Hanging Out With The Mayor

Trip Start Feb 14, 2006
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Trip End Ongoing


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Flag of Turkey  ,
Wednesday, November 1, 2006

We found ourselves with a little bit of time to kill at in Turkey before we are to fly out on 11/2. As it was raining in Goreme, we looked to our all powerful Lonely Planet once again for guidance. It's Tea Leaves said, "Go to Safranbolu". It actually said that Safranbolu is a place where lots of Turks go for vacation, but not many other people. So we went ahead and booked ourselves and early morning bus. Unfortunately, we didn't know that I was going to be sick all night with, what we'll call, "intestinal issues." So getting fired up to get on a bus sans bathroom was a bit tough. We got on the bus and for nine uncertain hours, we cruised through the country side. Alas we made it there none the worse for wear. Upon disembarking in Safranbolu, we found our selves not in a "quaint Ottoman village" as promised by the LP. But in a clean, but thoroughly modern city. After that bus ride in my condition, I was not pleased. Kelly suggested that we get something to eat, and I hesitantly agreed. So we found ourselves a Doner Kebap shop, and sat down. The guys working at this shop were really cool. They didn't speak any English, but made earnest attempts at communication. Eventually though our best charades we made it clear that we were looking for the Ottoman city, not the high rise town that we had ended up in. They kindly steered us to the old city, which was a surprisingly far walk at the bottom of the hill.

As we were walking through the town, we noticed that their a lot of flags being flown and even more Attaturk pictures than normal. After dinner, Kel and I strapped on the backpacks and made our way about two kilometers to the old town. Upon getting there, we found a wonderful little place. The place is indeed filled with Ottoman style buildings which are made up of wood, brick, and stucco. A lot of them look like English Tudor homes. The whole town is considered a UNSECO World Heritage Site. That means that they pretty much have to keep things the way that they are, or restore them to their former glory. The town had lots of these aforementioned buildings, cobblestone streets, looming mosques, and again tons of flags. We found a place to stay in an Ottoman building turned hotel. Kelly managed to get us 20% off of our room. I was very proud of her, as negotiating isn't usually her strong suit. Our room was nice and big, with what was probably the most comfortable bed we have slept in on this trip. The downside, was that we were directly above a nightclub.

That first evening in town, I went to a Hammam, otherwise known as a Turkish Bath. I went to one of these in Morroco, but this one was much nicer. It was built in 1665 and had the look of a mosque from the outside. When I walked into the men's lobby, they gave me my own little dressing room. They also gave me my own sarong and some slippers to wear. So, I walked into the main bath area and took a look around. The floors were all marble with little gutters grooved along the outside walls. All along the walls were marble basins with faucets for hot and cold water. There were buckets all over the place for dumping water on your head. The ceiling was domed and had stalagmites hanging from it. I guess that's what 350 years of humidity will do for you. I couldn't help but think that they must have "hard" water. Anyway, I sat down and started dumping water on my head. After doing this a few times, a guy who clearly didn't work there walked across the room and motioned to follow him. So, I did. I'm in a wet diaper. What do I have to lose? So the guy shows me to the steam room and shows me wear to sit down. I said Hi to all the guys in the steam room and proceeded to sit and sweat for the next twenty minutes or so. After this time, my new buddy came back and told me to lay down on this big slab of marble. So, I did. It was really hot, but I didn't want to look like a sissy, so I just laid there. Funny thing about laying on wet marble. After a while, you start to stick to it. Every time I would move my suctioned body would make a fart noise. When this would happen, all of the old guys in the room with me would start laughing. So I did it some more. More laughs. I got to the point where I could get really good and loud. The guys in the steam room were laughing so hard that I thought they were going to pee their already wet diapers. Good stuff.

At about this time, my buddy comes back into the steam room and motions for me to follow him. So with one loud farewell fart noise, I left the steam room and followed my buddy through the bath to the cool off room. He showed me to wait there. So, I did. He then went back into the lobby area. A few minutes later, he comes back with what looks like an old fashioned milk bottle. He tells me to drink it. So, I did. It was Aryan. This is a yogurt drink that they love here in Turkey. It's not a sweet yogurt, it's more like butter milk. I'm not crazy about it, but I drank it any way. As I was about half done, he started pantomiming that the drink would make me strong. He did this by flexing his muscles and slapping himself on his lower back. This was hilarious as he was in his mid forties and built like a mud slide. After my refreshment, I went back inside and scrubbed myself raw with one of these abrasive gloves that you are supposed to wear. After scrubbing, rinsing, sweating, rinsing, etc. It was finally time to get out. As I exited the bath into the lobby, an attendant gave me a dry diaper to wear. Upon getting this on, he then wrapped towels around me. Finally, he wrapped a towel around my head. I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror and couldn't help but start laughing. I looked like a complete dip shit. As I continued to laugh, the other guys in the lobby got to laughing to. The next thing you know, we are all just sitting around laughing for apparently no reason. Getting home, I was so relaxed I almost fell asleep while telling Kelly about my trip to the hammam. The Turks are on to something with these baths. Even though the night club was bumping below us, I didn't hear a thing.

