• Athena Ives

The Magical City of Istanbul

According to the State Department, there are 113,431,943 valid passports in circulation, which means 36% of Americans own a valid passport (and therefore 64% do not). Let’s assume that those with a valid passport have used it and those without have never been abroad — that means that a healthy majority of the population has never left the United States.

Traveling changed my life, opened up my eyes, and made me a better person. I appreciated the freedom women have more than I ever did before I traveled. Experiencing other cultures helped me understand the greater issue behind sex trafficking and sexual assault in general. I won't get into that in this post. I have been able to see architecture and nature so beautiful it made me cry. In 2011 I took a month tour of Europe and it changed my life.

The trip started in the capital of Greek Mythology, Athens Greece. After two incredible days there we headed to Turkey. The 5th day of the trip was a free day in the magnificent city of Istanbul, Turkey. Several of us decided to spend the day shopping at the Grand Bazaar, a magical place filled with exotic spice smells, languages from all over the world, hypnotic music, and pushy salesmen.

After working up a sweat due to the heat, we grabbed some kabob for lunch and headed to our next stop, the famous Turkish bathhouse Çemberlitaş Hamamı. The bathhouse in the movie Taken 2.

When you enter the Turkish Bath, they have two separate entrances for men and women. We were given a delicately wrapped package of panties, a robe, a scrubbing towel, and body oil. After changing into the panties and the robe, you are escorted into an exotic waiting room where they bring you tea while you wait your turn. An attendee escorts you into one of the most breathtaking rooms I have ever been in. A room that was built in the 1400s with a giant, marble, heated, round slab where you are asked to lie down. Looking up at the giant marble dome with stars etched in allowing the light to peek through casting beams of magical light dancing around the room, I felt like a gladiator preparing for the Arena.

After being washed, thoroughly exfoliated, and rinsed off, you relax in different temperature pools that get colder and colder from room to room. Each pool had strangers from all over the world, enjoying the healing waters and magnificent architecture. The day ended with an hour-long hot oil massage and a facial.

A day I will never forget!