Monday, August 24, 2009

I REMEMBER...going to Istanbul

...going to Istanbul, Turkey in the 70's. This is the place you literally can cross from West to East. There is a poem by Rudyard Kipling called the The Ballad of East and West - Rudyard Kipling (1865–1936) where the famous line is penned: "OH, East is East, and West is West, and never the twain shall meet"...but it is not true. The bridge over the Bosphorus in Istanbul, provides the solution. The Bosphorus is the 32 km (20-mi)-long strait which joins the Sea of Marmara with the Black Sea in Istanbul, and separates the continents of Europe and Asia. I walked across the bridge to just beyond the halfway point to say that I had been to the East, and then came back.

I spent several days there in a youth Hostel (that required by health concerns and common sense to wear your shoes in the communal hostel shower...I have been in slime covered creeks with a more secure footing
). Met lots of young people coming and going to Asia, etc. Istanbul was the jumping off place for travelers to the East. Fantastic stories from some very interesting people.

I was fortunate to see the magical Blue Mosque and
Topkapi Palace ( where you get to see all the world's great artifacts stolen by the Ottoman empire - much like the London Museum to see all the great treasures stolen by the English Empire and The Vatican's collection of great treasures stolen by the Roman Empire). There are many gold covered items, thrones, etc. encrusted with diamonds and is almost unbelievable. The famous gold, diamond and emerald dagger is perhaps one of the most famous blings in history.

My most memorable experience, however was experiencing a real "Tur
kish Bath".... a lavish, marble palace devoted to a steam room, dressing room and open public bath ( this one for Turkish businessmen) - where a huge bald Turk (big mustache - probably about 6'2"- 280 lbs) "bathed you' with a sponge made of some very coarse seaweed or straw and lye soap from head to toe. As I am just 5'7", 140lbs - I was a "compliant" customer...even when the $3 purchased bath experience included having the attendant walk on your back...I could hardly breathe. An incredible experience (living through it was half the pleasure) with only one downside (no, it had nothing to do with Turkish prisons as this was a public bath). I had just traveled to Istanbul from spending a month on a little Greek Island, spending my days drinking wine and developing the best tan I ever had. The 1/2 hour experience of being scrubbed with a wet, rough wad of straw and lye soap by a Turkish linebacker left me with one less layer of skin and produced a baby pink version of my former self. I felt like a boiled rubber band and looked like a baby hairless Chihuahua...but I was cool and could now say - "Been There - Done That".

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