A Travellerspoint blog

Desperately Seeking Celebs

Stargazing in Hollywood

We had been keeping our eyes peeled all day, well, the whole time we had been in Los Angeles. Celebrity spotting, not in a stalker way just in a “being aware of a possible opportunity to interact with the rich and famous” way.

Our first spotting caught us unaware as we were jetting through Paramount Studios on our tour golf cart…

There he was, just casually sitting outside the editing suite. He was sleek, expensive with an aura of class, wealth and superiority. Everyone turned their heads and scrambled for their cameras. We couldn't stop for a closer look but as we turned the corner the sun reflected off the hood and lit up the deep burgundy colour and the racy design.

It was Brad Pitt
*cough*
Brad Pitt’s car.

Parked outside. Doing nothing but looking fancy and expensive but boy were the people stoked.

Hollywood was bringing out the big guns for sure.

LA is the epitome of celebrity. It oozes from its pores. There is an obsession with fame. It is the home of celebrity culture, rich social heiresses and movie stars. Desperation and money mingle in the air. While the locals claim they don’t care, three TV channels are dedicated to celebrity gossip updates. This insane obsession with movie stars is incredibly ridiculous but boy do we love it.

I suppose Los Angeles to those who have zero interest in film, TV, celebrity, pop culture or the dynamics of a rich society controlling a desperate society can do LA in a few days stint including Disneyland and a look at the Hollywood sign. LA tourism is very much centred around movie stars, see their names on the footpath along the Hollywood walk of fame, see movie stars handprints in front of the Chinese Theatre, see where they live in Beverly Hills, see where they work on a studio tour. Without it you have a massive, hot city with a dry, barren landscape and bad transport, weird health foods that are quite frankly un-American and of course some of the funky little neighbourhoods that come with creative people congregating.
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If you love are willing to dive head first into the ridiculousness and embrace the tacky, glitzy and celebrity LA is tonnes of fun. I went out of the way more than once to see where my favourite TV shows had been filmed. I became one of the minions of a TV studio audience, being held in a cattle pen then marched single file into a working studio. Four hours of your time, 30 minutes of theirs. We clapped and applauded on cue, then once it was over you were told to get out. It sucked and you felt unloved but this is LA so we sacrifice our own comforts because we got to see Chelsea Handler two metres in front of us. This is Hollywood. We do these things here for a possible brush with fame. In as expected Hollywood turn, the star was ushered out to her fancy sports car and zoomed out the gates of Universal and onto the freeway before I could get my map out and work out where we were going.

My friends there live up the street from Katy Perry, go to the same gym as Jodie Foster and have Gerard Butler’s email address so they can invite him to their next gig.

The tourists, like us, file in to tourist vans and go and look at the areas the rich and famous like to spend their time. Observe something so far from reality; shopping on Rodeo Drive, living in a mansion that takes up a city block in Beverly Hills and driving around in monster-sized black range rovers.

Half of us aspire to be there and half of us enjoy taking part briefly and then leaving before the insanity takes over.

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Posted by The Tipsy Gipsy 19:37 Archived in USA Tagged los_angeles usa hollywood the_tipsy_gipsy Comments (0)

Heading to the Land of the Free

USA! USA! USA!

It was the first time I hadn't been alone on a long haul flight so I figured it would be a breeze. A quick 13-hour zip over to Los Angeles full of movies, chatting, eating and drinking but EEEEWW BOY! what a flight, the little plane on the radar seemed to be stuck in the middle of the Pacific the entire journey.

We left Sydney at 9am and were soon fed and then that was it, the lights were off for the next 12 hours implying that it was time to sleep. My body was obviously saying “you just got up fool, you’re not even tired”.

So I'm wide awake for the next 12 hours.

It’s cramped and crowded. Thankfully after a 5th request of airline staff, a flight attendant on-board arranged for me to sit next to my sister. That way despite the full flight, we could share the no man’s land - that tiny bit of communal room you sacrifice when you are next to a stranger.

I watched two movies and waited for my next meal to pass some time. We must be due? Nothing. I'm actually peckish and 20 minutes of wrestling the foil lid of an orange juice would be a welcomed distraction at this point.

