A Travellerspoint blog

A Close Shave

A post dinner adventure

After a delicious dinner at Elfin Cafe, where we had charming service from Errol (who loved the ladies)136.jpg ,
he encouraged us to have a Turkish shave because the ladies do not like to "kiss a brush". So, the boys decided to accept Errols recommendation for a place to get a shave. Unfortunately, the place was closed but we found another on the way back to our hotel. Well, the adventure began!.

Welcome to Adnan's full service shop where we we watched a client (through the window) getting his chest shaved. Brad and I decided to run but the ladies encouraged us to give it a try. So, in we went. Adnan greeted us heartily and before we could say 'Gillette', we found ourselves seated in a chair warily eyeing the razors.
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Adnan's best barbers stepped up to the plate and we soon found ourselves lathered up. The brushes and lather were warm and soothing...but, we were still worried about those big razors.
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Because I only have a third of the facial hair that Brad has, he had to be shaved twice! P1030409.jpg

Turned out, the razors were wonderful and our faces were clean shaven perfectly without a nick. We thought we would make a quick escape but no, we were not done. As we opened our eyes and got ready to leave, we noticed that our barbers had lit a couple of "small' torches and were getting mighty close to our ears. We held our collective breathes as they gently tapped the torches against our ears and promptly extinguished the flames that were annihilating our ear hairs.
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Still not done, out came the "steamer", to open the pores. Steam turned out to be quite nice but once again. P1030410.jpg
At this point, Adanan encouraged us to have a full facial for an extra 15TL. Sue and Heather were having such a good time, that they encouraged us to go for it.
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After a full facial scrub, the green "mask" was applied.
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Once this had dried, they peeled the mask from around our eyes and then proceeded to wash the rest of the mask off. P1030425.jpg
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There we were, one hour later, with skin as smooth as a babies bum and looking 16 years younger......at least that's what Adana said! Another Turkish delightful experience. Check out my mohawk! Wayne
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Posted by hbwatson 07:19 Comments (2)

Exploring Istanbul

Ancient history at every turn

sunny 25 °C

Following our first free Turkish breakfast on the roof top terrace of our hotel –which consists of quite a lot of white bread and a boiled egg, tomatoes, cucumbers and olives – we headed to the Blue Mosque. Beautiful, but not as emotionally stirring as we imagined it to be. It felt very touristy. But the architecture is amazing with column/pillars that were bigger than anything we have ever seen.
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As the sun heated up the day, we made our way over to the Yerebatan Sarnici Cistern built in 520 AD. We descended 100 steps below Istanbul. It supplied the water for the city; built completely underground. The engineering was jaw dropping. We marvelled at how people with such limited tools could build so many stunning columns – over 336 in total – over one hundred feet high, each one beautifully decorated with either Doric or Corinthian tops. The water for the cistern was brought from the Belgrade Forest more than 19km away. The added bonus was how wonderfully cool it was, a welcome reprieve from the noon day heat.
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The Marmara Sea is 500 meters from our hotel. When we reached the sea we saw two large groups of dolphins cavorting. We saw fishing boats about 50 meters off the shore shoveling mussels by the hundreds into sacks. We then worked our way up the steep and narrow cobblestone streets thirstily searching for a store that sold cold beer. Being a Muslim country, liquor is not widely available. We made a wrong turn and inadvertently ended up in a narrow corridor with steep walls that likely was originally part of the wall surrounding the city. Suddenly Heather realized that we were in someone’s back yard. A very old and tired looking woman sitting on her front steps encouraged us to continue and pointed us a shortcut through her yard. A gentle “merhaba” from Heather brought a smile to her lips. We all loved her to pieces. Finally, a cold beer store appeared in front of us. We bought a couple of extra large cans of Efes Turkish beer (delicious and a bit too cold – kidding). We took the brews back to our hotel, wearily climbed the winding steps up to the terrace and enjoyed our ice cold beer away from the cacophony back down on the streets. Hard to imagine we were looking out over a mega city of some 18 million, with a history dating back over 2000 years.
Dining out in Istanbul is a treat, as the cuisine is amazing. Lamb, beef, chicken kebabs are featured a lot on menus, always cooked perfectly and so tender. A wide assortment of stew/casserole type dishes with eggplant, tomatoes, red peppers, onions, and beans, with your choice of meat or fish, served over rice or potatoes. Lentils, flatbreads, regular bread, olives and cheese are often served with the mains. Price in an average quality restaurant would be about 15 to 20 Turkish Lire or about $9 to $14 Canadian. For lunch you can get by on a fresh fish sandwich for about $4 Canadian. Desserts are to be looked forward to. We would often order baklava or rice pudding, really delicious and NOT over sweetened. A couple of Kiwi’s who were staying at our hotel recommended their favorite restaurant, one they had frequented 15 years ago during a previous trip to Turkey. We climbed the steps at “the Doy Doy restaurant, and feasted on roast lamb kebabs and typical stews all served over delicious rice. The bread came in a rugby ball sized loaf...delicious and warm. We retired to our rooms, so excited at what tomorrow would bring.

