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Turkish Hamams of Istanbul
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Turkish Bath – relax in the hamams of Istanbul

A Turkish bath is something that everyone should try at least once in their lifetime.

The most impressive examples are found in Istanbul, capital of the Ottoman Empire and former capital of the Byzantine Empire. The Byzantines considered themselves the direct cultural successors to the Roman Empire, where public baths were a staple feature of the community and the Ottomans adopted and continued this practice when they conquered the Byzantines in 1450. The steam bath in Ottoman times had three basic functions: a place for social gathering; ritual cleansing and as an architectural witness to the sultan’s greatness, power and wealth. Particularly during the Ottoman Empire, hamams were a place for socializing. The bath was open from sunrise to sunset and frequented not only for washing but also for use of the barber, exchange of gossip and news, and even business meetings. In the ladies’ section, women could investigate the physical and social qualities of prospective daughters-in-law, enjoy music and entertainment, and indulge in sweets.

Visiting a Turkish Bath

Choices
The “traditional service” is recommended for a true Turkish Bath experience. Lasting around 45 minutes, an attendant will wash, scrub & massage you with suds and a handwoven wash cloth (kese). A cheaper alternative is “self-service” where you bathe yourself or you can go for a more” luxurious option” including an aromatherapy oil massage, facial mask, reflexology etc.

turkish-hamam

Procedure
Most traditional Turkish baths have separate sections for men & women, only the more touristic options will allow mixing so be sure to check beforehand if you wish to enjoy the experience as a mixed gender couple or group. Once you are shown to the locker area you then strip down and cover yourself with a peştimal (a thin cotton towel) before entering into the hararet or hot room. You can wear underwear but be sure to bring a dry set with you for later. Here you have time to relax and begin to sweat while lying on an impressive göbektaşı (raised marble platform in the center above the heating source). The hararet is most often the most beautiful section of a Turkish Bath, covered completely in marble. Once the masseuse/masseur (will always be the same gender as yourself) feels you are ready they will begin to douse you with warm water and lather you with a soapy swab. Once covered in suds you are then massaged and scrubbed. The scrubbing might feel a bit like being sandpapered but leaves your skin glowing and incredibly soft, well worth it! Also don’t be surprised by the amount of “dirt” (dead skin cells) that you will see has being scrubbed off. Showering every day just does not accomplish the same level of rejuvenation & cleanliness. Then follows a thorough rinsing after which you have the choice to either relax a while longer in the hot room or head on into the cooling down section. Here you are handed a new dry peştimal and given time to cool down, take a nap, even have a drink. Then head back to the lockers, dress and prepare to enter once more the outside world.

Istanbul - experience it all

Best Turkish Baths in Istanbul

Cağaloğlu Hamam
Located close to Grand Bazaar, this is the last Turkish bath house that was built in the Ottoman Era. It was constructed in 1741 by two different Ottoman era architects. The beautifully detailed building with high domed ceilings, internal marble fountains, interior garden, and two levels of individual changing chambers are still a great delight. http://www.cagalogluhamami.com.tr/

cagaoglu-hamam

Çemberlitaş Hamam
It is one of the oldest hamams in Istanbul, and the bath section was built in 1584 by the famous Ottoman architect, Sinan. The architecture of Çemberlitaş Hamam attracts not only travelers and locals, but many researchers, photographers, filmmakers and students also study this magnificent structure. A visit to Çemberlitaş hamam can be one of the best Turkish bathing experiences under the huge dome. http://www.cemberlitashamami.com/

Beylerbeyi Hamam
Located right next to Beylerbeyi Mosque and it is an Ottoman style wooden building built in 1778. Camekan, the section for changing clothes, has a wooden ceiling, ılıklık, the transition area from the cooling area to the hot bath room, has a nice marble fountain. The hot room has a small göbektaşı. There are total of thirteen kurnas, fountains, and four halvets, private rooms. Beylerbeyi hamam serves men and women on separate schedules. Ladies can visit in the morning till the early afternoon, and male customers can visit afterwards.

