Featured Post

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Naked Spas in Turkey

My German naked spa experience opened me to the pleasures of relaxing in the buff. Therefore, when the opportunity to do a naked spa in Turkey came my way, I couldn't resist. What I discovered, however, was that the Turkish hammam is a totally different experience in the altogether, so to speak.

Now, mind you, when going to these naked spas, I am simply doing my duty as your diligent travel reporter. The Turkish hammam, after all, is a cultural and historic experience. Taking a public bath is a Turkish tradition dating back more than 1000 years. So, if you want to soak up the history, you must do as the Romans did. And the Greeks. And the Ottomans. Because they all bathed here.

Going to a hammam can be somewhat intimidating for a first-timer, especially one not well-versed in the Turkish language. Here's a blow-by-blow.

Step #1: Find a hammam. Please do not make the mistake of knocking on someone's door and asking them if you can take a Turkish bath.

Step #2: Tell the hammam attendant the services you desire. You can select from a DIY bath; a bath with an attendant; or a bath with an attendant plus a massage. I opted for the latter.

Step #3: You will be given a little packet that contains a locker key, a loofah mitt, and a pair of panties. Undress, put on the panties, and cover yourself with the tiny dish towel (peshtamel) provided.

Step #4: Go to the bath area. At the Cemberlitas Hammam, this area was a large octagonal room, with a similarly-shaped marbled slab in the middle. Flop yourself down upon the gobektasi (literally, belly stone) as the warm air opens the pores. After a 15-minute light steam, a bikini-clad, slightly out-of-shape spa attendant (a natir) comes over and throws cool water over you. Next, she lathers you up, and, if you are lucky, she scrubs you silly (sadly, my natir was not a scrubber). Then, she throws warm water over you, shampoos you, and exfoliates you with the aforementioned little loofah mitt. After that, you are free to stay on the slab, or you can wander into one of the side alcoves equipped with a kuna, a marble basin with water taps. There, you can fill a tas (bowl) with water and pour it on yourself. Or you can opt to linger in the hot tub, which, at Cemberlitas, was rather tepid. The cost for the process, sans massage, was a mere $15 (plus tip). If you go to a non-touristy hammam, you'll likely find more authenticity for a lower price.
After the bath and massage
Turkish hammams are generally not co-ed, so the naked spa nature of things is not all that titillating, However, I can report that men do have a slightly different experience than women do. The male attendants, called tollaks, are likely to be burly and hairy. And when they scrub you down, they scour you (according to my sources). Apparently, the massage some provide can border on the sadistic, which, frankly, sounds better to me than the lukewarm treatment I received. 

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Images of Istanbul

Whirling dervishes, Turkish coffee, historic mosques, hand-woven carpets, a cruise on the Bosphorus--that's life in Istanbul.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

A Turkish Rorschach Test

What do you see in the following images? Please comment below.
All were taken in the Cappadocia region of Turkey.

I see a camel.

I see a little family.
I see me.

Hmmm and Me.

Hmmm Again.

Two Gents A'Walkin'.

A Grand Lady with a Tiny Head.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Alternative Uses for Everyday Products

Ever find yourself on the road and desperately in need of shoe polish or eye makeup remover or a tourniquet? Don’t worry--you don’t have to run out and buy anything. Just look in your packed luggage.

Let’s start in the oral area. Toothpaste isn’t just for brushing, anymore. Ever use a hotel iron only to find it has left awful stains on your wrinkled white pants? Next time, clean the gunk off the iron with toothpaste. Apply paste to a cool iron, wipe thoroughly, and voila, no more mess. Shoes scuffed? Same deal.

Next, let's examine our dental floss. Yes, we can use it to pick crumbs from between our teeth. But it can also serve as a line for hanging wet clothing; as a temporary shoelace: or it can be used to secure luggage zippers in place. Or say you check into a hotel with a drippy faucet, and no fix is in sight.Tie a long piece of floss around the spout and let it hang down into the basin. The dripping water will slide along the floss, eliminating the loud plunk, plunk that may keep you awake at night.