As I soon learned, the biggest blow to my airline experience wasn't the lack of food, but that I had taken for granted my TV screen and its glorious collection of film and TV. Not wanting to use up all the shows I had earmarked in my mind I was rationing my TV time so that I didn't spend 12 hours in front of a screen and get square eyes. So instead I started playing one of the games they have on the in-flight entertainment system, a trivia game which amuses me for 40 minutes or so as I manoeuvre myself to the top score on the plane.

At this point all is well in the world and aboard Delta flight 0008.

My sister starts to suspect the lady in front isn't appreciating my use of the touch screen and the tapping on the screen. I can’t have been pressing it too hard or tapping loud because the sensor was so far out that to select the answers I had to carefully line up my finger and hold it over the answer.

So I'm trying to get to level three, having a good time, learning new things, quite frankly minding my own beeswax when BOOOOOOOM! there is an almighty crack.

The mannish woman in front throws her body back into her seat, the way people do if your knees are in their back to assert their presence. There is a loud bang and the lady next to me even looks over as I have a bewildered look on my face by this sudden act of in-flight aggression.

My game freezes mid-round and that it, it’s all over, with 6 hours still to go my TV screen is broken. No more TV shows or movies for me, and I had barely scratched the surface, I hadn't even looked in the general collection yet, I’d only fossicked through new releases.

If she had an issue you would think she would turn around and say “bitch, that screen tapping is getting me down”.

But no she acted like a crazy wench and ruined my screen/life.

She stood up later and she was of solid build with a bum bag synching the waist of an oversized tee. She could kick my ass. I spent the rest of the flight watching what the people around me were watching, guessing the dialogue and taking one ear of my sisters headphones and having to watch whatever she chose, ie. The Glee in Concert.

Later on, while I was wide awake in the dark staring at a blank screen the wench in front started playing the same quiz game and I thought “I hope the guy in front turns around and slaps your dumb face”.
He didn't because I assume, and I might be going out on a limb here, he is a normal human being. As a small compromise she wasn't very good at in-flight general knowledge and had shit got real and we were duelling in “geography” or “people and places” she may have come off second best.

When I wasn't staring at the back of her head thinking about what I could say if she turned around or if I had any guts, I spent the rest of my hours standing by the toilets like one of those annoying loiterers constantly in the way of the flight attendants. I was trying to stretch my legs and pass the time as let’s face it, being stuck in a middle seat with no TV is one of the worst things to happen in modern society. I couldn't sleep comfortably, I longed for the window seat to rest my head. I stayed awake, waiting for it to be time to get off. We flew over Hawaii for what I am sure was 8 hours.

Eventually we arrived, I was tired because I hadn't slept, I was still incensed at the woman in front and hoped she got cavity searched by immigration upon arrival under suspicion of importing bad behaviour and general acts of assholery. To top it off my legs ached because I was doing so many anti-DVT exercises my legs had run an equivalent marathon.
We passed through customs, cheery 6am American customs where they bombard you with questions that though simple, are hard to answer when you have been on a plane for 13 hours. But they don’t listen to any of your answers anyway.

It was exhaustingly long journey for some reason, at least on the Australia to London jaunt I can eat-and-watch-TV myself into a slumber and not have to go searching for peanuts while I loiter by the toilets instead of taking my forced to nap.

Regardless I arrived at LAX for three month North American adventure.

Posted by The Tipsy Gipsy 21:15 Archived in USA Tagged usa airports air_travel the_tipsy_gipsy Comments (0)

Haloumi, Chest Hair and Honey Boo Boo Child in Cyprus

Luxury in Larnaca

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I was in luck, it was still the season for sun tanning and middle-aged semi-nakedness when I arrived in Cyprus. A warm 32 °C October day to melt my then British sensibilities and warm my cockles.

It seems, although part of the EU, the English and the Russians have kept this little chunk of haloumi of an island firmly under their hat, or say nestled deep in their chest hair. This is chartered flights, hotel transfer and lobster-red Brit country.

