Saturday, December 31, 2011

Celebrating New Years Eve with the Hunns

In our searches for German Silvester (New Years') traditions to celebrate, we came across the fortune-telling of "Bibelstechen."

You flip through and pick a random page and verse in the Bible without looking, and that verse is supposed to reveal something about your upcoming year. 

Behold!  Our fortunes (and our interpretations afterward):
 
HEIDI
Isaiah 65:16

"Whoever asks for a blessing in the land will be blessed by the God of Truth. ... Past troubles are forgotten. They are hidden from my eyes."

PAUL
Luke 15:10-11

"In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents."


I really like mine. I think it's saying, "Girlfriend, you go out there and go for your dreams.  Also, don't worry about the past!  It's past!  Let's have a rockin' year!"

And Paul...well...he has some things to work on I guess...



*****

Other Silvester traditions include the necessity of watching this eleven minute British comedy sketch called "Dinner for One."  Seriously.  This is a big thing here--everybody has to watch this, and have since 1972 apparently.  It's even won a Guiness World Record for being the most repeatedly shown television clip in the world.  So yeah, watch it.  Feel German.

Also, eat a jelly-filled donut, or twelve.  Berliners (the jelly-donuts) are out in force in the bakeries tonight.  We got two chocolate-filled ones.  You should go get one tonight or tomorrow--eat it while watching Dinner for One and pointing out random verses in the bible.  German tradition unity around the world!

2011: A Retrospective


This was quite the red-letter year for us.  

Paul presented at SICB and I got laid off, then un-laid-off, then laid off, then un-laid-off again (yay!  take that budget cuts!) at SSNERR.

I got bangs and Paul more or less moved into a permanent, sexy-lumberjack, man-scruff look (Except for those three months when he grew "The PhD Beard").

We reached our goal for having a six-month emergency savings fund and our little coastal town got slightly hit by the tsunami from Japan.

In May, we both flew out to Germany so Paul could interview for the Max Planck Institute and I could play the employment field for a possible job.

Paul was offered the job.  I was offered part-time work.  And we agreed to take that six-month emergency savings fund and use it to move to Europe and travel.

Paul became Dr. Paul and we celebrated our 3rd Anniversary! (In style: On a Northwest Tour Extravaganza)


My sister got married in October and had the best reception (and bouquet) I've ever seen in my life.


Paul turned 30 (!!) and we celebrated in the Czech Republic and spent Thanksgiving in Turkey.  I found out that I was accepted into Penn State's MGIS program (woo! but...expensive!).

We moved into Aquahaus, in the old-city neighborhood of Rostock, which served as our base for an awesome first German Christmas.


I'm so incredibly grateful for everything we've been able to do and see this year, and especially that we have each other.  Paul is everything wonderful in the world and he tells me that I'm pretty cool too--I think I'm just cool by association then.  All in all, I have a feeling that 2012 is going to be The Year of the Hunn.   

Happy Silvester (as it's called here) to you and we hope you have a good slide (as they say here) into the New Year!

Thursday, December 29, 2011

The Last Post of Christmas

This is the last one you're going to get for a year.  ::cue wailing::

I know, I know.


But there was one last thing about Germany and Christmas we wanted to tell you about.  It's a little wooden dude called a Räuchermann.  The Spooky Christmas Man brought this nightwatchman version for Paul this year, but he could have just as easily gotten a baker, a mushroomer, a hunter, a policeman, a teacher, etc. etc.  There's all sorts of variations.

It isn't just a little wooden dude, though.  Nope.


If you pop him open, there's a little platform inside where you put a little cone of incense.  And after you light it and close him back up, smoke comes out of his mouth.

The point is to make it look like he's breathing cold air (or smoking a pipe, if there's a pipe).  And I hereby and therefore deem this traditional thing officially "Toll!" (awesome, super, great--in German).

And it smells really good.  Like most Christmas things, you know.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

This Year's Philosophy

Christmas Dinner:  Knödel (mashedish potato balls), rotkohl (red, sweeter sauerkraut),
green beans, apple soda-like drink, and THE roast duck.