Hair conditioner has multiple uses aside from keeping your tresses smooth and untangled. And since most hotels stock it as an amenity, you don’t even have to pack it to get its benefits. You can use conditioner to:
1. Remove eye makeup
2. Soften makeup brushes
3. Loosen sticky zippers (apply lotion to tracks of the zipper)
Don’t worry, guys, I am getting to you, too…
4. Shave and
5. Remove a stuck ring from your finger. However, gentlemen, note I do not condone this if you are merely removing a stuck wedding ring in the effort to appear single while traveling.
Tampons not only function for their original usage, but can have life-saving applications as well. Obviously, guys will have to go out pre-trip to buy tampons. No bloody way? Listen up. Outdoorsy types swear by the feminine hygiene product as a multi-use lifesaver. Among the first-aid benefits:

1. Unroll the tampon and inside you’ll find an ultra-absorbent material perfect for an improvised dressing for a manly wound.
2. If you are in the middle of the woods and suffering from dehydration, the tampon can serve as an emergency water filter. It may not clear out all the bugs and whistles, but in a pinch, a tampon filter could allow you to drink enough pure-enough water to save your life.
3. And yes, in case you get your nose broken in a manly fight, tampons are perfect for stopping up the blood flow.

Monday, March 3, 2014

CineTourism--The Academy Awards and Travel

Which tourism destination is going to be the big winner thanks to this year’s Academy Awards? I’m betting on Norway. Norway? Yes, the Scandinavian country is banking on the success of Frozen, Oscar winner for Best Animated Film, to draw visitors to the land up over this summer. Despite the fact that the film set in Norway per se, Arendelle, the fictional  setting of the movie, is reportedly a mash-up of the country’s scenery, architecture, and way of life.  Innovation Norway reports that since the film’s debut last fall, U.S. visits to the country’s tourism website have tripled, and search engines are reporting increased interest in flights into Oslo


Frozen wouldn’t be the first animated Academy Award winner to bring home the tourism bacon to a northern country. Last year’s winner, Brave, depicts the adventures of a fictional Scottish princess in an actual animated Scotland. The film inspired a multi-million dollar marketing campaign by Visit Scotland, which  forecasts movie-generated visits to bring in more than 200 million dollars in the next five years. Two of the places that inspired animators, the ruins of Dunnottar Castle and the Callanish Stones, are seeing increased visitation, and several companies have developed Brave tours.
While it may seem odd that animated films are serving as travel inspiration, the marriage between live action Academy Award-nominated films and tourism runs deep. Usually, the acclaimed films are masterworks of cinematography. While its roots may go back farther in time (i.e. Lawrence of Arabia 1962), the decade of the 1980s was when the introduction of exotic destinations started directly correlating to increased tourism numbers. The African continent was one of the biggest beneficiaries of that golden age.  Best Picture winner Out of Africa (1985) painted a glamorous yet raw view of life in colonial Kenya. Meryl Streep, Robert Redford, and stunning cinematography created a sense of romance that put Kenya on the mass tourism map for the very first time. In 1988, Gorillas in the Mist (nine nominations, no wins) drew attention to the natural wonders of Rwanda. Tourism temporarily shot up there after the movie’s release, although the civil war in the 1990s negated the impact. But only temporarily--25 years after the movie’s release, Gorilla in the Mist-inspired tours are bestsellers.
Australia was another long-distance destination that used movies to reel in visitors in the 1980s. Long before the Lord of the Rings trilogy made New Zealand a top travel destination, Crocodile Dundee (1986) sparked a fanatical interest in the Land Down Under. No, it didn't win any Academy Awards, although it was nominated for Best Screenplay. But the mix of the rugged and humorous Aussie prototype Paul Hogan and the rugged and scenic appeal of the Northern Territory created a recipe for tourism success. The Northern Territory saw an explosion of tourism by early 1988. To accommodate some of the film-crazed fanatics, an international hotel in the shape of a crocodile opened its jaws in the fall of 1988 in Kakadu National Park. 
Meanwhile, Hogan became a tourism pitchman. His “Throw Another Shrimp on the Barbie” advertising campaign for Tourism Australia was a marketing phenomenon. Interestingly , Baz Luhrmann’s Australia (2008), one of those stereotypical cinematic homages to dramatic landscapes, did not have the bite that Crocodile Dundee did in terms of winning Oz tourism share. Maybe by 2008, people were too busy heading to New Zealand, inspired by the mystical views of Middle Earth depicted in the Lord of the Rings trilogy.