Istanbul, Turkey travels

My friend Liz asked if I was interested in a women only, guided tour of Iran. Indeed I was, so we worked out the details and got everything booked.

Iran requires a guide for US citizens and also does not allow for any stay longer than the dates of the tour. I wasn’t happy with going directly into a tightly scheduled tour from a full 25 hours of sleepless flights and airport transfers, so we planned for a four day layover in Turkey to recover.

Several weeks after booking the tour, all the posturing by the US government/president took place and travel to Iran was downgraded to a level four for safety (do not travel).

Liz and I were able to cancel the tour, extend our stay in Turkey, and tack on an additional two stays in Athens and Mykonos Greece.

Our experience in Istanbul was amazing! The first thing that struck me are the cats. So many cats everywhere. Hoards of cats.

We watched a fabulous documentary “Kedi” to better understand Turky’s relationship with cats as a community. Highly recommend!

The cats are free and belong to no one, but the entire community takes care of them: feeds them, builds shelters along the sidewalks and in parks, keeps an open tab with vets for the occasional medical need or spay/neuter.

There are also stray dogs, but not so many. When a stray dog gets fixed they get tagged in the ear to identify it has been done.

The food is so fresh and delicious. We took a food tour and sampled the breakfast, lentil soups, kebab, mezzes (small plates), Turkish delights, tea and coffee.

The tour guide had us doing shots of “hönönö” and in true Zoë fashion (awkward in a group strangers), I immediately dropped mine all over the floor.

Liz and I booked a spa day at a Hamami. The one we went to is next to a mosque, and built by a famous arcitect for mosques. I didn’t tour any mosques but the bath house felt like one.

We laid on hot marble, looking up into the dome. Cut-outs in the shape of stars, hexagons and circles let beams of sunshine pour through above us. We were washed, scrubbed, and massaged. I felt like a baby, or bourgeoisie getting a royal pampering.

One unique experience for us westoners is the call to prayer that gets sung out over loud speaker five times a day. The first one is quite early and part of it translates to “prayer is better than sleep.” ha! I actually quite liked it and will miss it.

And a few more scenes from around town.

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