Hagia Sophia – Haseki Hürrem Sultan Hamam
This is another magnificent structure built by Sinan, the chief Ottoman architect. Hurrem Sultan, Roxelana, the wife of Suleiman the Magnificent, ordered it to be built in 1556. It was built where the ancient public baths of Zeuxippus (100-200 AD) used to stand, in the middle of Blue Mosque and Hagia Sophia. The last renovation that helped the structure regain its magnificent look started in 2008, took three years and cost 17million Turkish Lira. 1300 square meters of Marmara marble was used to restore the hamam back into its former glory. Although built as a classical Ottoman bath, this particular hamam was constructed in a way that the sections for men and women are on the same axis, as mirror images of each other. This is also one of the fanciest hamams in Istanbul, and they serve customers with 160 gold plated bath bowls along with silk and cotton (%50-50) mixture pestamals. http://www.ayasofyahamami.com/?rel=2

Haseki-Hurrem-Sultan-Hamam

Süleymaniye Hamam
Built as part of the Süleymaniye Kulliye in 1557. A kulliye complex has numerous facilities around a mosque and the Süleymaniye complex includes Süleymaniye Mosque, a medrese, hospital, asylum, infirmary tombs, a hamam, a market and a primary school. Again, this is another work of the Ottoman architect Sinan, and it is one of the most touristy hamams in Istanbul. This part of the old city has been protected by the tourism authority and Süleymaniye Hamam has maintained its originality. Suleiman the Magnificent was the first to bathe here after a special ceremony and prayers. It has a similar plan to Haseki Hurrem Sultan Hamam. http://www.suleymaniyehamami.com.tr/

Istanbul - experience it all

treasury-of-petra-jordan

Jordan – 10 fast facts

The land of Jordan lies along an ancient and well-used trade route. A country filled with ancient monuments, stunning nature reserves and seaside resorts. The most famous is the archaeological site of Petra, the Nabatean capital dating to around 300BCE, set in a narrow valley with tombs, temples and monuments carved into the surrounding pink sandstone cliffs.

Below are a few interesting facts about Jordan that we have put together. Maybe these will help to entice you to visit this wonderful country and its many treasures.

1. The stunning black iris is Jordan’s national flower. It is incredibly rare and grows only in Wadi Rum in spring.

National flower of Jordan the rare Black Iris

National flower of Jordan the rare Black Iris

2. Jordan is one of the most welcoming countries and Jordanians take great pride in their hospitality.

3. It is widely believed that Mount Nebo in Jordan is the burial place of Moses.

4. One of the Seven Wonders of the World, the city of Petra, was literally carved into rock over 2000 years ago.

Petra - A must include during any travel package to Jordan

Petra – A must include during any travel package to Jordan

5. John the Baptist is known to have been imprisoned in a palace named Mukawir, which is located just south of Madaba.

6. In ancient times, Jordan used to be a segment of the Fertile Crescent, in an otherwise arid part of the globe.

Dead Sea in Jordan, lowest point on earth.

Dead Sea in Jordan, lowest point on earth.

7. The Dead Sea is 67km long, maximum width of about 18km, and its salinity is about nine times that of the oceans. Its surface is about 418m below sea level, and its shores are the lowest land points on Earth.

 

8. The Baptism site by the Jordan River is one of modern biblical archaeology’s most notable discoveries. It is believed that this area called Wadi Kharar is where John the Baptist resided and was the baptism place of Jesus Christ.

9. The Jordanian capital, Amman, was originally constructed across 7 hills. The city now spans 19 of them.

10. Lawrence of Arabia, this British Army office based himself mainly in Wadi Rum, an area of a spectacular rock and desert formations.

