Istanbul, day 2
My day started with a bird flying into the living room window and unable to escape by itself because it kept running into a glass pane above the door to the balcony. I had to pick the poor, frightened thing up and shoo it out of the open window.
Jon called me for the first time since I left SF. He wanted to hear about what my bad experiences were yesterday and reassure me that the trip is still going well despite them. The (much larger) positive side is that everyone I’ve met through Couchsurfing has been amazing (likely because I screen the hell out of them), so I’ll stick with them! I know it sounds cheesy (and probably makes my friend Nikkii want to vomit), but I was so happy to chat with him that I felt overcome with gratefulness. I love him and miss him so much.
Feeling lazy, I relaxed in the living room feeling the breeze pass to and fro. I cooked mashed potatoes (with butter and milk) and fried eggs for lunch. I visited Migros, which is super close to his place. The fresh figs were huge and on sale for ₺6.99/kg. I also found some delicious pistachio chocolate made by a Lebanese company. My obligatory local beer purchase was of an unfiltered Bomonti (₺6 for 0.5L), which I drank while I cooled off from walking up the hill from Migros.
Mo got a Turkish bath recommendation from his friend, so in the middle of the afternoon, I walked about 20 minutes to Tarihi Çinili Hamamı. The first entrance I approached was for men only, but the guys out front pointed me in the right direction in English. A big Turkish mama who spoke no English asked me for a ₺45 entrance fee, ₺7.50 for massage, and ₺6.50 for something else, but I only had ₺53 on me in cash, and they didn’t accept cards. So I indicated that I just wanted to bathe and get a massage, which should only be ₺52.50, at which point she accepted the terms. She led me to one of the individual dressing rooms with a chaise lounge and side table in it and returned with a small water basin, a bar of soap, a wrap, and a towel. I didn’t bring a bikini bottom, so I felt a bit underdressed. I locked my things in the room and followed Turkish mama into the bath area. It was stuffy and hot, but the marble floors and sinks were really nice. In the center was a heated marble table on which clients lie for their massages.
First, I rinsed off by filling the marble sinks and scooping water with my basin over myself. Then another Turkish mama (this time topless) came in and washed and massaged me on both sides of my body. After that, she led me back to where the marble sinks are, sat me down next to one, and shampooed my hair twice. I washed off again afterwards, covered up, and lied down on the marble table for a while. By then, a mom, her teenage daughter, and a young boy had come in, and they were making a huge racket, which bounced off all the stone walls. The mom even started singing at full blast at one point. I’d had enough by this point and left to towel off and change in my dressing room. Once I’d finished and stood around in the lobby, I noticed that there was a whole second floor above us full of empty dressing rooms. I guess going to bath houses isn’t as popular nowadays.
I was in the mood for kebab but wasn’t sure how to get to Dürümcü Emmi, so I struggled with the IETT app to figure out a convoluted method. I walked 30 minutes in the rain to reach the nearest [Metrobus][/transportation-options-in-istanbul#metrobus] station. During my walk, I passed a very modern-looking mosque.
The restaurant wasn’t far from the station, and it looked fancier than I thought it would be. All the waiters were in white button-downs and black slacks, and they were standing all over the place waiting to take the next empty plate and ask what you want for your next course. Most of them didn’t speak English very well, but it didn’t stop them from trying! One of the younger ones who spoke slightly more English kept calling me “sir” because “efendim” in Turkish is used to mean both “sir” and “ma’am”. I was happy to have learned this in my brief time with the Turkish lessons on Mango Languages; otherwise, I would’ve been pretty confused.
I still struggled to understand his English, so a woman from a nearby table came to my rescue. Her English was at a different level! She recommended her favorite soup to me, which is called beyran (₺15: beef tongue and rice soup). It really was quite nice and was served with lavash and fresh arugula with lemon. You are not supposed to put the arugula in the soup: you are to eat it separately, perhaps to break up the flavor between sips of soup. Then the young waiter recommended beyit (₺26: minced beef rolled in a sesame wrap and cheese, served with cream with crushed pistachios, roasted peppers, and roasted tomato). Oh, my goodness. The combination of beef and cheese was a winner, and the crispy sesame wrap reminded me of shaobing.
After dinner, I wanted to try the ice cream at Gül Dondurma, which Jenn recommended. But I took a bus in the wrong direction, so I had to find the stop with the same name except serving buses in the other direction. After I got to the right neighborhood, I almost missed the ice cream shop, but I found it when I saw the large ice cream cone standing out front. The shopkeep spoke English and helped me identify the flavors that are traditional Turkish ones. My favorite was the pistachio one, and they source their nuts from Gaziantep, the same place Karaköy Güllüoğlu gets theirs. One scoop is only ₺2.50, and I splurged for three. Kaymak (milk only) was interesting: I thought it was nice to get an unadulterated flavor. Balbadem (almond-honey) was also delicious but on the edge of being too sweet for me. I could’ve lived without the ice cream cone since it seemed a bit stale, but it was a complimentary addition anyway.
I took a bus and backtracked to get to Hayalperest for the Kadiköy Fridays English only event. Azer, the host, was corralling people from the backyard to a table indoors because it had started sprinkling. But then we went back outside later because there were some covered areas that had freed up. I didn’t like sitting inside with the smokers of the group anyway. While drinking some Tuborg, I enjoyed chatting with several locals. B hit it off well with Mo, and all of us talked about interesting companies in America like Josephine and Etsy.
What a day: it started with a bird and ended with a beer!