106When you visit a mosque, you must take off your shoes. And if you’re a woman, you must cover your neck, hair, and shoulders with a scarf. Amie and I wrapped ourselves up and got in line, and were rewarded with a glimpse of the Blue Mosque’s stunning interior (which looked more red than blue, but was gorgeous none the less). IMG_4109IMG_4111As it was our last morning in Istanbul, we decided to indulge in some street meat for breakfast. Before I could even order a stuffed pita, a stray orange tabby came over and sat beside me. He waited here patiently, for about 10 minutes, until my beastly breakfast was served.IMG_4128IMG_4134He then demanded that we share . . . so kitty had some  greasy shawarma and fries for breakfast too. IMG_4136After saying goodbye to our kitty friend (or my kitty friend, I should say, as Amie was not amused by my many cat friends), we decided to go to Asia (all casual, as you do).

Istanbul is a half-Asian, half-European city, and Amie and I really wanted to be able to say we’d been to Asia. We also wanted to go on a boat ride down the Bosphorus, and a ferry over to the Asian side of the city was a good way to tick both boxes before our evening flight home. After some confusion (there are many ferry boats along the Bosphorus), we climbed on board a large three-story boat and were treated to some crystal clear, panoramic views of the city. IMG_4165IMG_4148IMG_4166Istanbul is HUGE, and from the ferry, we could finally take in the immensity of its size. IMG_4151Buildings stretched on as far as the eye could see, and the Asian side of the city had not yet even come into view.IMG_4149A quick 20 minutes later, we were in Asia. The Asian side of Istanbul was charming, but in a less-touristy, more authentic way. IMG_4188v v  The obligatory Ali in Asia photo . . . 
IMG_4171v v Cool paint textures on an abandoned building. IMG_4179Our last order of business in Istanbul was to eat baked potatoes. Eating kumpir (large stuffed potatoes) was on the must-do list for Istanbul. We roamed the city until we found Kervan Cafe, which had a large sign advertising jacket potatoes.IMG_4199The inside of the cafe was adorable. Two old Turkish men sat at a small side table, playing cribbage, and the woman who came over to serve us was akin to a sweet old gramma. No one in the shop spoke English, so we went over to the kitchen and pointed at various potato toppings in a large glass case.IMG_4197Some sauces and toppings were a complete mystery, while other toppings (such as the small slices hot dog pieces) looked vaguely familiar (but not super appetizing). IMG_4192We each chose five toppings, and watched as large, salted potatoes were then taken out of an archaic wood stove. The server then mashed up the inside of the potato with cheese, salt, pepper, and butter (essentially making cheesy mashed potatoes) and loaded on the toppings. It was the first time I have ever had olives, pickles, and cabbage on a potato, and it was damn good. IMG_4196Following the potato feast, we roamed the city for another 20 minutes or so. We bought jewelry for friends, drank a final fresh pomegranate juice . . . IMG_4186. . . and said goodbye to the Asian strays, before hopping on a ferry back to European-Istanbul to catch our plane. IMG_4180Goodbye Istanbul, goodbye adorable cats, goodbye towering mosques and greasy street meat. I hope we meet again someday :)

xo Ali

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