View through a rock arch in the desert of Wadi Rum, Jordan, Middle East

View through a rock arch in the desert of Wadi Rum, Jordan, Middle East

nasreddin-hoca
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Tales from Nasreddin Hoca

The Nasreddin stories have touched many cultures around the world, they are told and retold endlessly. But it is inherent in a Nasreddin story that it must be understood at many levels. There is the joke, followed by a moral and usually the little extra which brings the consciousness of the potential mystic a little further on the way to realization.

A popular scholar, Nasreddin Hoca was famously considered the foremost protagonist of comical tales with an emotional content or other important message. Definite facts about his life have become mixed up with fictitious anecdotes because of the peoples’ great affection for him. The anecdotes about him focus particularly on love, satire, praise and gentle mockery. His words are a contradictory combination of the wise, ignorant, cunning, harmonious, insensitive, bashful, surprised, timorous and dashing.
Another important element in Nasreddin Hoca stories is the donkey, a reflection of the feelings of the people. It is impossible to imagine Nasreddin Hoca without his donkey, which is itself a vehicle of satire. The donkey, with its suffering and pain, the blows that are inflicted on it, is the most widespread symbol. No donkeys are to be found in humorous tales from the palaces, such people ride on horses.

Below are just a few examples from around a collection of 90 of his tales:

Taste the same

Some children saw Nasreddin coming from the vineyard with two baskets full of grapes loaded on his donkey. They gathered around him and asked him to give them a taste. Nasreddin picked up a bunch of grapes and gave each child a grape.
“You have so much, but you gave us so little,” the children whined.
“There is no difference whether you have a basketful or a small piece. They all taste the same,” Nasreddin answered, and continued on his way.

Watermelon vs Walnut

One day Nasreddin Hodja was working in his little watermelon patch. When he stopped for a break, he sat under a walnut tree and pondered. `Sublime Allah/God,’ he said, `it’s your business, but why would you grow huge watermelons on weak branches of a vine, and house little walnuts on a strong and mighty tree?’ And as he contemplated such, one walnut fell from the tree right onto his head. `Great Allah/God,’ he said as he massaged his bruised head, `now I understand why you didn’t find the watermelons suitable for the tree. I would have been killed if you had my mind.’

Cauldron

Nasreddin Hodja had borrowed a cauldron from his neighbor. When he didn’t return it for a long time, the neighbor came knocking on the door. `Hodja Effendi, if you are finished with the cauldron could I take it back? The wife needs it today.’ `Ah, of course,’ Hodja said, `just wait here a minute and I’ll fetch it.’ When Hodja came back to the door with the cauldron, the neighbour noticed that there was a small pot in it. `What is this?’ `Well, neighbor, congratulations, your cauldron gave birth to a baby pot.’ said the Hodja. The neighbor, incredulous, yet delighted, thanked the Hodja, took his cauldron and the new little pot, and went home. A few weeks after this incident, one day The Hodja came again, asking to borrow the cauldron. The neighbor didn’t even hesitate and lent Hodja the cauldron with pleasure. However, once more it was taking the Hodja forever to return it back. The neighbor had no choice but to go asking for it again. `Hodja Effendi, are you done with the cauldron?’ `Ahh neighbour, ahh’ bemoaned The Hodja, `I am afraid your cauldron is dead.’ `Hodja Effendi, that’s not possible, a cauldron cannot die!’ exclaimed the disbelieving neighbor. But Nasreddin Hodja had his answer ready. `My dear fellow, you can believe that it can give birth, why can’t you believe that it can also die?’