It could be because it's the end of the year.  It could be because we're away from our families.  It could be because I just finished reading an incredibly intense novel about life's futility, Vietnam, and the cruelties of war (called Matterhorn, if you're feeling like a little existentialism for your New Year).

But, I've been feeling particularly pensive the past couple days.

And by pensive, I generally mean a strange feeling of being simultaneously grateful, sad, happy, guilt-ridden, and a bit of an emotional zombie.

Because always, around this time of year, I look around me and think of how much I have that so many other people in the world need, other things I want with all my heart but am just starting to realize might never happen, and how much better of a person I need to be every day because who knows when you might get shipped off to 'Nam and deployed into the bush to hump through the jungle with the ill-fated Bravo company of the U.S. Marines (that book really is affecting me, I know).

And, like every year, this week between Christmas and the "get ready, set GO!" of the New Year, I've been trying to work through all these thoughts and come up with my next year's Philosophy.  This is sort of what I'm homing in on:

1.  
You can control most things in your life, but not everything.

2.  
But you can't let your whole entire life and existence get wrapped up in the one or ten or fifty things you can't control.

3.  
Because there're 50 billion other things you can control.  

4.  
And maybe the secret to happiness isn't getting yourself to not care about the things you can't control.  Maybe the secret to happiness is recognizing those things that might never be, letting yourself really morn that thing (cuss at it/kick a rock/cry a lot/make sure that it really isn't something you can control), and then look around, wipe your hands on your trousers, and say, "Alright!  What else is going on around here?"


And then you might see the helicopters comin' into your camp's LZ to take you for some R&R in Okinawa, or your incredibly handsome, wonderful husband bringing you a box of tissues, a bowl of some sort of amazing German cheesy noodle ham food he made, and a hug.  And you realize you're going to make it through this beepity-beepin' war.


******************************************
And as a side note, I want someone to confirm for me that soldiers in Vietnam really were given drinks with names like "Choo Choo Cherry" and "Bugs Bunny Grape."

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Mystery Solved

I heard there was some controversy concerning the identity of a certain strangely shaped present pictured behind us in the Elegant, Classy Christmas Card we made.

Mystery solved.

It wasn't an ironing board or a slide, though extra bonus points to the slide guess.

But, here's the thing.  When you have nine-feet-high ceilings and you've managed to set off the smoke detectors a couple times...you realize that Santa needs to bring you a ladder ASAP.

So thank you, Weihnachtsman (Christmas Man).**  You did us good this year.


** Santa doesn't actually have a name here.  He's just "The Christmas Man."  

I think it sounds kiiiiiind of like a serial killer name.  Probably because one time I was walking home in the dark (it's dark at 3:30pm) and heard a creepy-sounding children's chorus wafting around the old city streets singing what loosely translated as, "He's coming, he's coooooming....the Christmas Maaaaaaaan is coooooming to seeeee youuuuuuuu."

Straight out of a B-movie horror film.  Am I right?

Monday, December 26, 2011

A Real German Christmas

I totally folded that star from 30 little sheets of paper without using any
glue.  Also, Paul gave me a Christmas gingerbread cookie-heart-placard.
It says, "For my Treasure Mouse."   ::aw:: Treasure Mouse!
And I call him, "My snail."  It's a German thing, okay?

Real German Christmases are mainly on Christmas Eve, and we definitely did that in style.  But, we were so caught up in the fun (and fooood) of it all, that I completely forgot to take any pictures.  But, you know, sometimes you don't take pictures because you just want things to keep going.  Pictures usually make everyone have to stop, pause, throw off "the groove" so to speak.  I didn't want to do that on Christmas Eve.  

Because you don't pause magicalness!

We were invited to spend Heiliger Abend (Christmas Eve/Holy Night) with our friends who I will call Awesome-Family-of-Amazing (or AFA) out at their appropriately awesome and amazing small farm in a little village.  I got to feed rabbits and see chickens again--I was so happy.  

And, People!  There was a whole meal that only consisted of 50 kinds of cake and hot chocolate!

Then we got to go to the 800-year-old village church and sing Christmas songs and watch a nativity play!  And I got to say, "Frohe Weihnachten" to the pastor who looked just like Jonathan Edwards (without a wig)!  

