We arrived in Istanbul in the early evening, during a rush-hour that we later found out often starts on Sunday night and ends on Saturday morning. Our mini-bus from the bus station was insane, fulfilling many of our preconceived notions of Istanbul drivers. At one point the driver BACKED UP ON A HIGHWAY ONRAMP, because traffic was at a standstill where he wanted to go. Yikes. We arrived at Sisli metro station that evening, and made our way to Tugrul and Ozge's apartment. They had a dinner waiting for us, and great conversation, and we sat up for quite a while that evening, until finally heading to bed on the pull-out couches in their office/meeting room (Ozge is an English teacher, and teachs out of their apartment often).
The Flood - Nick writing
We were sitting around a tea and nargile cafe after having played 6 aside football around midnight, when Tugrul got a phone call from his downstairs neighbour. Water was flooding into her apartment from upstairs. There had been a water outage at their building earlier in the day, and a tap had been left open - once the water was turned back on, the deluge began. We rushed back to their place to find a steady stream of water pouring down the stairs from the sixth floor to the first. Their flat was almost completely underwater - their bedroom had about three inches of standing water in it, and the living room was soaked. We franticly moved valuables, and started to try and direct water down the Turkish toilet in the bathroom (definitely a plus for turkish style toilets - we could sweep water down the hole. With a western style toilet, I don't have a clue where we would have put all of that water, since the shower drain was blocked). After some reflection, it was decided that the carpets would have to come up - they would dry easier on the balcony, and it would help avoid any nasty mold. So the carpets were ripped up, and water was swept into the hole. For three hours. We were up till about 4 am, and poor Tugrul had to head into work (he was doing his military service in Istanbul, commanding a group) at 6 am for a 30 hour shift. Ouch. We felt so bad for him, knowing that he would be working off of two hours of sleep. We slept in a little later.
More Water - Nick writing
That day Kyla and I decided to head to a hamam in the heart of the old city, Sultanahmet, near the Blue Mosque, Aya Sofia, and the Grand Bazaar. The hamam is one of the oldest in Istanbul at 300 years. It was a fairly touristy hamam, but for our first experience we thought it best to get lead along by the hand. We were split up quickly, with Kyla heading to the women's section, and I being shown to my cozy cubicle. I changed into the wrap that was provided, and shuffled my way in the large wooden clogs along the marble floor. My 'guy', the masseur assigned to me, lead me along to the main room, which was a huge domed marble space with 20 or so basins around the edge, and a huge slab of heated marble in the middle. "10 minutes" he told me, and disappeared. So I sat for a while on the slab, relaxing, trying to remember what I had read about the hamams. Something to do with the basins. I wandered over, and poured some warm water into the basin. What had I read? Something I wasn't supposed to do. But what? What? I sat there staring at the basin with warm water, with a scoop in the bottom, for a few minutes, before wandering back to the slab. I couldn't remember what I was supposed to do, and not supposed to do, with the basin. Ah well. (Later, I remembered that it was not polite to get soapy water in the basin. That was it. My worries of an international hamam incident were for naught.) After about 15 minutes, my massage-guy came back in, and told me to lay down on the slab. He then proceeded to massage me in ways that, had I not payed for it, I would have considered laying charges for assult and battery. It hurt, but it hurt good, which I guess was the point. But no wussy massage oil, or soap. Just bare hands on flesh. At the point where he bent my leg backwards so far that my heel was burried in my left buttock, I thought "I really hope that Kyla isn't getting the same treatment, because I'm not sure if here knees and back will put up with this". He was also very concerned with cracking different parts of my body, and when a certain part didn't crack, he was very upset, and tried to crack it again and again.
He then took me over to a basin, where he sluiced water all over me, then scrubbed me down with a coarse mitt, removing a few layers of skin, and some of my nice tan (which, in retrospect, may have been dirt). Then he soaped me up, and scrubbed me down. More soap, more water, and a offer for a special soap massage. (No, nothing sleazy - I found out later that the masseurs make their tip money by doing an extra massage not in the package at the front.) When I turned down the soap massage, he was quite worried that I may not tip him, so I reassured him that yes, there would be a tip. Then more water and sluicing. He told me that I should keep watering myself for as long as I liked, and relax on the stone, and chill, and he then left. I sat there in a daze for a while, pouring water over my head. Stunned. A fantastic experience. I walked out of the room, and he met me with three different towels that he wrapped around me. With a free pair of boxer shorts, he sent me back to my cubicle, where I lay down on the bed for a while and relaxed. A cup of tea followed, and I thought that this was a very nice way to spend an afternoon. Plus, I was almost out of clean laundry, so the boxers came in quite handy.