Delicious Stew

One day Nasreddin Hodja bought 2 kilograms of meat from the neighbourhood butcher. He brought the meat home and asked his wife to cook a real nice stew for dinner. Thus secured the evening meal, he happily headed off to his field to work. Hodja’s wife did cook the stew but about lunch time a few of her friends and relatives came over for a visit. Having nothing else to serve to her guests, she served the stew. They all ate heartily and finished it all. Hodja came home after a long day’s work and asked his wife if the stew was ready. `Ahh, ahh! You have no idea what befell the stew.’ his wife said, `The cat ate it all.’ Nasreddin Hodja, suspicious, looked around and saw the scrawny little cat in one corner, looking as hungry as himself. Hodja grabbed the cat and weighed him on his pair of scales. The poor thing weighed exactly two kilos. `Woman,’ said the Hodja, `if this is the cat, where is the stew? If this is the stew, then where is the cat?’

Melomakarona-greek-treat

Melomakarona – A Greek Treat

The best part of the festive season is getting together with friends and family. So why not prepare a special treat of Greek Melomakarona, you will all love the result.

For the syrup
7 cups sugar
8 cups water
2 cups honey
2 cinnamon sticks
2 wide strips of orange peel

For the Dough:
5 cups pastry flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 cup coarsely ground walnuts
zest of 1 orange
2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground clove

Wet Ingredients
1 1/2 cups vegetable oil
3/4 cups sugar

Beat until melted
2 large eggs
2 Tbsp. honey

Add baking soda into a glass with orange juice
1/2 cup orange juice
3/4 tsp. baking soda

Ground walnut topping
6 Tbsp. sugar
1 1/2 cups of ground walnuts
1 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground clove

Pre-heated 350F oven

  1. For the syrup, add all ingredients in a pot and bring to a boil and lower to a simmer and cook for 10 minutes, take off the heat and allow to cool.
  2.  Into a large bowl, add your wet ingredients (except for baking soda and orange juice). Mix for 5 minutes or until sugar is dissolved.
  3. Combine the flour with the other dry ingredients. Once sugar is dissolved, add the baking soda/orange juice mixture then add dry to wet ingredients. Use you hands to mix the dough.
  4. Using your hands, roll the dough into small balls (about the size of apricots), then form them into quenelle shapes.
  5. Take your box grater (the side used to zest) and place a cookie on top of it. Press the cookie down a bit to form a grid pattern on the top of the cookie. Repeat this process for all the cookies.
  6. Place your cookies on a parchment paper lined baking sheet. Bake in a pre-heated oven (middle rack) for 30 minutes.
  7. Using a large slotted spoon or Spider, drop the hot cookies in batches into the cool syrup for 10 minutes to absorb the syrup then flip for 3 minutes on the other side. Reserve on a cooling rack and repeat until all the cookies are dunked in syrup.
  8. For the topping, add the above ingredients in a bowl mix well with a spoon. Brush each cookie with the remaining syrup and then sprinkle each cookie top with the walnut topping. Allow to cool.
  9. Store in a cool, dry container for up to a month.
    Share and Enjoy
Bridge over Golden Horn in Istanbul

What Turkey is Like for Travelers Right Now

Article by Wendy Perrin – written 08 October 2015 (read original article)

I’ve been getting this question a lot lately, what with the rise of ISIS and U.S. military action in Syria (Turkey’s neighbor to the southeast). When war is in the news, it can be scary for travelers. It might be easy to imagine that Turkey is a battlefield; we keep hearing about terrorists and an influx of refugees. But the reality for travelers to Turkey’s tourist areas is very different from what’s in the news.

As someone who has been to Turkey four times, including at times when many deemed it unsafe—I traveled the country on assignment for Condé Nast Traveler shortly after 9/11 and again in 2006 when the U.S. was at war with Iraq (in fact, I spent a week in southeastern Turkey within a few miles of the Syrian border)— I am here to tell you that Turkey is one of the safest places I know, filled with hospitable and friendly people.

