I finally got myself out for my 12-mile run at around 10:30 a.m. and kept a very slow pace for what I have been doing lately at about 11:40/minute miles. I felt pretty good for the majority of the run but the last 2 miles were rough. That could have been factored into that I didn't bring anything to refuel at all during the run and I hadn't eaten anything before going out on my run. Plus, I had baklava for dinner last night... so that probably wasn't the best source of energy...
The run was really nice though. I ran along the Bosphorous River in Istanbul. The river divides the city into the "European" side and the "Asian" side. When people first were referring to this, I wasn't really sure what they meant, but I then learned that Istanbul is smack dab in the center of where the divide is that common geography refers to as Europe and Asian. The Bosphorous River divides it. So one half of the city is considered to be in Europe and one half is in Asia. I thought that was pretty cool that I was running in Europe but viewing Asia and I SO wanted to run across the bridge so I could say I ran from one to the other, but I don't think that is allowed!
But anyways, I did the 12 miles and hobbled back to my hotel, which is on top of a giant hill. And quickly showered, ate some food, and head back out. But when I took off my long sleeved top that I had run in, I did have a little surprise that I wanted to share with you. Apparently my hot pink sports bra was not a good match for the white tank top! I thought this was really funny because I can just imagine the looks I would have received had I taken off my long sleeved top at any point! Running outfit? #Fail.
So, one of the things that was motivating me to get through my run was that I had an appointment scheduled to get a Turkish Bath or "Hammam" at 2:00 p.m. today. I really wasn't sure what to expect, except for that a Turkish woman would be bathing me. I one time got an "Exotic Body Polish" done at a spa near me in Albany and I was thinking it would be somewhat like that experience where I lay on a table, covered, and was sort of exfoliated/scrubbed.
I first walked into a beautiful and relaxing room filled with lots of lounge chairs and an amazing fountain.
After given a changing room, I was given a little sheet thing to wrap around me and some flip flops, which I did, and head into the shower room. I was NOT prepared for that! What I hadn't realized is that I would be getting the bath with lots of other people in the room. And, that it wasn't really a "bath" per say.
It started with the lady taking my sheet thing from being wrapped up around and under my armpits to just being folded in half and wrapped around my waist. She then had me sit on a step and buckets of warm water were dumped all over me. Then, I went and lay on a round hot marble stone thing that was in the center of the room with lots of other half naked women all laying on it already. There were also other woman in various stages of being washed around the perimeter of the room.
I really wanted to peak around and see what was in store for me, but that is sort of awkward since it involved staring at naked people being washed by Turkish women... so I just lay back and relaxed.
The hot stone felt nice, as did the bath when I had that. The woman dumped buckets of warm water on me, exfoliated my skin, covered me in so many bubbles it was like I was swimming in a cold, washed and conditioned my hair, rinsed me off, and after some more time on the hot marble stone, I was dried and sent to the relaxation room. Mind you, this was all done fully naked with other people all around either on the stone or getting washed as well. It was an interesting experience to say the least!
It felt really nice and I am glad I tried it. I don't think it was exactly right for a post run experience though. It was too much just sitting still and I felt like my muscles were really tight and cramped afterwards. However, it is definitely a MUST experience for anyone visiting Turkey!! There are also other baths or "hammams" that I think have different experiences... I know that others who have done them have had "solo" baths or private baths. But I just took the recommendation of the concierge at my hotel and was sent to this one! Maybe do some research if you are more reserved? I will also say, that I am glad that I didn't do this as an experience with a friends. Maybe I need to be more open, but I was glad that when I walked out of there, I knew that I would see none of those people ever again :)
I was really tired afterwards from the relaxation of the hammam and from the run in the morning. I had taken a taxi to the bath, but sort of wandered halfway back to the hotel because I really had no idea how get a taxi in the area where I was. I also realized I was starving so I picked up some different snacks along the way. If you ever want to be sure that the food you are eating is fresh, watch people make it for you! I had some fresh squeezed orange juice that was squeezed from oranges right in front of me, and a "pancake" thing that a lady was making in front of me with spinach and cheese inside.
