Day 6 and 7 – Gonen and Isparta

I have put day 6 and 7 together for reasons which will be clear momentarily.

Day 6 – Sunday – July 17, 2011

Sundays are our days off – we can do what we like.  Some people laze about others take day trips.  My roommate Bert was trying to figure out which site to see.  One of his options, Sagalassos, I saw last year and another (which I would have wanted to see) was really too far away to make it as a day trip.  He was going to go up to Lake Egirdir which supposedly has nice swimming and hiking.  I wished him well.

I had only one real agenda for the day – I really needed a massage – my back has been killing me – and as luck would have it I also really needed a bath.  Rumor has it that a trickle of hot water will come out of the shower if you use it just right but Bert and I haven’t seen it happen so its ice cold or no go.

Uygar told me there was indeed a Hamam in Isparta (only 30 min by bus) and Bilge drew me a map of the bus stop, the Isparta hotel, and the Hamam she also have me her phone number and told me that I must call her around 5pm and that since they were going for groceries they would just pick me.  She tried to have one of the students give me a cell phone but I assured her I would use one of the numerous pay phones I had seen in the city.

When I woke up this morning the power was out – it happens – usually in the morning – you don’t even notice until the lights don’t go on and -gasp- the Internet is down.  I really had no reason to stick around the field house.  Gunsu had asked if I could take some pictures of the park in Gonen for one of her papers.  The park is filled with all sorts of architecture fragments found in the region.  She walked me to town (and to the bus station) and I finally saw the elusive Turkish squirrel. People kept talking about seeing squirrels and how they were very small animals – and I kept thinking – they aren’t that small at home.  Well they are much smaller and cuter in Turkey!

The park is lovely and like everything else in this region it is covered in roses – and of course pictures and sculptures of the Atatürk – the father of Modern Turkey who is revered in some places like deity. I would recommend reading about him – he really did create modern Turkey (and the Turkish Language).

So off to Isparta I went.  I normally would get off at the mall which is really on the outskirts of the city and figured the best thing to do would be to take the bus until it ended at the  bus station so I would have a frame of reference for later.  The bus ride was uneventful except I found out that my camera and my GPS unit were 3 minutes apart!  But not to worry I was able to fix it AND to fix the previous days pictures as well.

The bus station was a mad house.  Very much like the ones we visited in Peru – apparently every city (destination) is a different bus company and they are all lines up right there.  What was even more of a zoo was the giant market that had just sprawled out and attached itself with big tents to every corner of the bus station and for blocks around.  Hey – a market – so why not go shopping?

The markets are a wild place – the men call out loudly to each other (sometimes the women do to) – and they all say the same thing.  They keep calling ‘Burida’ and it means ‘HERE’.  What is funny is that they like taunt each other with it and start replying to each other and its like – over here – no over here.  When you pass an old lady she will just very quietly whisper or mouth the word almost by instinct.  They say other things as well but that’s the big one.

You can see what shopping is like in the pictures – it is just chaos.  Lots of clothing, purses, underwear, socks, and household items.  The shoe bin was weird I have no idea how you found a match.  I did find a vest finally – they are really hard to find – its very light and was 30TL (Turkish Lira) so about $20.  I like it but I know I will find more and I will leave with a stack of new vests.  I spent hours in the market and from the men in the funny umbrella hats to the weird arrays of stuffed animals its just something I am glad I didn’t miss – it didn’t feel anything like the grand bazaar in Istanbul.

But I was here to go the Hamam! So I asked about the hotel where it was supposed to be near and was pointed in a direction.  As I walked I soon found myself in another open air market – this time it was a food one.  It street after street of vendors selling their ware – my goodness.  I so don’t need fruit or vegetables – but I do like olives.  I had a nice time and you could really smell the spices when you walked by certain booths.

So I see this little broken down sign that says ‘Hamam’ and figured – well this is it.  I go in and its empty.  Just one guy sleeping (I mean laying down and sleeping) in a side room.  I woke him up and he told me that the Hamam was 7TL! Wow that’s great – he asked if I wanted soap and then told me it would be am extra Lira.  He locked up my wallet and stuff and gave me a towel but my camera bag he took behind the counter with him – I was a little nervous but figured it would be fine.  When I went into the sauna I realized I was alone – I mean really alone – other than the attendant out front there was going to be no service here – no massage – no scrubbing – this was just a sauna to sit in and to wash in.  Well I did need a bath so I enjoyed myself – hot water – cool water – soap – I really got clean and felt very refreshed.

I was a little nervous though about the camera at this point since I recalled he was sleeping when I came in and that no one else was in the building – so I got out of the sauna and found him sitting with my camera bag waiting to hand it back to me – I think he was as nervous about it as I was.  I left feeling very refreshed (if not massaged) and went back into the market.

At this point I realized that I had just washed off all of my sunscreen!  Now I had to be very careful since the sun is very bright and I am very pale.

