The best things about Istanbul #1: a sense of history #2 a sense of spirituality, #3 a sense of sensuality #4 a sense of spice #5 a sense of taste…….Here are the first three and then a specific food post for #4 and #5 will come later…
#1 A sense of History………..what is now ISTANBUL dates back 3000 BC, and hails three important eras: First the Romans, Christians (300 AD) , Ottomans (1500AD). Turkey was born in 1923 after War of Independence, and it gained a new alphabet and separated religious practice from public government. The population is around 14 million, and is considered the “meeting place” of the two continents of Europe and Asia.
See Constantinople’s pillar in the middle? Dating back to the 4th century, a statue of the emperor, 5 m high, once stood at the top of this pillar. He had the whole street lined with these columns to designate his power…and the power of his faith. Standing there, the immense history of the place sank into my body, and my brain was a bit baffled!
#2 A sense of spirituality:
The city itself is infused with religiosity (not just a quasi, do what feels good spirituality)…but not the oppressive, rule based kind. Locals practice prayer, and maintain traditions. You take shoes off inside, wrap your hair in holy places, make sure to attend the second prayer on Fridays, when the message is given. But you also pay homage to superstitions, keep a tailsman to ward off the evil eye, and get your coffee leaves read now and again.
I made sure to visit 2 mosques each day. Immediately setting an un-shoed foot into the Blue Mosque, and peace feel upon me. When I was praying, I craved connection, I craved growth and to be fuller. I want to BE more and have more. And yes, fruition followed.
Why is is the Blue Mosque “Blue?” A hallmark of the power of the Ottoman empire, the Sultan commanded that the tiles be dyed by the tree roots and vegetables of local vegetation.
Istanbul’s history offers the history of the world. Three major empires: the Romans, the Christians, the Ottomans, emerged from this location, and since 1924, the new Turkish Republic, attempts to blend all of that history into governing its people.
#3: A sense of physical groundedness: A Turkish Bath AND a massage
Have you ever been to an all nude spa? Turkish Baths, called Hamams, hail from Roman Baths, offering steamy therapy in a three different rooms: the stone steam room, the washing room (where you get soaped up) and the relaxing room. The day before, I had a Turkish style massage that may have been Swedish in nature, but had a sensual Turkish flair. Nothing sexual, but the way this guys hands melted into my muscles made me feel like a princess. Then, the next day, Salih sent me to one of the oldest Hamams in the city…where I had “the royal treatment.” An 80 year old attendant massaged, exfoliated, soaped me up, and then washed my hair. It was a sense of spirituality emodied in my particular bones…so emotional I felt myself tearing up through the 2 hour blessing at Galata Saray.
When she places you on the heated 500 year old slab of marble and strokes a lathered sponge over tighten muscles, at first you fear soap may poison your eyes or invade your lugs
But then a body memory surfaces and without coordination a trust ensues
it’s been 25 years since my body held so much bouancy; preoccupied with having too much to hold
And a need to demonstrate my own ability
That I have not allowed myself to be bathed
And then the crown,
She cradles me as if I belonged to her and not gently but rather tenderly washed my hair
Pouring water in waves down upon me
And they were pure waves of my grandmother and being treasured beyond measure or even a need to question
Am I worth this act of service
She twirled my hair in a wet braid and pardoned me
communicated with eyes, heart, hands and not lips
And with no translation from
the squeamish consciousness
Where is your sense of sacred this holiday season? Your history? Your sensuality?