Hammam (Turkish Spa) Day

Knowing we had an early departure the following morning for our flights, I  let Rory make the most of our dark curtains to sleep in. Til about noon! The pesky air con seeks on a timer so it required putting on again if you wake hot. Anyhow, Bucharest had decidedly non black out curtains and were bright yellow.
I loved the embroidery, and the text was pretty nice too

Once we were both awake, Rory found the channel for the Olympic Games opening ceremony where we observed the strange order of the Portuguese alphabet and the names of countries. For the second time in our holiday (if I recall correctly as it could easily be more!) housekeeping called to ask if our slack arses we’re going out and wanted our room cleaned? Actually in both issuance cities the rooms didn’t get cleaned on a day each whilst we were out so we retreated to their lobbies. Points to the boutique hotel in St P who called down to reception when they were done, Mercure missed this!

Quirky graffiti, which I feel I also saw in the ABC Foriegn Correspondent program just recently
We set out for brunch, deciding initially on pancakes but then realising that we’d more often see waffles. We found a first floor cafe and settled in. We both got iced coffees but it wasn’t clear is any coffee had been harmed in their making! So we chased our waffles with Turkish coffee. Interestingly our bill annotated my sweetened and Rory’s unsweetened coffees differently. And you always get a glass of water with your Turkish coffee (sometimes just a shot glass).
NOw that’s my sorta B’fast – there’s fruit, but there’s SWEET!
From the cafe I used their wifi and the Turkish Airways app to book the Sarajevo to Istanbul leg to then try and change my Emirates flight to depart Istanbul. It’s pretty hard to get out of Sarajevo – at least to somewhere I want to go and/or Emirates flys from! Emirates, for those who care, doesn’t fly to Croatia, Bosnia, Serbia or anywhere in that Balkans block! The options are Budapest or Istanbul. Given Budapest is a six hour bus ride, I picked turkey as a transit location – it is also cheaper as a fare adjustment than Budapest.
A beautiful church with connections to refugees
So, the why of the booking at the cafe? Well Rory and I, on our phones, my iPad and his laptop, found last night doing some malicious forwarding of websites to adware sites. Same sites that worked fine that same morning. So I’m rather dubious about entering credit card details into these sites now when I’m on hotel wifi. Maybe it’s reds under the bed but whatever. However, Emirates app nor it’s mobile website seems to allow for departure city changes. This I was exploring on the iPad yesterday. So I think we’ll need to take the iPad on an excursion or wait til Sarajevo to sort that change out. I wonder if the apps are more secure though…
Rory decided we should see ‘that tower over there’ – so we found our way there (via a pedestrian outdoor mall, Sephora visit for his GF, a movie (Jason Bourne))!
After our waffles and coffee, we wet for our Turkish bath or hamam. Genders are segregated. We were both given a mitt of sorts and I was also given some one size fits most black knickers… Which I wore over my bikini bottoms and not really sure why? Look like the others? I coulda saved wet bottoms to carry home tho!! Anyhow, you strip down and take your red and white checked towel to keep your modesty moving from the mezzanine balcony with change rooms back to the central area and then are guided to the spa room, via the anteroom.
Entry to the spa fro the dressing area
Entry to the spa fro the dressing area
When you enter the spa room, there’s an elevated marble platform and the guide unravels my towel and lays it on the platform for 15mins of sweating. After your sweat time, your guide returns and gets your mit and rubs you down, front and back with warm water. Following this you rotisserie again and from a copper basin that was resting on the platform she takes a white pillow case, inflating it with air and then squeezing out all the bubbles. After all this, I noted largish soap flakes on my towel, so I figure those were inside the pillow case. She suds you up everywhere before taking you to the periphery where there’s taps and a marble basin with flowing warm water. Here, she rinses you off and does her darnedest to make your hair a knotty mess. Or it was a head massage – not entirely clear!
The ante chamber to the true spa – the change rooms were up here.
 The bath has a domed ceiling, with holes out to the sky, glassed in. The room is otherwise not artificially lit (though there are a few hanging bulbs for night time as its open til midnight).
The complimentary postcard showing the ceiling
The complimentary postcard showing the ceiling
My scrubber lady, come in in the same one size fits most knickers and she’s at the upper end of “most”. She then goes and dunks her matching black bra into the flowing warm water and put her bra on. Each scrubber has a disc with a number on their bra. I suspect this is for tipping. We are Aussies and we weren’t accosted to tip, so we didn’t!
Zen spa lady (she looks better than I think I did!)
Zen spa lady (she looks better than I think I did!)