And because I think it is important to try new things and ice cream is my favorite thing... I had a small scoop of ice cream. It is important for me to try ice cream in every country/place I visit so that I can rightly evaluate the ice creams of the world in the future. When my kids someday ask me, "What country has the best ice cream, mom?" (because they probably will, right?) I need to be able to answer them!
I also felt like I wandered past some pretty cool sights on my way home (before I eventually got in a taxi) so I wanted to share that with you as well. I know I said that I wasn't sure about whether or not I wanted to write some of my "travel observations" on the blog? Well, right now, I'm just sort of going for it. I ended up writing a lot last night and I am just going to keep going.
So, one thing that I thought was cool was this group of young men... probably late teens or very early 20s... who were standing outside of a cafe playing classical instruments. There was another group of guys next to them kicking around a soccer ball (or futbol...) and a bunch of people sitting in a park having picnics or playing with their kids. And I just thought it was so cool to see guys of this age playing classical instruments. Usually in cities when there is public music being played it is by older men and women. I really enjoyed that these guys were out just jamming on their violins in the middle of a Sunday afternoon. Perhaps it is just me, but I found it to be a very cool site.
I also loved this staircase I walked by. And as weird as this is, I thought about how much fun it would be to do a portrait photo session on this staircase. Perhaps I've been stalking JP Elario's blog a little too much but I just thought it would be a great location. And THEN, the next alley had the same staircase and I saw some people doing what must have been an engagement photo shoot on the staircase. So, pretty much, that was a win for me mentally!
I also have walked by these little displays a number of times and ran past a few on my morning run today. It is definitely... different... for me to see this little set up.
It's essentially that carnival game where you throw a dart and try to hit a balloon but with pellet guns. I think you can pay to try and take a few shots? I am not exactly sure, but the sight of those guns, including what looks like a hand gun, just laying around are disconcerning to me. It's just one of those things that you sometimes seen in other countries that make you think, "Yeah, this wouldn't fly too well in the U.S...."
And finally, the last thing I'd like to point out from my walk home/past few days walking around is the skyline and architecture. This is the first time I have traveled to a Muslim country and I think it is very cool and interesting to see the skyline and streets marked with the pillars and domes of mosques rather than churches. Everywhere I have normally traveled is in Western Europe, or the very Catholic country of Brazil with Christ the Redeemer looking over the city. It is really cool to me to turn a corner and see a mosque. They are extremely beautiful and as prevalent throughout the city as the churches are in Western Europe. I've also found the call to prayer that plays 5x throughout the day to be extremely beautiful and breathtaking. For many years I have found beauty and wisdom in Islamic culture and tradition and it has been an exciting opportunity for me to visit Turkey! Side note: in case you were wondering... this was probably some of what I normally would not have written on here. Religion and those types of things are generally off-blog topics for me.... but what the heck... I said it...
I made my way back to my hotel, eventually by jumping in a cab and have been camped out on the 14th floor restaurant/bar for the past few hours organizing the rest of my travels and getting caught up on some e-mails and stuff. I also wanted to catch the sunrise from the 14th floor because, as I corrected guessed... there was a gorgeous sunset and view.
For the next two weeks I really need to do a better job of taking care of myself and if that means maybe missing out on a bit of sightseeing or paying more for taxis home, I am just going to try and have to do it. Like today, I totally could have walked home and pushed my legs to do it. Lately, I have become much more of a walker because I've tried to be healthy. It seems counter productive to not walk because I am saving it for running. But in this case, I really am concerned that I need to be a little more careful of my feet and the rest I am giving them. And on that notion, I am going to try and be better. I think the next week will allow me to do that, but I really need to start to focus on marathon time! I seriously cannot believe it is only 2 weeks away.... Gahhhh!!!!!