Also, the real candles made their real village church Christmas tree catch on fire.  REAL German Christmas Tree Fire!

Back at AFA's house, we ate another meal that entirely consisted of different kinds of BBQ'd meat (and potato and caprese salad)!  Yes yes yes!

And then we got to watch everyone open all their presents (you do that on Christmas Eve here) and then they even gave us presents (what?  overwhelmed!).  And I'm pretty sure that some of those presents they gave us were actual, for-real, hand-knit socks.  

And I'm like, "Sheesh AFA, way to make us forever indebted to your unbelievable niceness."

HAND-KNIT SOCKS! For cryin' out loud!

And finally, as if to cap of the incredible Germanness of it all, we all gathered around the German Tannenbaum as the German night slowly fell on the rolling hills leading down to the German Baltic Sea...

...and we played Uno.

Seriously, it ranks in my top five Christmases of all time.  Easily.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Solstice



We have a good friend in Oregon (who I will call "LovePuppet") who would give everybody presents to celebrate the Winter Solstice each year, often including some kind of dark chocolate.

So, because we live in a place where it will be midnight-dark at around 3:30pm, and, in the spirit of the beloved and missed Love Puppet, we went to a chocolatier in town to get the darkest hot chocolate we could find on the Solstice.

I usually think it's weird when people take pictures of cafe or restaurant food (hey!  Look what I digested!), but I kind of can't help myself when it comes to amazing edible things.

Like, take this hot chocolate.  They literally melted a chocolate bar, poured it into a cup, gave us each a pint of whipped cream to add to it, and were like, "Welp, have at it!" (but, you know, in German).

A chocolate bar, people!  Melted!  Into the cup!

Happy Winter Solstice from der Nord!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Christmas Traditions


This is our first Christmas on our own, away from our families.  And, even though we'd both like to see them all, there have been a lot of good things about having this time just to ourselves.

We've been able to start thinking about what traditions we want to have for our own separate little family.  And so, even though we don't know which ones will stick in the long run, it seems as if everything we've done for Christmas this year has an extra special significance as "the first time we..."

It was the first time we got a bunch of real live mistletoe and hung it in our kitchen.  It was the first time we decided how to decorate a Christmas tree (with small souvenirs from our travels around the world).  It was the first time we made plates of cookies for our own neighbors.  It was the first time that Paul started reading each stave of The Christmas Carol leading up to Christmas Eve, with just us listening.  

I wonder how German culture will affect our family traditions now, since our "first times" for so many of these things happened here.  

All different styles of the glowing  Bethlehem stars
so popular here.
For example, we have a frozen, butchered duck in our freezer right now because we want to make a traditional German poultry dish on Christmas day (goose or duck)--and I think it would be nice to do the same thing every year.  


We put treats (or a bouquet of flowers in my case) in each other's shoes on St. Nicholas' Day on December 6--and I think it would be fun to celebrate it every year now. 

It would be fun to make kartoffelpuffers every year as a treat (big, flattened tater tots with applesauce), because that was my favorite thing to eat at the Christmas Market here.  

I want to light candles for each Advent--something that was practically unheard of in my Mormon childhood, and have candles in my windows and a glowing German star-of-Bethlehem hanging on my porch.

I'm sure we'll keep a lot of the things our families would do themselves for Christmas, but I'm really happy that we have so many more things to add now from our experiences here in the Christmas-Celebration-Mecca (hahh...that sounds funny) that's called Germany.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Something in the Water

When I was growing up, we had this strange looking contraption that would come out every Christmas.  It looked something like this:


And when you lit the candles in a circle around the bottom, the windmill thing at the top would turn and all the little people on the inside of those tiny gazebos would spin around and around.

I could not for the life of me figure out where in the world this contraption came from.  I decided that, since it seemed to be a fairly new addition in our family traditions, it was something cooked up by...I don't know...JcPennys and described in some catalog as being "quaint" or "charming."  But I always wondered if this thing was actually a thing somewhere in the world...like Atlanta...or in Maine...or maybe even Canada?

You probably know where I'm going with this...


