I fall head over heels in love with Istanbul each time I visit. The people, the history, the food, the joie de vivre & architecture are all irresistible.
Istanbul is an intercontinental city with its historical center in Europe & a third of its population in Asia. The city straddles the Bosphorus, sits between the Marmara, the Black & Mediterranean Seas & is built on seven hills, offering visually stunning geography & the namesake for Turkey's famous 'Seven HIlls' rug pattern.
Dating back to the 1400′s, Hammams are some of Istanbul's most beautiful buildings still standing & are one of the first experiences to have in this magical city.
One of my favorite Hammams is the Ayasofya Hurrem Sultan Hammam, designed & built by Mimar Sinan, the chief Ottoman architect who built the Blue Mosque at the request of Hurrem Sultan (Roxelana), the wife of Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent in the 16th century (1556-1557 AD).
The Turkish method of bathing was popularized in the Victorian era & is rooted in Greek & ancient Roman traditions, with stories of women secretly scrutinizing prospective wives for their sons & brothers in the raw. You prepare & dress in a warm dry relaxing room before making your way into the hararet, a hot sauna in which you perspire, slow down & unwind. After sweating away the stresses of our modern world you meet your masseur for the most rejuvenating bath & excellent exfoliating body scrub while lying on the gￃﾶbektaￅﾟￄﾱ (raised marble centrally heated platforms).
Emerging from the bath cleansed & with skin softer than ever, you depart feeling relaxed, purified & ready to breathe in Istanbul's rich culture & history walking along it's cobblestone streets.
As Europe's oldest luxury hotel group, there is a certain amount of grandness & flair to expect from a Kempinski property & yet each time I visit the Ciragan Palace, the only Ottoman Imperial Palace & Hotel on the Bosphorus, I am spellbound by its beauty & the beauty of it's guests. This past stay I ran into the esteemed Madeleine Albright.
Aside from the dignitaries & diplomats, I tend to run into more musical ambassadors, Lou Reed, Brian Ferry, Blondie just to name a few...
As a multi-dimensional traveller Istanbul is a wonderful city to tour. It has a rare combination of antiquities & modern relevance. The entire country is proud it's imperial past, yet at the same time embraces & promotes a bright, optimistic future playing host to a booming economy.
Istanbul is one of the places that no matter how often you visit you always feel like there is something new to do or see or experience, making it a snug fit for any adventurous traveler.