The next morning, we got up late, and spent the day just goofing off. We did some hikes, took some pictures, and bought some stuff that we probably don't need. The nice thing about being in a place not frequented by too many outsiders, was the fact that the prices were considerably lower. Early that evening, we watched a celebration that evidently coincided with all of those flags that we'd seen everywhere. (We found out later that it was their Independance Day) That night was Kelly's turn at the hammam. So I went and mailed and did some blogging. I got home to find a very relaxed girl in bed with the covers pulled up to her chin.

We reluctantly got out of bed early the next morning. We wanted to try and get a bus to Istanbul. When we got to the tiny lobby, we encountered two FAT, SMELLY guys, snoring to beat the band, sleeping on the couches in front of an electric heater. That we had to see this sight and experience their smell was bad. Making matters worse, was the fact that I couldn't get the door open, so we could make our escape. Making matters worse still, was the fact that poor Kelly was trapped right next to one of these guys, when he gave a loud snort, started mumbling in his sleep, then proceeded to touch his penis through his pants. I eventually got the door open and we made our way out into the clean mountain air.

We got to the bus station and tried to buy tickets to Istanbul. No Dice. There wasn't a bus until 11:15 that night. Sooo.. we interneted, walked around, burned a CD, got come coffee, and generally loitered like a couple of tweens at the skating rink. We met a nice Lebanesese guy who was our waiter at the coffee shop. He was a university student learning to be a tour guide. He was looking forward to the weekend so he could go see his "Angel". Evidently, they call their girlfriends, "Angels" here. Cheesy? Romantic? Your call. Kelly liked it though. I asked my new friend where I could find a "Berber". He pointed me to an unassuming shop about a hundred meters away.

When we walked though the front door, the man getting his hair cut immediately started talking with us in flawless English. He asked us if we wanted some tea, and before we could answer, a boy from the restaurant across the street showed up with a tray full of tea in glass cups and sugar cubes. He man in the chair had a lot of questions for us. Where we are from, What did we think of Turkey, How we liked the town, etc. He must have liked our enthusiasm. He told us that he was the Mayor. I started laughing and said that I'd never met my Mayor, the Mayor of Chicago. We started talking about the town and how not many Europeans or Americans make it here. He went on to say that last year 20,000 Japanese tourists came. I asked him if they took a lot of pictures and he just started laughing. He then made reference to their floppy hats. I about fell off my chair. I tell you, this Mayor knows how to find your weaknesses.

When I sat down for my hair cut, the Mayor interpreted for me. I ended up getting a very nice cut, by the way. As I was getting snipped, an English teacher came through the door and we got to talking right away. As he was VERY bald and standing behind me, I asked him for an evaluation of my scalp. He found this to be really funny and when he translated to the rest of the shop, they all got to laughing too. When I was done with my cut, the Mayor announced that my money was no good there. That he was going to pay for my haircut. I tried to argue, but as they say, you can't fight city hall. So, I thanked him profusely in Turkish, until I think he started getting uncomfortable. I'm sorry, I have just never had anybody buy me a hair cut before.

We were then invited to stay for some more tea. I accepted on our behalf. The men then asked if they could smoke. I'm sure that they did this on account of the fact that Kelly was in the room. Berber shops aren't places where women hang out usually. The English teacher and I got into a really engaging conversation. He explained to be about their independence day and gave me some of the low down on Turkish history. He then asked why more Americans don't come to Turkey. I responded that I didn't know, but the fact that there were bombs this year couldn't have helped things. I then said that I felt that this was stupid. I told him about how there were over 600 murders in Chicago last year, yet I don't give a second thought to walking my dog at night in the city. A few lousy bombs shouldn't mean anything. This peaked the shops curiosity. I found myself with the unenviable task of trying to explain the medias love of all things explosive, bloody, and sensationalist. Six hundred murders barely makes page 10 of section B in the Trib. A pipe bomb wounds some people in Turkey and it's all over the Fox News ticker. I mentioned that Kelly and I have learned a lot about things in the world that we would have never had a chance to learn, simply because our media is a very insular one. This then led to talk of Iraq, George Bush, and the "War on Terror". All the men in the Berber shop wanted to know if Americans really felt that the war in Iraq was making them safer. I explained that there are, indeed, people who feel that way. That there are people that think that George Bush is a good president. I also had to explain that 49.9% of the population did not vote for him. I tried in to explain, in as unbiased way that I could, the way that he got elected the second time around. Eventually, however, my emotions got the best of me and I described our fearless leader an ass hole. They found this to be particularly awesome. The English teacher then translated one of the men's thoughts. It's something that we have heard all over the world. "We love Americans, but we don't like your government." I'm glad that they can tell the difference.

I could tell that our being there was starting to interfere with the cutting of hair, so we made our exit. Not before getting a picture of the guys at the shop though. It was one of the best hair cutting experiences I've ever had. And I didn't even have to pay for it....
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