BAM!  Germany.  It's totally a Germany thing.  Also, they have monster-sized "pyramides" (as they are called) here.  Something in the water.  And this one, here in Rostock, is like a baby dinosaur.

Check out the Godzilla version in Dresden:

That's forty-five feet of Christmas cheer, right there.  And I think it's secretly saying, "Hah!  Take that ya Christmas tree.  You think you're soooo cooool."

Monday, December 19, 2011

O Aquabaum!


After we bought a teal, plastic-"needled" Christmas tree this year to set off the hues of Egnaro* (this is what happens when you live in Aquahaus), I couldn't help but notice that there were other Aquabaums all over the city.  This one, in the Norwegian part of the Christmas Market, is by far my favorite.

Doesn't that look magical?

Takes my Christmas-light loving breath away every time we pass it on the way home from work.

Plus, about ten steps away you can get a "spit-roasted boar with sauerkraut plate" or "duck breast fillets with cranberry sauce on a baguette."

O Aquabaum!  O Aquabaum!  How lovely are thy branches...and booths!



*Rees offered such a wonderful name, how could we resist?  Egnaro.  So exotic.  So inviting. So...weird...  Egnaro the ceramic orange wall.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

That dude was not even joking

Remember that one time I had a student tell me that there were roller coasters in the middle of the winter in Germany?

And then I was like, "Whaaaaaa?  That's crazy!"



Well, he wasn't whistlin' dixie on that one.  No siree bob howdy don'cha'knowww. (I just covered American Accents in my class...I can't help myself).

Also, can I just add, THEY HAD BUMPER CARS?!  


Christmas in Germany rocks my socks off.  Not only do you get to go to Advent concerts in giant stone cathedrals and hang real mistletoe bunches and eat roasted almonds and see chestnuts literally roasting on open fires and the Christmas trees come in pots (?) and your incredibly, amazingly nice neighbors give you presents and you can go into these tents all decorated inside with fir tree branches and lights sit there and order hot chocolate and this spiced punch stuff that tastes amaaaaazing and and and. . .

But also you walk outside of your apartment and two minutes later it's like wheeeeeeee! cotton candy! fairway games! tilt-a-whirl! Renaissance fair(?)!  giant ferris wheel! haunted...houses...(merry Christmas?)!!  


Plus, you see things like this:


Could you could handle...the TIME VISITOR?!  ::dun duhhhh duuuuunnnn::




End "Weinachtsmarkt (Christmas Market), Part I"

Friday, December 16, 2011

Domes

A few pretty Istanbul domes to make your day more beautiful...

Blue Mosque (obviously)



 Topkapi Palace Harem: h/t, Hannah Pritchet

New Mosque

Suleymaniye Mosque
New Mosque

Do you have a favorite?

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

What should we call it?!

Camelioned!

Did I tell you about THE WALL yet?  Because...this wall is serious business.  It's not even made out of...wall...stuff.  It's big.  It's orange.  It's shiny.  It's...like...ceramic?

Don't hate me because I have an orange wall.  Or because I'm beautiful (because who wouldn't be standing next to The Wall?)

Having a giant orange ceramic wall really sets all your creativity free, you know.  Wait till you see what we did with this thing.

But, you're going to have to wait a bit longer because our internets are weird again.  So, for now, you only get unedited, single-photo (albeit with hawt poses and sexy walls) posts right now.

Es tut mir leid (I'm sorry).

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Don't Worry, I Didn't Forget


With all this Turkey talk, you may think that we've totally missed out on Christmas preparations...


I just thought I should let you know that we haven't been missing out...

We even made sugar cookies for our neighbors last night, and I even made cards that only misspelled three German words (plus, we have a poinsettia.  see?)...

Christmas Market, Berlin

And, I mean, actually, I think we might have all of everyone else in the world beat on Christmas celebrations...  Because...Paul totally took this picture.  This one.  Right here.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Your Guide to Turkey: Food

Simit
I have a philosophy about traveling and food-- all foods fall into two categories

*Foods You Should Try and
*Foods You Really Should Try

Usually, the foods that sound normal, tasty, and comfortable fall into the first category.  All the other foods are in the second.

