After a sad farewell with Trish in London I dragged my hungover butt to the airport and made my way to Istanbul. Even though it was pouring with rain I knew I was going to love it here. The traffic was intense and didn’t move too fast but it allowed me to take in a lot more of the city, or atleast what I could see through the rain.
After checking into the hotel I tackled the rain and went exploring…for a kebab. Whenever I visit a new country I imagine finding an authentic restaurant/bar/cafe and eating the yummiest traditional dish. This is rarely the case and I’ve come to the conclusion that your first meal will generally be well below average. The upside is that things can only improve!
I met up with the tour group later on and we had our introduction meeting. There are mostly Australians and Canadians plus two pairs from the US. Everyone was pretty shy but we knew that would all change in the next few days. The first night I shared a room with 22 year old Tess from Darwin & after a solid sleep we were ready to seriously explore Istanbul.
That night we took a 12 hour bus ride to Goreme in the Cappadocia region. Again, before we even got there I knew I was going to love it. Day 1 included a short walking tour of the town, a Whirling Dervish performance and a Turkish Dinner show that included traditional dance, pigeon poo wine, belly dancing and the strongest vodkas I’ve ever had. Only 7 of us from the tour went to the dinner and after the amount of alcohol consumed we thought it would be a good idea to hit up the local bar, Fat Boys. Our tour CEO, Murat, was pretty keen for us to get back to the hotel but realised this wasn’t going to happen for a while so left us to party. My excitement hit an all time high when I found out the DJ had Paul Simon’s ‘You Can Call Me Al’ but wouldn’t play it unless we all got up and danced otherwise he would close the bar (we were the only people there). At 2am we thought we should head back to the hotel since we had to be up at 4am for hot air ballooning.
After less than 2 hours sleep we were up again and feeling pretty average but ballooning soon took that away. We were 800m up in the air and hangovers set in but the view was amazing. Once we were back on the ground they pop the champagne to celebrate your survival.
Day 2 in Goreme was busy and long especially with the hangover. We visited Pigeon Valley, the Underground City, a pottery making demonstration and a carpet display with a very cheesy and kind of seedy salesman. That night we went to a local family’s home for dinner and had amazing home cooked food which didn’t just consist of the usual bread and cheese for a change!
The next day we went for a long hike through Ice Cream Valley, checking out caves and ancient churches also built into the caves. The landscape was stunning and like nothing I’ve seen before.
After the 3 hour hike we headed back into town for lunch and made our way to the Turkish Bath. I thought I had mentally prepared myself for the bath but it was like nothing I imagined! I thought I’d be bathed in soap by a Turkish lady and then have a swim before getting a massage but no, it was a little different. The 6 of us girls are told to remove our clothing and wrap ourselves in these tiny pieces of material before heading to the sauna. After 15 minutes in there we’re lead to a large tiled room where about 5 Turkish women are waiting. They made us sit around the edge of the room and started pouring small buckets of water over us. Next thing, the lady with me takes off my tiny piece of material and I’m now sitting completely naked in front of all of my new friends. She makes me stand up and pours more water over me while the other ladies start doing the same to a few of the other girls. At this point I’m thinking ‘what the f… is going on’. I’m then taken over to this elevated tiled area and made to lay face down while the lady covers me in soap and bubbles and then starts scrubbing. I’m still thinking ‘wtf’ and can’t stop laughing. After about 10 minutes of this I’m made to stand up so the lady can pour more water over me. I’m wrapped up again and moved to the swimming pool with a few of the girls. After the swim we’re taken to another room filled with massage beds, mirrors and an instrumental version of Metallica’s ‘Nothing Else Matters’ is playing. It was all a little strange. Although it was one of the weirdest experiences it was totally amazing at the same time.
The feeling of relaxation quickly disappeared when I started to feel really sick. I left the others to shop and walked back to the hotel trying to not be sick at the smell of all the food. When I got to the hotel I realised 3 of the other girls were really sick too and we had food poisoning. I’m curled up on a couch wanting to die and had to prepare for the 9 hour overnight bus trip ahead. It was the longest 9 hours of my life but atleastby the time we arrived in Antalya most of us were starting to feel a little better.