Five star LivetoList in Turkey

Heads up – this is a long post, and doesn’t even begin to capture half the photos I want to share!
Let’s say five star LivetoList reared her head. The bathroom in our original Istanbul hotel was tiny, which was fine. However, the toliet didn’t flush strongly. There was black mouldy from a shower or toilet leak in the crevice between them which was visible from the door. Their was gold looking toliet roll holder and shower caddy and it was flaking. The electrics of above the vanity were visible. The towels were aged, but then mine had holes in it.
The guilty bathroom. I should note, new bathroom ended up also havin gblack mould. sigh
The guilty bathroom. I should note, new bathroom ended up also havin gblack mould. sigh
So onto the Internet I went to, looking up hotels we’d passed that seemed OK at least from the outside. In the end, I decided I would visit the nearest good looking one and inspect and confirm prices. Photos seemed good! So I set an alarm for 8am and went out alone to suss it out.
The new room – the computer… well Rory was rebuilding his computer. This hotel would prove to add additional issues for our computers 🙁
I actually loved this desk, and used it heaps!
The bed of Sarah
The foyer listed the room rates, puzzling in euro given he then quoted me in euro. Anyhow, I’d made sure to have noted down what their direct website had quoted and he had come in just under.
So I returned to rouse Rory and have breakfast. I certainly didn’t find breakfast a strong reason to say where we were. We packed and departed.
I was nervous about “checking out” as we were meant to have four nights. The manager on was thankfully someone we’d not spoken to or met previously. He asked if anything was wrong, and as hard as it was, I thought it best to explain. It wasn’t right for us (OK, so I’m sure ror would have been just fine! There wasn’t anything to fault the bedroom – well air conned, TV, wifi, beds ok, pillows lumpy). Anyhow I outlined my discomforts. Then, surprisingly to me, he said, no charge. I suppose it’s just not something I’d considered. I figured we’d pay for our transfer and our one night. Their cancellation policy only outlined days prior etc, so I didn’t know what their policy might be. I did attempt more than one to settle things, but he wasn’t having it. Interestingly, id booked this hotel via email (rather than one of the aggregator sites), and they’d asked via email for all my credit card details. I didn’t feel ok about that, so have them some details but had arranged to pay in euros, cash, for a reduced rate. So this hopefully won’t mean any retrospective surprises on the credit card, though it would be fair.
Our new hotel is a number of stories higher. All breakfast places seem to be (from two hotels!) to be on the top floor. This one has spectacular views of the blue mosque, Hagia Sophia and the water. It’ll undoubtedly look awesome in the evening light too.
Hotel 2's breakfast rooftop view! Wow right?
Hotel 2’s breakfast rooftop view! Wow right?
After settling in (brother: use all the bathroom facilities), and dropping off some laundry at reception, which quoted twice the price for the service as our other hotel, we returned to the blue mosque. I was pointedly told I was a rude Brit for ignoring a friendly guy who “don’t worry I’m not a guide, I sell carpet”. He was telling us we couldn’t enter where we were approaching, which was nice, but similarly, if we don’t turn our heel immediately that’s ok too! I had drain pipes to photograph! After a few more false entries we worked out the gringo entry. It had a stall of borrow able robes and scarves for ladies and pull on modest skirts for the men. Hawt! Then, at entry, you remove your shoes and take a plastic bag. Not this green warrior – fold out bag was used. It had the benefit of fitting two pairs of shoes, hats and sunnies. We sat on the plush carpet and j half hoped we’d be allowed to stay to watch prayers. We waited and waited and as we decided to leave, they were deciding to evict the looky loos. Strangely, we didn’t hear the call to prayer for ages after that?!?
Inside the Blue MOsque, complete with Gringo modesty covers
Inside the Blue Mosque, complete with Gringo modesty covers. Oh, and that lovely carpet, kept lovely with a quick hoover.  Shoes weren’t permitted, so this shows some serious commitment!
Just wow right?
Just wow right?
Next we walked along the tram line to the grand bazaar. On our way, we saw a comedic charade of a small child getting Turkish icecream. Enticed by the show, Rory couldn’t find a reason for us to reject trying some. Further theatre for serving ours. They have a long metal stick and a tiny paddle on the end. Turkish icecream is more chewy than normal. So I feel like the banging is partly to get the darn stuff from stick to cup or cone. There was also lots of fake giving you your cup and pretending to drop it. Or, given its stickiness, they reclaim it with their long sticks. It’s seemed like a good deal for a show and an ice cream!
THis ice cream guy worked long hours, which was just fine, cause he was attractive enough to see a few times a day.
This ice cream guy worked long hours, which was just fine, cause he was attractive enough to see a few times a day.
The grad bazaar is not unlike other markets around the world. It’s undoubtedly older. And it has incredible cupolas everywhere. It has many gold/jewellers inside air conditioner stores. What else was there? Leather goods, though a lot less fake handbags than other places. We ended up outside the solid structure of the market and into the street where stalls continued. There were huge flags and similar strung up to add shade. Here, there was children’s clothing sets, many many blinged up gown stores, and sexy lady underwear stores. The underwear stores had what looked like plush cats beds but undoubtedly serve another purpose! There’s kebab stores on junctions of streets and they also always sell freshly squeezed juice. We just meandered, preferring to continue “down” rather than up the hill.
Grand bazaar
Grand bazaar
Thankfully we found ourselves not lost! We arrived at a corner where Rory had looked at flags (it otherwise was a makeshift stall for belts). We decided to pause and sit on some steps outside the post office museum. In a spurt of energy ?!? We then went to catch a boat to cruise around.
Not the flag stall – these were in the Grand Bazaar
Close up of an ornate ‘European’ style buuding right on the Bospherous shore
HA! So I definitely feel asleep sitting upright whilst we were still sitting outside. This guy had a better idea!
Only in days gone by, did I realise that THIS bridge was a HUGE scene of the coup that occured two weeks or so before we went to Turkey, The Bospherous bridge – between the two continent land masses