Going back into the market it was interesting to see how people sell things.  Each ear of corn was laid out carefully – is it that people want to select them or does he only have a limited amount?  The live fish tanks were weird – but they often are back home as well.  Eggs sold in packs of 30 and turned into little egg suitcases so people can walk home with them.

I stopped for ice-cream and I pointed at the white stuff – figuring vanilla – I was wrong.  Now you need to know that ice-cream in Turkey is a very weird consistency – its rubbery like a thick marshmallow fluff and not very creamy – more gelatinous.  The flavor though of this stuff was awful – like a floral tea – I really didn’t want to eat it but there were no garbage cans anywhere!  So I kept walking and it started to melt on my hand so I had to slowly lick and eat it – it was awful – well after a while the flavor wasn’t TOO terrible but still here I am eating ice-cream so it won’t drip on me.  I finally found a place to throw it away but it was at least 10 minutes of dripping and licking and cringing.  Next time I will get a different flavor!

The people selling dried stuff were neat too – I could recognize certain peppers but the other things looks like mushrooms.  Everyone was very nice and let me take their picture.

At this point I was getting very hungry!  So I wanted to stop for lunch. There was a very nice cafe and I sat down by the menu was only ice-cream sundaes and pies!  I was in some sort of very fancy dessert cafe.  So I left and kept walking. I passed many convenient stores and came to another cafe and sat down.  Again – the menu comes and its ONLY ice-cream.  I asked if they had any sandwiches and he smiled and said he could make me a cheese sandwich.  He then proceeded to run across the street and come back with bread and went in the back and made me a nice cheese sandwich. What I really wanted was meat! It was a nice snack but the WIFI wasn’t working in the cafe and these two teenage girls kept trying to talk to me and test out their English.  It wasn’t really a conversation as much as them trying out their sentences.

I left thinking I really wanted some more food.  I walked for a bit and found a more busy area that had a bunch of cafes including signs that had the word ‘hamburger’.  I forgot to bring my phrase book to order lamb chops (that won’t happen again) and they didn’t have picture menus like they do in Istanbul so I stopped at a cafe and ordered a hamburger.  It was the thinnest patty of processed meat you have ever seen (and looked more like a veggie burger than a meat burger) but the flavor was right and the bun and mayo were very satisfying.

As I walked along (now full) I passed some guys sitting watching soccer on large screen TVs and it was weird because it was like 2 people per giant TV.  And then I realized it was a video game cafe.  It looked fun and I almost wished I played games.

I knew I needed to find the Hotel Isparta so I could call Bilge to tell her where I was.  As I walked along I started to recognize places from the previous year – Dr Pizza was my favorite (I didn’t eat there just liked the sign).  I also started to see all the rose oil places and headed to the hotel.

Well I found the hotel and right across the street from it – the REAL Hamam.  I walked inside it was nice and busy and the man told me that for 21TL I could get a scrub and a massage.  Oh did I want to but it was getting late.  I figured I would call Bilge and if she said it would be another hour then I would get one.

I went into the hotel to make the call but they were not helpful at all – showed me the payphone but not how to use it or where to buy a card.  I wandered for 20 minutes finding people selling cell phone cards but not pay phone cards.  I finally found one and called Bilge who said they were on their way and would see me in 20 minutes.  20 minutes! No massage – damn!

It was nice to be picked up though and I told them about my misadventures with the Hamam but now that I knew where it was that I would go back later in the week.  She thought I was going to get off at the main bus stop and not at them main bus station which is where the confusion stemmed from.

We went shopping at the new grocery store.  I have to say grocery stores in Europe (and Asia) are so much cleaner and more organized than in America.  I loved the various displays – they even had iPads!  At the sweet stand we got into a big conversation and they gave me a huge free sample.

And as we were checking out – there in the toy section – a giant stuff (but odd looking) Penguin.

We went home and had dinner (though I was already full having had 2 lunches).

It was a pretty good day off even if it didn’t go as planned.

Day 7 – Monday – July 18, 2011

Monday was very unusual for me.  Instead of going anywhere or doing anything – I just stayed home.  I never put on my boots or pants (shorts and flip flops) and just edited photos and data all day – it was the lazy day that Sunday should have been. Don’t get me wrong I got a lot of work done – but it was all post production.

Until dinner that is!

For dinner they had stuffed grape leaves – now I LOVE stuffed grape leaves – but these were better than the ones at home.  The leaves were SO soft and the flavor was just the right amount of tang.  I told Bilge they were dangerous because I couldn’t stop eating them! I was full but just wanted more of that flavor.

And they they pulled out eclairs with like a chocolate cream in them.  Like the ice-cream it wasn’t creamy it was more like a gel cream filling but very sweet and very nice.

As dinner was finishing Paul warned – here it comes. And a tractor pulled down the street with a huge white cloud behind it.  He was asking which way the wind was coming from and I told him it was blowing away from us.  It was bug spray! The go up and down the streets to spray for bugs! I told him it didn’t matter which was the wind was that I am sure we got a face full of it anyways.

The good news is – no bugs.

Images from Day 6 and 7 (also read the captions!)
(click here if you don’t see the image thumbnails)