Paul finds this philosophy very distressing.  I find it adventurous.  Usually we end up meeting in the middle by the end of a trip.

So..anyway...Let me tell you about drinks!

Sahlep dude with...thingy
SAHLEP:  On our second night there, I saw a street vendor pushing around this cart with a giant brass...thermos/liquidheater...thingy...on it.  There was a sign on it that said, "Sahlep."  I stood there with a Turkish lira in my hand, literally hopping with anxiety, trying to get up the courage to ask for a cup (I was still new to the whole "I'm in Turkey" thing).  Paul just stood there being exceedingly distrustful of sahlep.

I don't really blame him because when he asked me what it was I said, "It's, like, a hot...orchid root...drink?"

Yeah.  Tasty sounding huh?

But here's the thing.  It is tasty.  It's like drinking...uh...drinking...okay.  Imagine you have hot chocolate.  But it's really thick and creamy.  Okay, but now it's white chocolate.  And now...it's not chocolate, it's just white?  And now there's cinnamon on top.  (Also it's made of orchid root.*)  That's Sahlep.

APPLE TEA:  It's not really tea.  It's more like they took really good apple juice.  Then they made it better apple juice.  Then they made it hot.  I bought a box of the mix to bring home with us.  It's only been two weeks.  It's gone.  All I want for Christmas is another box of Apple Tea mix.

JUICE:  Seems like this was "a thing" in Turkey when we were there--a lot of street vendors making fresh-squeezed juice.  Usually orange or pomegranate.  I found this one dude in the fish market who put three whole pomegranates in a hand-juicer for me and it made a little dixie cup's-worth but it was seriously so good.  Also, way way cheaper and better than this (plus, what a goofy name, right?).

Remember this picture?  Yeah, that's some ayran right there.

AYRAN:  It's like plain yogurt.  But sourer.  And watery.  It makes a magnificant milk moustache if you're in the market for one.  Also, probably a very good probiotic.  I'm glad I tried it, dag nabbit.  But that doesn't mean I'll buy another giant cup of it for fun anytime soon.  Give me sahlep or give me...not ayran.

Now imma gonna tell you about some foods.

SIMIT:  You may have noticed that first picture above.  That bagel-like dream is called a simit.  It's really good bread dipped in grape molasses (not as sweet as you'd think) and then rolled in sesame seeds.  We ate one of these for lunch every day.  Also, one costs you 20 cents.  Best part?  The dudes that walk around town with giant piles of these on boards balanced on their heads.

Simit-Balancers of the World, I salute you.

Hungry?  Grab a meze!

MEZES:  Turkey takes their appetizers seriously. And those appetizers are called Mezes.  You can get cold mezes or hot mezes.  I more or less went for the cold ones and would try their mixed plates when we went out to dinner.  This resaurant had tomatoes, cucumbers, an herbed yogurt, potato salad thing, eggplant/tomato, tomato/garlic, hummus, and stuffed grape leaves.  And pita.  And bread.

Everyone had the same bread and it was unbelievable.  It was the best bread I've ever had in my life.  I want to know where the giant bakery is that makes this same bread for everybody in Istanbul every day.  Find it for me, and I will reward you with mezes.

DONER:  Now, someone is going to call foul on this, but people, the Doner in Germany are actually way better than the Doner in Turkey.  I know!  I know!  Throw the tomatoes if you like, but it's true.

Come to Germany for Doner and I will show you the gates of heaven.   Go to Turkey for Doner, and I will show you a pretty good gyro wrapped in something that very closely resembles a flour tortilla.

For the uninitiated, Doner is actually the word describing how the meat is cooked.  It's a giant mass of a vertically rotating rotiserrie of (usually) lamb meat.  When you ask for a doner kebab, the shop owner takes this sword, slices off a few strips from the edges of the Doner meat mass, and wraps it all up for you with some vegetables and sauce.  It's always going to be good (I just know about the gates of heaven and all...so...I'm spoiled).

TURKISH DELIGHT:  Already talked about this here.  I still taste flowers in my mouth when I think about it.  Bleeeeelelelele.  I'm going to go brush my teeth.

