Thursday, January 19, 2012

A Fine Day Out: It Was Büyük Ve Güzel

And temiz. Very, very temiz.

It's super old and cool inside.
So I got in a plan with some friends at work to go to the Çemberlitaş Hamam once the break started. I've never gone because I'd always assumed Çemberlitaş was a tourist trap hamam but my Turkish friend assured me it wasn't and I definitely don't go to the hamam as often as I would like. Hamams rock, seriously. The first time is a little bit scary but you get over it quickly, and then find yourself wondering, "When did I achieve this status in life that I can pay someone to wash the hell out of me?" But even that passes quickly because paying someone to wash the hell of you also rocks.

A good Anatolian woman.
Anyway, the hamam ladies make it less scary because it becomes quickly obvious that the cleaning of a woman's flesh is just a job. They're always built as good Anatolian woman should be, and there's a motherly kindness in the way they touch you or press your skin or pat you when they they want you to turn over. Whatever American body issues I might have quickly turn into worrying that the hamam lady thinks I'm too thin and not nearly enough of a woman. They always smell faintly of onions, which, after 10 years here, is a wonderfully comforting human smell I've come to associate with warm homes and good food and love.

Seriously cool.
And instead of being disgusted with the rolls of grey flesh that come off you, they seem pleased that you're coming out so clean, and even with the work it takes to get you that way. "Güle güle kirlet," is what my cleaner wishes me on her way out the door. "Get it dirty in happiness." It's an approach to cleaning and cleanliness that causes me a bit of cognitive dissonance, but makes me so much happier having other people do my cleaning for me, whether it's my house or my body.

Büyük, güzel, ve temiz. One of my friends is studying from the same beginning Turkish book I started with, and at first, everything is büyük, güzel, ve temiz.

"Nasıl bir restoran?" (How is the restaurant?)
"Büyük bir restoran." (It's a big restaurant.)
"Temiz mi?" (Is it clean?)
"Evet, çok temiz." (Yes, it's very clean.)

Then you get a little more advanced.

"Restoran güzel mi? (Is the restaurant nice?)
"Evet, çok güzel." (Yes, it's very nice.)
"Büyük mü?" (Is it big?)
"Çok büyük değil. Ama çok temiz." (It's not very big. But it's clean.)

Seriously, it wasn't until like Unit 25 anything started being small or dirty or ugly. Which, as much as Istanbul has to offer, left me with a serious handicap for describing my surroundings.

But, Istanbul. Best stay-cation city ever. After the hamam we went to the Kapalı Çarşı to find the guy selling really nice peştemal that I'd found with my folks a couple of weeks ago.

Makes me want to buy stuff.
We had a good wander in there, and got lost on purpose, then we found ourselves, and then we had Turkish coffee. After that, we started hiking, through Mahmutpaşa to the Spice Bazar to Eminönü...

and across Galata Bridge...

... to Pera where we caught the old funicular to Tünel and kept walking.

A very old sage plant. I ate some and it was yummy and sweet.

A very nice church. I broke down and lit a candle for my cousin's family.
A very sad saint.
Along the way we stopped to buy cool stuff.

Some very cool stuff.
Rest assured there's lots of cool stuff to buy. Those wooden spoons are handmade. I fell in love with the ladle first, and then it occurred to me LE would probably eat healthy food he doesn't like with cool wooden spoons, but then I thought I might also like some cool wooden spoons to eat healthy food I don't like, or at least soup, so I got some for me too. The lot of them cost 10 lira. Hooray! It's almost like having a servant spoon carver to go along with my cleaner and the lady who washed the hell out of me.

Rounded off by one more tea on top of the Goethe Institute (too dark by then for photos of the almost redundantly breathtaking view of the place we'd just left), and a big fat dinner at a place that takes Setcards.

Really, does a regular day get much better?

Not often enough, I'd say.


Anonymous said...

Amen to all that!

There's a small chain store around town that has nice pestemal for good prices -- it's called Mesut Gunes, I think. I've bought some there and been very happy with my purchases. They also usually have nice hamam bowls with set prices, so it's not such a haggling experience (which is good if you don't care to haggle. I don't.)

Enjoy your staycation, Stranger. May every day be as good! :)

Erika said...

Indeed, there is nothing nicer than having someone bathe the hell out of you. My first experience going to the hamam preceded my first time sunburning--they do their job a little too well. It is the perfect place if you need gentle ego stroking also.

Stranger said...

My haggling is limited to getting a cash discount, or a few lira off for buying more than one. I don't bother haggling with the pazar guys who don't seem keen on haggling for fun. That means they haggle for real with the big boys, and I don't have a snowball's chance...

@ Erika, once I went to the hamam in summer and they pretty much washed my tan off. I've never bothered working on a tan since then, since a tan on me appears to made up of dirty dead skin...

The Loerzels said...

So, are Turkish restaurants really clean? Or just people people are? I guess I'll find out because the family and I are coming out to Istanbul in March. Can't wait to see the similaries/differences to Morocco!

Stranger said...

They're pretty clean, overall. The ones that aren't all American super-hygienic are still at least as clean as people's houses, which is pretty freaking insanely clean.

Of course, I've never checked out the kitchens, but I would never do that in a restaurant anyway because I'd rather not know...

Briar said...

We need to visit you again someday. That sounds lovely.