There are so many countries that are viewed as precarious even though just one small pocket of the country is worrisome. It’s only when you’re on the ground there that you realize the extent to which life is uneventful and peaceful outside that pocket. That’s why the best way to get a sense of what Turkey is like for travelers right now is to talk to travelers who are there or have just come back. So, on your behalf, I’ve reached out to just such travelers. Here’s what they report:

Tom Martin of Minneapolis, Minnesota, had planned his trip to Turkey long before the current situation developed, and he started to have second thoughts over the summer. “As our departure date approached,” he said in an email, “the daily drumbeat of increasingly alarming stories in The New York Times became a matter of considerable concern and anxiety, to the point of causing me to question whether we should cancel the trip. In the end, we did not change our itinerary at all.”

When he landed in Turkey, Mr. Martin saw with his own eyes the difference between what he’d been imagining and what Istanbul is really like. “The impression from the news in the U.S. is of a somewhat exotic, traditional country that is as progressive as a secularized Muslim country can be, but that remains somewhat poor and undeveloped,” Mr. Martin said. “I was, quite frankly, in shock to find a modern, affluent, and incredibly clean cosmopolitan city in Istanbul, efficient, modern airports, and generally friendly, accommodating people who truly were secular and in many areas very wealthy.”

David Hornik of Palo Alto, California, who was traveling with his wife, Pamela, had a similar experience. “There was a massive gulf between our safety concerns heading to Turkey and our experience in the country itself,” Mr. Hornik said. “We felt safer in Turkey than we do in most cities in Europe.”

Davi Weisberg and her husband, Michael Harrington, also had some preconceived notions about their trip. “Before we left, my main fear was that there would be a great deal of hostility toward Americans,” Ms. Weisberg said. “I never felt that! The Turkish people are warm and welcoming—just lovely people.”

Added Mr. Harrington, “We were in Cappadocia when the U.S. bombing of Syria started. That day we toured a number of small towns in the area, and I looked carefully for any negative response from the locals. (I am over six feet and clearly American, so I do stand out in a small village). Everyone was very friendly and welcoming—I did not observe a single negative glance or frown.”

4 Steps to Help You Decide Whether to Go

When weighing the risks vs. the benefits of travel to any destination viewed as uncertain, these steps will help.

1. Put risks in perspective.

Sure, there have been bombings in Istanbul in the past, but there have also been bombings in London, Madrid, Boston, and New York. A terrorist incident can happen anywhere at any time. The risk that any one individual traveler will be harmed in a military action or terrorist incident is statistically tiny. Since 9/11 travelers have increasingly come to realize this—and it’s one reason why tourism to Turkey has not suffered despite last year’s incidents. Tourism is up six percent from last year, according to Başaran Ulusoy, the president of the Association of Turkish Travel Agencies, and by the end of this year Turkey expects to host a record 42 million tourists. In fact, Istanbul was named the world’s top destination by TripAdvisor this year, based on millions of travelers’ reviews.

2. Check governments’ travel alerts.

The U.S. State Department currently has no travel alert or travel warning in place for Turkey. Even when there is a State Department travel alert, I like to check other countries’ alerts to get a well-rounded picture—especially alerts from the U.K and Australian governments, which tend not to be as alarmist as the State Department can sometimes be. The British Foreign and Commonwealth Office’s travel advice for Turkey reminds us that 2.5 million British travelers visit Turkey every year and that “most visits are trouble-free.”

3. Look at a map.

The U.K. alert advises “against all travel to the towns of Akḉakale and Ceylanpinar and against all but essential travel to areas within 10km of Turkey’s border with Syria.” That border is more than 800 miles from Istanbul. You’re likely not going to be anywhere near Akḉakale or Ceylanpinar.

