Thursday, 28 July 2011

Amasya is amazing!

Thursday 28th July: Amasya
With the forecast predicting temperatures in the mid-30's, we headed off early to do the essential attractions in Amasya. ( OK - I have to admit that I'm only mentioning the weather because I hear it's foul in Melbourne!).
One of the tombs in the rock above a mosque
First stop was the Tombs of the Pontic Kings; apparently carved into the sheer limestone cliffs as early as 4BC! Why the kings thought it was a good idea is beyond me, but they have been places of cult worship and eventually used as prisons. Not a lot are accessible but it was worth it for the view.

Then we headed for the Citadel or Kale: everywhere we go there seems to be Citadels so that any approaching enemies can be dissuaded from invading before they get too close. The one here is truly stupendous and the views were just spectacular (after I'd stopped puffing and panting after climbing a million stairs!) We managed to persuade Ewan that we didn't need to walk from the river to the top, and that is was acceptable to drive up most of the way- thank heavens.
The old part of the city is gradually being overwhelmed by large apartment blocks which seem to be the latest architectural fad across all of Turkey: they seem to have all been designed by the same person with slight colour varaitions. In Amasya they are in alarming locations clinging to steep hillsides. After I took plenty of photos, Ewan went off exploring and Erin and I practiced our appalling turkish on various families heading for the top.
We decided to have roasted corn and yet another icecream for lunch, whilst enjoying the cool of the riverbank. The corn was tougher than ours but the ice cream was great. Our new best friends at the ice cream shop were happy to see us again! Two scoops in a fresh waffle cone costs the princely sum of 1T Lira - about 60 cents Australian. Lots more flavours to try yet!

Next we headed for a Hammam or Turkish Baths, which was quite an adventure I can tell you!
We went to the oldest one in town - built in the 13th century, and restored in the 16th. Some are only for women or men at different times of the day, so we rather hesitantly stuck our heads in the door, but were encouraged to come in.
We were given a cubicle with 3 beds and no door to undress in, and a piece of cotton material the size of a sarong, to cover whatever we wanted to cover. Then we were escorted into a large room constructed entirely of marble with water troughs and pannikins for throwing water over ourselves. This was the steam room and it was hot! Within a few minutes we were all bright pink and sweating profusely: it's designed to get rid of all those impurities lurking under your skin apparently. Then a small muscly turkish guy came and took me into a small room with a marble bed and a seat next to an old stone water trough. He sat me down and I had to decide whether I would remove my cloth. I thought he had probably washed and massaged lots of fat turkish ladies before so what the heck! He took out a glove which was like a scourer and proceeded to scrub my entire body with lots of soap and using the scourer to get rid of all of the dead skin. We were all horrified about the amount he managed to scour from our supposedly clean skins! Then he lay me on the marble slab and massaged me for about 30 minutes with lots of soapy water. He was a great masseur and worked at trying to get all of our muscles pliant and relaxed. When we compared notes later he had adapted the massage to suit our various aches and pains.
Meanwhile Ewan and Erin were still sweltering away in the steam room. I emerged and Erin was next, then Ewan. I was met by a man with a dry sarong and then he escorted me back to the room we had changed in, and wrapped me in lots of towels and propped me up on one of the beds with a cup of Chai (tea) to await the others. I felt sparkling clean and very relaxed! We seemed to be there for hours and it cost the princely sum of 20 Turkish Lira per person: about $12 AUS each. Ewan gave the masseur a big tip as the charge for that was only $3.00 each!
There are lost of touristy Hammams around but this one seemed to be very authentic as various locals wandered in. We decided we'd need to try a few just for the sake of comparison!
After a siesta we strolled into town and used our latest acquisition - a Turkish-English dictionary - to try and order some food. We did surprisingly well and had a great meal. Noone here speaks english at all so it's a bit challenging having a conversation and ordering food.The rest of the time we mime and point a lot, which is how we managed to buy 3 varieties of baklava: delicious!

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