Cyprus is located south of Turkey, closer to Syria and Lebanon than it is to Greece but is generally considered a Greek island, so it was safe to expect a Greek-like attitude to life, one very similar to Italy, shops will open late and close early, working-age adults manage to be at the beach on a Tuesday, and buses will come when they arrive, which was confirmed after waiting 40 minutes for the airport bus only to take a taxi.

My driver was a typical Cypriot, both amazed I was there but also somewhat outraged I hadn't been before. We chatted in broken English about Cyprus and the important aspects of my time in Cyprus* (*I asked what I should eat while I was there because I don’t want to miss something delicious.)

My Cypriot adventure came about because I wanted to see somewhere new and have a break before flying back to reality/Australia. I had decided it was a good idea to have a relaxing few days lying by the pool/beach in the sun; I'm not sure who I had in mind when I thought of this idea but it wasn't ole- concentration-span-of-a-peanut me. I can’t sit by a pool 10 hours a day.

There is a severe hostel shortage in Cyprus so I had to spring for a hotel, its fine I thought, I’ll treat myself. My budget was restrictive. My hotel vacation wasn't as glamorous as anticipated. The shabby run down appearance was regarded by the hotel as, “Cypriot style”. The pool I was to spend my days frolicking in didn't look like the pictures and I wasn't keen on catching a UTI so it seemed best to avoid a dip. The advertised sauna was closed, or behind a closed door, so quite possibly doesn't exist. The natural highlight was the foyer which was tastefully decorated with a large-scale wall mural-come-diorama of a beach and village scene with 3D peasants coming at me with baskets, a 3D donkey and some rocky landscape.

I kicked back on the sofa because naturally you could only get Wi-Fi in the lobby, perhaps a result of a 3D peasant wall? Before long I was joined by three Russians, who plonked around me to watch a Russian soap opera on the 1970’s TV. It appeared to be filmed in someone’s backyard on someone’s uncle’s JVC home video camera with a very unglamorous soap cast. The girl was glued, she had that Russian-emerging-from-the-iron-curtain-in-the-80's haircut where her fringe goes all the way around, like a bowl cut with some lower fringing. The hair - mesmerising. The soapie - terrible.

My Larnaca resort also offered a sizeable hole in the middle of my bath towel as well as an inclusive buffet breakfast (before 8am) of boiled eggs, toast, ham* (*ham-shaped luncheon meat) and white flavourless cheese.
Which begs the question, how can something as delicious as eggs on toast be so horrifyingly bland and depressing as a piece of toast with a hard-boiled egg? Talk about boiling the life, soul and deliciousness out of something.

There wasn't a lot of hot water but there was air-conditioning and I had an adaptor for the up to then ‘decorative’ TV with European cords and UK sockets, and could catch a TLC marathon or 10, add a dash of Honey Boo Boo Child to my vacation.

This hotel was a veritable treat I really was indulging myself with such luxury.

I was asked a few times if I was Cypriot, I'm not, but I do eat like one. They surround you with food in these parts, a salad, some pita, some tahini, some olives, an appetizer-perhaps some grilled haloumi, then your main comes 10 seconds after and you are up for a veritable feast surrounding you on a table, you can snack in multiple directions. Though Larnaca is a fishing village where you can get a bunch of fish and other marine life, I kept it mainland and had my fair share of kebabs, gyros, moussaka, haloumi and kleftiko-a lamb speciality suggested by my taxi driver.

The Cypriots I met were usually excited to learn I wasn't British or Russian. The old lady’s kick around in black moomoos. The men sit outside cafes and restaurants drinking coffee and playing cards or backgammon. People spend hours fishing or sitting around and watching people walk by. There is nothing more uncomfortable than gradually walking towards a group of men whose day job is sitting and looking at people. These men enjoy leering, winking and nodding to show their approval. Look, I know I am rapidly ageing, I am fully aware that I have a few grey hairs and I don’t know what the cool kids are listening to these days but I know for a fact, I cannot possibly be mistaken for 65. FYI a toot of the horn and a wink repulses me just as much as the gold chain hidden in the forest of your chest hair. On the same topic, put a shirt on, you are in public.

