I walk down the stairs from my changing room in the issued red, yellow and white plaid towel and through the door between the juice stand and the employee lounge. To my left are some marble sinks, to my right a man in front of more towels telling me to proceed through the door straight ahead while he is taking my yellow plastic entrance token. "Massage?" I figure I paid for it so I might as well say yes. "Yes." A smiling but rather burly man whose name I do not catch in a towel of his own guides me through the door into the center of the hamam: a round marble platform surrounded by more marble sinks under a dome with many small round skylights - all kept in a balmy, waterlogged heat. As you might guess, I didn't get any pictures, or I'd insert one here. It'd be me lying facedown on the marble platform while the aforementioned attendant sanded the skin off my back. This is what I will always remember as my first spa (sort of) experience. It will be a great memory.
We were lucky enough to have our time here line up with the International Symposium on Electronic Arts (ISEA), an eight day conference of panels and workshops dedicated, as the name implies, to conversations and ideas on, or related to, electronic arts. There were enough sessions that we were both interested in, had a reasonable €18 price tag, and it was well worth it; giving us some fresh ideas, a brief respite from just traveling, and a crash course in adjusting our brains back into an academic realm. One workshop also got Casey into the Balat neighborhood - one of the lower rent, originally Greek areas in the city - where she ended up sharing a cup of tea with some entirely friendly furniture refinishers. Below is the owner, Cengiz, in front of a picture of - wait for it - Cengiz.
I'll rewind once more here to the day we arrived and were accompanied by our gracious and amazing friends and hosts, Özge and Herman, to a short cruise up the Bosphorus. This is, I learned, the relatively short body of water connecting the Black sea with the Mediterranean, dividing Europe from Asia. It is beautiful blue water that, aided by a good afternoon sun or evening sunset, provided not only a great starting point for our explorations, but an ideal time for our camera battery to die. Borrowed camera phones to the rescue.
Last night we had a toast to celebrate our last night in Istanbul and then had to expand it to include our last night in Turkey and on the European continent as we realized that one chapter of this trip is ending and another about to begin. A strange and exciting feeling for two Asia newbs, but also a little sad as we have enjoyed the last few months so immensely it's difficult to know what to feel. Either way, the exuberance, color and grandiosity of Istanbul was an excellent transition, bridging (literally) our time in Europe with our next few months in Nepal and southeast Asia.