Brad and Wayne

Posted by hbwatson 12:52 Comments (0)

Istanbul Hits us in the Face!

Sensory overload

sunny 24 °C

We left Haarlem early in the morning and were driven to the airport by our friends. Not only did they drive us, but they came in to say good-bye. We were sad when we said goodbye to Franz-Josef, Dominic and Maria. As we left for Turkey, they drove back to Germany – safe travels friends.
As soon as we touched down at Ataturk it was obvious that we were in a completely different place. The language was incomprehensible, the temperature was a good 10 degrees higher and there were many women wearing burkas. There didn’t seem to be any customs to pass through so we headed straight for the Metro.
The Metro was not crowded and very pleasant to ride on, however, we had to switch to the tram half way through the journey – a rather unfortunate turn of events. The tram was enormously crowded when we got on and body odour was fairly evident. We saw people with their faces plastered against the windows, and still more people piled on. Twenty long stops later, we arrived at Sultanahmet station somewhat traumatized. Luckily there was a park right by the tram stop, so we found a bench, the men got some cold water and we gathered our wits.
Now, imagine this. Walking down towards our hotel, we were greeted with the breath taking view of the Blue Mosque on the right and the Aya Sofia on the right. In between, were old walls and ruins. We felt like we were in an open air museum.
The people in Turkey are very friendly and kind and go out of their way to be helpful. The one possible exception are the carpet sales men. Fresh and new, we walked unknowingly straight towards Aysa Sofia and were accosted by a man wearing a shirt with the saying ‘Malibu” on it. He advised us in an urgent voice that the Blue Mosque was closing for one week in less than an hour. Luckily, he insisted that he could get us right in – straight to the front of the line. We were suspicious but concerned. As his conversation progressed, it was clear that he had another agenda as yet undisclosed. He finally admitted he was a carpet sales man and we dismissed him forthwith.
In the evening we sat on the terrace and ate a lovely dinner in view of the Blue Mosque.
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Suddenly multiple voices, compelling but discordant, came over the loud speakers from the surrounding mosques. It was stirring. It was our first call to prayer. We took the time to say thank you for our many blessings as was suggested to us before we came on this trip. The end of a perfect day.
Sue

Posted by hbwatson 01:55 Comments (0)

Some Photos from Amsterdam

We rented some bikes and toured Haarlem for the afternoon.
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The start of our canal tour. Franz-Josef, Dominic, Brad and Wayne
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Maria and Sue at the Indonesian restaurant.
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Posted by hbwatson 00:58 Comments (0)

Amsterdam Continued

A Day of Extremes

overcast 14 °C

We headed straight for the Anne Frank Museum where we still found a surprisingly long line up. After 45 minutes, we soon realized that it was well worth the wait. Mixed emotions for all of us and especially so for our German friends who found it to be so sad and humiliating. We tried to comfort them by noting that prejudice and such behavior is human and not isolated to Germany. We Canadians for example have our treatment of the first nations peoples by way of example. At any rate, a great reminder of "man's inhumanity to man". From there, we went to "The Begijnhof" - a centuries old grouping of residences for widows and single women who wanted to have a life of service but did not want to become nuns. First Catholic, then Dutch reform Protestant.
The ladies dragged us all to the flower market but pity was taken on the men and we dropped into an amazing Dutch pancake house. A tiny enclave jammed to the max with locals....a good call by us hungry tourists. Tummies full of pancakes that would even impress our Cameron,
we hurried over to the Rijks Museum where of course we were completely humbled by the Rembrandts "Nightwatch" and so many other simply incredible paintings. I have never really been one to be silent for so long but I was move to several hours of silence and wonderment whilst looking at so many paintings that took my breath away. So lucky to have seen that.
From here we hopped on the tram and headed back over to the Red Light District - this time it had a bit more action as it was getting dark by now. Brad had been here earlier in the day and had taken a walking tour, so he acted as our tour guide. Turned out that Brad was a great tour guide and walked us through China town, the warehouse district and, of course, the red light district. This time, the ladies were in their windows replete with the sexiest of clothing and gyrating moves designed to entice the interested passers by. A bit weird for us as it seemed to be so flagrant...but legal. From there we realized that what with the red light district and the multitude of "cafes" which all turn out to be marijuana joints...we realized that we really were in a different part of the world. Different, but wonderful in it's own way.

By now we were hungry and luckily stumbled up an amazing Tibetan restaurant - what a treat! Home by 10:30 pm - it has been a full 12 hours of sightseeing today.

Posted by hbwatson 08:16 Comments (2)

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