So, one constant on our cheap ‘cruise’ was a vendor of food and drinks. Many passes with fresh OJ. The first time he came past with the pictured, we said no, but they we got curious! It was a wafer with a marshmellow filling. They were super light, and not sickly sweet. We went for one each!
Whilst tickets were about $6 each, the motion of the ocean (Bosphorus, etc) resulted in us both having seated naps! Of course we had no actual idea where we might go! First stop, the map confirmed, was the Asian land mass.

Turkey photo and day 1

Thanks to Rory’s astute research we needed an electronic visa to enter turkey for about AUD50. I did this prior to leaving Australia and printed it at work before leaving. Sadly I didn’t add it into the ordered sheaf of print outs I had and so didn’t have it at the immigration counter. And English wasn’t strong. They didn’t care for my hotel reservation or flight details. Rory smartly had his on hand. It also appears you can sort it on arrival.
I’d organised a transfer seeing the hotel offered and we were flying into the “cheap” airport further away. So name was on display and the arrival hall was pretty light on people generally speaking. We had a chaperone who seemed to know half the people at the airport, take us to our mini van which was suitable for our full family tour group (ie my family of five). Air con optional. We asserted our preference.
So they use the script/ alphabet we do, not Arabic. There are accents, the  ö for example. (The Romanians had t with a cydilla as well as a smiley up thing above some letters, which my phone seems unable to offer). In the small sampling so far, English seems less prevalent or strong here.
The Turkish number plates are distinctively European and seem to miss having the flag but have the letters to the left in the blue stripe.
Turkish version of the French Bank BNP Paribas
Turkish version of the French Bank BNP Paribas
BNP rejected my card from anz likely due to the lack of chip. Another bank we’d seen advertised in the in flight mag offered withdrawals in local currency and euro. Our hotel had quoted a cheaper cash price, in euro, so I got some. We’d seen RON/euro ATMs around town in Bucharest but the airport ATMs didn’t offer this.
There are Turkish flags everywhere. More often than not hung from their shorter side. They are strung between two apartment windows or two light poles, or the apartment banister. Even corporate buildings have them hanging out widows which makes me feel like it’s a more recent show that a conscious or long term habit.
Also, flags, everywhere
Also, flags, everywhere
Turkey seems to have very developed highways, and in sections, has a dedicated bus corridor. Big trucks are common too. In parts it gets down to a crawl and there are water vendors between lanes. Other sections are at too fast for that.  The on and off ramps are built into the land and so there are ornate gardens on the inclined earth, in varieties of patterns and decorations
Everywhere there’s banners with “Hakimiyet milletindir” with the flag. This appears to be the govts attempt to unite the people against the coup. We happened to see a similar ad on tv too. Overall though, it seems busy, people everywhere so…?!
These billboards and banners were everywhere
These billboards and banners were everywhere

Our first afternoon, we just wandered, as we were oh so close to the Hagia Sophia and the blue mosque.  On a whim, we went and saw the Cistern – I was quietly amazed!

Hard to photograph this cavernous undergound space with a few inches of water
Hard to photograph this cavernous undergound space with a few inches of water
That is HEATHEN dress (for a man!) and so no Blue Mosque on day 1
That is HEATHEN dress (for a man!) and so no Blue Mosque on day 1
Mosques - everywhere!
Hagia Sophia.  We chose not to pay to enter.
The ‘exit’ for the Blue Mosque