6 Smart Precautions To Take When Traveling in Turkey

So you’ve decided to go? Here are smart steps you can take:

  1. Enroll in the U.S. State Department’s Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP), so the Embassy can send you security updates and help you in an emergency. Further security advice from the U.S. Embassy in Ankara, which suggests that travelers “exercise extra caution in Turkey’s eastern and southeastern provinces.”
  2. Choose a hotel that has CNN, BBC, and Al-Jazeera, so you can monitor the news in the mornings and evenings. Also make sure the hotel has reliable Internet access, so you can check local English-language news Web sites.
  3. Avoid public gatherings or demonstrations. Don’t get caught in an angry mob. Avoid neighborhoods where emigrants from Syria live.
  4. Don’t photograph government buildings, military installations, airports, train stations, policemen, guards, or anyone who doesn’t want his/her photo taken.
  5. Carry your hotel’s business card—the one written in Turkish—so you can show it to non-English-speaking locals (such as a taxi driver) and get back to your hotel in an emergency.
  6. Carry a cell phone programmed with emergency numbers (for the police, your hotel, and medical emergencies), as well as a mini-flashlight (in case you’re caught in the dark).
Leander Tower Istanbul - Bosphorus Cruise

Turkey … a must see destination

Turkey is considered one of the most amazing tourist destinations of the world with a reputation amongst travel enthusiasts for greeting visitors with friendly smiles and open arms. With a rich historical heritage and blessed with majestic mountains and a magnificent coastline, Turkey has something to offer everyone.

Today Turkey is a modern European nation and has protected its historical treasures to share with those lucky to visit. It is a country of bustling cities, rugged landscapes, beaches with fabulous views and many attractions that are well worth exploring. Turkey is also a great winter destination with numerous ski resorts and offers adventure activities for those interested in watersports, hiking, horse riding, bird watching, etc. There is also the option for sailing holidays, on a traditional gulet.

Istanbul

One of the largest cities of Turkey and known as the only city in the world to bridge two continents. It is here that you can see all contrasts of Turkey. Though it is one of the ancient cities with its own cultural significance it is at the same time also a cosmopolitan and global city. The most famous and fascinating attractions include Topkapi Palace, St Sophia, Sultanahmet Camii (Blue Mosque), Dolmabahce Palace, to name but a very few. For shopping enthusiasts it is an ideal destination with the Grand Bazaar, Spice Bazaar, markets and modern shopping malls.

Cappadocia

This area has become one of the most popular tourist destinations of Turkey and has a fascinating blend of truly magnificent scenery. With its stunning geological formations, particularly its fairy chimneys and its many valleys and rock-hewn churches and monasteries with age old frescoes, it is a destination not to be missed. It is also excellent for all those who enjoy outdoor activities like mountain biking, hiking and horse riding. Here you can also add a very special memory to your vacation with a hot-air balloon ride over the Cappadocia valleys.

Ephesus

One of the most well-known archaeological sites of Turkey and said to be one of the world’s best preserved examples of a Greco-Roman City.  Here you have the chance to walk down marble streets, view the magnificent Celsius Library and the Grand Theatre, just a few of the many buildings and fountains that can be found in this open air museum. In the area you will also find the site of one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, the Temple of Artemis and the Cave of the Seven Sleepers.

Antalya

A tourism capital of Turkey, this region has many beautiful beaches, many of which are counted among the cleanest in the Mediterranean. In addition, it also has a rich archaeological heritage with Perge, Side, Aspendos to name but a few. Some of the great architecture in Antalya boasts of Lycian, Hellenistic, Roman, Byzantine and Ottoman influences.

Ankara

The capital city of Turkey is host to many impressive tourist attractions such as the Anitkabir Museum that also acts as a mausoleum of Turkey’s founder, Kemal Ataturk; Hisar- a Byzantine Citadel sitting on top of a hill, and the Museum of Anatolian Civilizations, with artifacts ranging from the Paleolithic era and continue chronologically through the Neolithic, Early Bronze, Assyrian, Hittite, Phrygian, Urartian, Greek, Hellenistic, Roman, Byzantine, Seljuq and Ottoman periods.

These are some of the major tourist places that you should visit while travelling in Turkey. Adding to this is the friendliness of the locals along with some great cuisine made from fresh and local ingredients.

With all these, and many other attractions and things to do, a holiday tour in Turkey is sure to be an unforgettable experience!