Hamam hunting season

Istanbul - 24/08/2010

A bazaar of another kind today, its raison d'etre being spices. Again my rather romantic visions of hessian sacks festooned with great pyramids of pungent spice were disappointed. A rainbow of scarlet saffron and sandy turmeric was replaced by well ordered plastic containers complete with handy scoops. Must stop thinking I live in the 19th century. Despite the help of an Italian from Brighton and a Turk from Turkey in double act, a sought church on the Golden Horn never materialised. But at least we were on the spot for more balik ekmete. My hat nearly became a casualty in the extensive list of things I have tried to lose this holiday (the bath plugs were the first to fall, how we miss them). The way back took in the pigeon mosque, a scene of utter terror for Mike. His protestations of the unappreciated danger of these seemingly innocuous avians bordered on the lunatic. A most seemly way to round off one's hot, dirty, perspiring day is in the muggy cloisters of a hamam. Having balked at 40 lira for the experience, some shopping around had delivered steadily more expensive prices to the point where the original seemed a snip. Monosyllabic, extensive of belly, not someone you'd leave a loved one with, Mike felt in good company with the masseurs. Sweat, swill, scrub, soap, squeeze, swill, sweat, swill, sit, sip.
The streets are as if of air, my skin has been exorcised of its dirt, my soul of its lethargy. The most lovely lightness of being overcomes one's senses. Shoulders weary of bags were restored, legs worn by miles were as new. As we sat outside the football pub supping its precious gift of the wifis, the hourglass in Istanbul was nearly drained. Slightly laissez-faire timekeeping necessitated something of a route march to the hotel for checkout and an encumbered haste back to Sirkeci Station. We made it in good time and despite a near fatal slip on some steps, in good health (once Mike had stopped sweating like <insert preferred analogy here>). Our train was waiting, our cabin small but perfectly formed, our horizon filled with Thessaly. The lack of a bottle opener for the wine was no barrier to these intrepid men of the road. We bodged the cork inside, fashioned two glasses from plastic bottles and saluted our efforts with a chinkless chink. A few hands of cards over a simple but tasty picnic brought the evening to a close.

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