KOKOREÇ:  Say it with me now-- Ko-Ko-Retch!   Very much like cockroach, if you ask me.   But it's totally not cockroaches!  It's way better.

Sheep intestines!

The culmination of my Turkey Food Philosophy achievement.  We went to the McDonalds of Kokoreç over in the New District and ordered me up a 1/4 portion of a sheep intestine sandwich (Paul was having none of it...he thought).  The proprietors of KokoDonalds were very nice--even taking a picture of us at one of their tables.

I liked them.  And their intestines.  You couldn't even really tell they were intestines anyway (which was only slightly disappointing).  It looked more like a squigglier version of ground beef.  And it was very spicy.  After Paul saw me chowing down on that sandwich he totally asked for a bite (win! adventure win!).  And, we both thought it was pretty good.  And who else reading this blog has had fast food sheep intestine?  Not many, I'll wager.  You should really try it. 

You should really try all local foods actually.  You get some ayran every once and a while, but usually it's a sahlep or a simit--and there's nothing much better than that.



* So apparently Turkey doesn't export Sahlep anymore because they were killing off too many orchids in production and the species was going extinct.  So, unless you're in the black market, you can only have sahlep in the winter in Turkey.  That's as good a reason to go as any!

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Turkish Bate

I'm going to tell you about the best idea we've ever had.

We took a bath in Turkey.  Not just any bath.  A Turkish bath...or Bate, apparently.

We were directed to a "very good hamami, no tourist, very good" in our hostel's neighborhood and were promised that this particular hamami (bath) would even "pick us up and drop us off" at our hostel.  So we told our host to reserve us a Bate, by all means!

This is where the adventure began.

We're sitting there in the lobby waiting for the car or van or whatever to come and pick us up when a nice, sprightly, old man in a knitted hat bustled in and confidently led us away to go to the "very good hamami. no touristy. come. hamami."

We walked about three blocks before we realized that no, there was no wheeled vehicle picking us up--this nice old man was our "ride" and he was literally walking us from one door to the other. Felt a little sheepish about that, because I already knew exactly where this bath was anyway.   But, he was so eagerly helpful about picking us up that I just went with it.

This is how we made conversation along the way:

Me:  Merhaba! (Hello)
Him: Merhaba!  Turkish? Spanish?
Me:  Spanish, sí!
Him:  Spanish? Turkish?
Me:  Sí!  Hablo español.  Habla usted español?
Him:  Turkish?  Spanish?  Good Hamimi.
Me:  Oh...ok?
Him:  Hamami. Turkish. Spanish.
Me:  Yes...?
Him:  ::silence::  ::walking very fast::

It only took a short five minute walk to find the Tarihi Şifa Hamami, and he energetically ushered us down a long hallway from the street deep into an old, old building (1777 AD old, actually).

We found ourselves in a dim room, surrounded by two stories of changing rooms, being smiled at very widely by what appeared to be a happy extended family of Turkish bath owners.  A larger woman brusquely shooed us into a larger, two-person room and literally threw a couple pairs of rubber sandals and cotton wraps in behind us as she shut the door.

Then, Paul and I sort of looked at each other and went, "Here we go!"

We de-clothed, as it were, wrapped ourselves up in our cotton wraps, slipped on those (surprisingly comfortable) rubber sandals, and shuffled out into the dim room again--nodding to grandpa, uncle, aunt, and cousins along the way.  We were, again, confidently directed (one could even say "curtly", except I don't think it was meant to be rude, just efficient) to THE BAAAAAATE.

Let me describe this to you.  Imagine a smallish living room.  Now it's completely paneled with marble--floor, walls, ceiling.  Also, there's a dome for a roof and the dome has small star-shaped holes in it for venting.  All along the walls are ledges of marble next to spigots of water that fill small marble basins.  And in the middle of the room is a giant marble slab, about two feet tall and seven feet wide and deep.

We were hustled on top of this giant marble slab--a very, very warm nigh unto hot marble slab-where we were instructed to lay down.  Aaaaaand, that's pretty much the last instruction we got for a while.  So we laid there on that marble slab, looking up at that star-pierced dome, in that steamy warm room.

It was marvelous.

After a bit, I decided that I was going to hop off that marble slab and go dump some water over my head--like one does.  I did this for a while, sitting along the wall, filling up a marble basin with hot water and dumping it over my head  like I totally knew what I was doing (but I didn't...I was just copying the dude on the other side of the room).

Kiiiiinda looked like this one
Eventually, the larger woman of changing room mention appeared in the bath, pointed at me, and said, "LADY. GO!"

Yes, ma'am.

I knew this point was were the adventure would really begin.  Because the thing about Turkish Baths--they aren't just water and soap.  They are intense.  You're going to get a Tae Kwon Do massage.  You're going to get completely covered in a mountain of soap bubbles.  You're going to have an entire layer of skin removed with a loofa sponge.  You're going to be seriously, seriously clean.

I go with "Lady! Go!" to the "Ladies Only" room.*  And there I am.  Just me, Lady Go, and a whole bunch of wet, pink feather boas wrapped around 18th century marble columns and I'm clutching at my wet cotton wrap thinking, "Soooo...how are we going to play this, Lady Go Lady."

Turns out, I didn't have to worry about any ambiguity.  She just walked right on up to me with a friendly, helpful smile and whipped that there cotton wrap right off.

Nekked.

Nekked 'cept for those neon pink rubber sandals.  And when you're nekked with a smiling stranger, there's only one thing to do--just shrug your shoulders and go, "Well then.  Let's DO this thing."

Lady Go was actually really considerate because after pointing to the marble slab and saying "LADY!  LAY DOWN!" she also de-clothed.  It made me feel less exposed for some reason.  I guess because we were all just equals in that room.  Nekked Lady Equals.

Lady Go.  I don't even know what Lady Go really did.  All I know is that she eventually said, "LADY!  LOOK!" and pointed to my stomach where I saw, I kid you not, literally handfuls of dead skin layers that she had scrubbed off.

It was gross.


It was beautiful.

Then, I got a nice massage.  Then I got encased in a mountain of bubbles.  Then I got a bunch of water dumped over my head.  Then I got my wet cotton wrap back.

When I went back into the main area of the Bate, the first thing I saw was a three foot high mound of bubbles on the main marble slab with Paul's head sticking out at one end.  A few minutes later, a new-skinned Paul joined me in a side room for a post-bath water-on-head dumping.  He was literally giggling with joy about the whole thing.  Giggling.

The rest of the story is only mildly interesting.  We left the bath, got dry wraps, and someone from somewhere wrapped our wet heads in these awesome turban things.  We sat in the first dim room for a bit, drinking water, hanging with the family, chatting with some dude named Daniel from Singapore.  Then we changed back into our "real world" clothes.  We assured our guide that we could find our way home by ourselves and left the friendly Bate family.  I shared a smiley farewell with Lady Go as we headed out into the cold night.


* Apparently this bath was a little strange in that it didn't separate women and men the entire time.  So I just got ushered out of the main area for the nekked parts.  When I went back in and saw Paul in the mound of bubbles, he wasn't nekked completely--the wrap was always strategically placed.  Guess they figured it was easier for dudes to keep things strategically placed than it would have been for ladies.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Turkish Delight

Turkish delight, on a moonlit night, even.
We're baaaaaaaack.

We moved (and are still in the process of moving).  We got a temp internet connection.  One of us got accepted into another Master's program--and is dealing with all the stress accompanying it.  We also are in the midst of a German Christmas which is proving to be much more Christmasy than an American Christmas--as we hope to show you later.

BUT, we also know that we left you hanging on the whole Turkey thing.  And Turkey, well, Turkey was pretty faREAKin' fantastic.  So fantastic, that it doesn't deserve to just be shunted to the blogging corner.

What I'm really saying is that there is too much  to tell and I can't figure out what to start with or where to go from there.  So, I decided to pick 3 pictures at random from our trip and then tell you about them.  That's a good beginning right?  I think so.

So, first, the Turkish Delight.  Did you know this is what Turkish delight looks like?  For some reason I thought of it as being really red and somewhere there was meringue involved.  Way, way off.  We found this little shop off the beaten path and bought a box--we told the shopkeeper to just fill it with a bunch of different kinds.

I'm still trying to figure out what they all are/were.  I know that at one point I ate a coconut covered marshmallow with a hazelnut on top (top left in the box).  I also know that at one point I ate something very similar to a square gummy-bear flavored like rose petals--which sounds poetic and exotic doesn't it (the rose petal eating, not the gummy-bear thing)?  But...the taste of rose petals...imagine drinking perfume.  Kind of the same for me.  You want to like it because it smells pretty...but your mouth is having none of it.

Paul loves Turkish delight now.  I'm sort of "glad I tried it, it's okay" about it.  So chances are good that you would be happy to try it sometime in your life.  Especially if you're in Istanbul, where it was, like, invented.

Check it.  I'm loungey.  I'm a Turkish loungey princess.
Second.  I'm pretty sure we found the all-time raddest restaurant in the old city part of Istanbul (which is called Sultanahmet, for future reference).  It was literally next door to our hostel (which was also rad).  It's called Palatium and you should go.  You need to go.  Go.  Look at that pizza thing in the picture!  Also, I'm totally drinking yogurt stuff (Ayran).  Go.

Why is this place so rad, you may ask?  Well, for one, you eat Roman-style--lounging on these big low couches next to your big, low table.  Also, sections of the floor are glass and you see down into the excavation of the old Great Palace of Constantinople (circa, like, 400 AD).    Also, people are smoking their apple flavored water pipes around you and it smells incredible.  Also, you can seriously eat a lot of food and only end up paying 35 euro.  Also, you can borrow a backgammon board and play (Turkish game, did you know that?).  ALSO, if you go out into the back courtyard there's this nondescript staircase down underground that lets you go wander through the ancient Palatium Magnum (Great Palace of Constantinople)--completely sans tourists (other than yourselves)...and actually sans any other people!**  Get your Howard Carter on!
Oh, just wandering through an ancient, now-underground palace by
ourselves.  No biggie.  I think I'll touch the wall.  Yeah.  I just
touched that ancient wall.

Okay, those last two pics were just for explanation--they don't count as my third choice.

THIS is my third random picture--a dome from Chora Church (originally built in the 4th century AD).  It has some of the most beautiful Byzantine mosaics in the world and I'm a mosaic nut.  I think mosaics are some of the most beautiful, complex, wonderful genres of art.  Chora did not disappoint.

This is just one of a bazillion pictures we took, all in this tiny, little church-turned-mosque-turned-museum way out by the old, sixth-century city walls.  This dome was one of my favorite parts.  I love all the angels, how they're all different; faces, robes, holding different things.  I love the rainbow around Mary--a very Byzantine/Eastern Othodox thing.  I love how the borders in between the angels all are different, intricate patterns/  I love the gold leaf on the mosaic tiles*.   I loved Chora!

I can't help myself-here's some more Chora.

From top left, clockwise:
1) A circular story-telling of the temptations of Christ--
I love how Byzantine mosaics read like comic strips without the boxes.
2) Sparkly...Also, notice those varied colors in the hair.
Or his slightly rosy cheeks. Or the subtle tint changes in the robes...
They did that with tiny pieces of tile.  That's amazing.
3)  I loved all the different colors of marble in Chora--
much of it recycled from older buildings.
4) The "Anastasis" fresco (which means Resurrection).  It's Jesus
saving Adam and Eve from the grave.  Our guidebook
called it "Rambo Jesus."  Hah!  Yes.
Yes, "Rambo Jesus."  And I'll leave you on that macho note.


**  Actually, I was wandering by myself through the ancient palace corridors for a while when I stumbled into one vault that had a deep freezer, a couple bags of potatoes, and some 18 year old woman just sitting there texting.  Scared the crap out of me.  Scared the crap out of her.  Why was there a freezer down there?!  How did she have a cell phone signal?!  I don't know!

*  I learned something about the gold tiles on this trip.  It's actually gold leaf that is sandwiched between a tile and glass--so it can't flake off!  Those Byzantines, so smart.  They really get the short end of the Social Studies stick in my opinion.
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