It was a fleeting but interesting visit to Aphrodite’s homeland, more hairy old men than Greek deity but I was envious of the lifestyle. I hope my future consists of retiring at 50, spending a substantial block of time sitting outside my house on a plastic chair, playing a few rounds of backgammon with the gang and eating home-cooked moussaka. I learned Cyprus and I both share a love of iced coffee and having food spread around you while eating. Cypriots also are very proud of their abundance of stray cats; I however was not so pleased. Also a significant* amount of Haloumi was consumed (*obscene).

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Posted by The Tipsy Gipsy 20:54 Archived in Cyprus Tagged travel hotel larnaca the_tipsy_gipsy Comments (0)

Nuremberg and the Ruins of the Reich

When History and Travel Collide

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Nuremberg is the quintessential German city with crooked renaissance architecture perched along crooked streets and river banks. This pretty, walled city, now a stop of the expensive trend of European river cruises was once the centre of the Nazi rise to power hosting the annual Party Rallies where the power and glory of the Nazi Party was on display from 1927 until 1939.

Following the demise of WW2 most signs of Nazism were eradicated almost immediately in Germany and most remaining pieces of Nazi architecture were destroyed or forgotten. I went to the Nuremberg Nazi Party Rally Grounds in search of the remains of the almighty Reich that began with such glory and fell in such disgrace right here in this small city.

The former Rally grounds are situated across 11sq km around Luitpold Park on the outskirts of Nuremberg. Several projects were planned to occupy the space; stadiums and halls to house hundreds of thousands of people during the large scale rallies which by 1938 had almost 500,000 participants. Many buildings never went passed their foundation stages and others were destroyed either during the Allied bombing or after the war. The site’s remaining features; the Zeppelinfeld, the Grand Road and the never completed Kongresshalle (Congress Hall) have been under monument protection since 1973 as significant examples of NS architecture. It took 30 years but the site has now been developed and preserved with the Documentation Centre opening in 2001.

Once housing grand Nazi structures and playing a pivotal role in the rituals of the rallies, Luitpoldarena has been restored to its original state as a city park. Photographs from the 1934 rally show SS-leader Heinrich Himmler, Adolf Hitler and SA-leader Viktor Lutze on the stone terrace in front of the Ehrenhalle with the Ehrentribüne (Tribune of Honour) in the background.

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Standing in the harsh February elements in the exact spot today, nothing remains of the Tribune of Honour, once a large stone structure with Swastika flags flapping in the wind. The only evidence of the past is the gentle slope in the foundations around the edge of the park remnant of tiered seating for thousands of spectators. The Ehrenhalle was originally built as a memorial to the fallen in WWI and was used during the rallies for the "Totenehrung", a staple ritual honouring the martyrs of the NS movement. It now sits in a lovely, peaceful green park where families ride their bicycles and lay on the grass in the summer. It remains completely intact though suffering from the same neglect of war memorials the world over, the tiled floor cracked in places with grass peeking through and the fire bowls lining the edges rusted having sat dormant since the last rally in 1938.

Standing nearby was the 16,000 seat Luitpold Hall, it was here during the 1935 rally the Nuremberg Laws were devised and passed seeing German Jews began to lose all aspect of citizenship. The Hall was destroyed after being heavily bombed by the Allies.

Across the road from the park is the newly built Documentation Centre, a state of the art museum built into the most complete section of the Congress Hall, Germany’s biggest preserved National Socialist building. After many years of hesitation the site was finally landmarked and a museum and documentation centre created for this sinister, albeit historically significant site.

Sitting on the shore of the Dutzendteich Lake – now nothing more than a large, sludgy pond having been excavated and drained for construction in the area – the jewel in the crown, the massive Congress Hall is only just over half its intended size after construction ceased as the war effort become more pressing. An architectural feat with a modern self-supporting roof, it like many NS pieces was modelled aesthetically on classical architecture. The coliseum inspired structure stands at almost 40m high and was intended to seat 50,000 people. Walking in its shadows around the deathly quiet surrounds the sheer scale effectively, even to this day makes the hair on the back of your neck stand out, an indisputable show of power and following the socialist ideology of making people feel insignificant as individuals. It was about creating a feeling of being part of the masses cementing Hitler’s Socialist notion of one nation, one people and one Führer.

The Great Road, a 2km stretch leading to the Congress Hall was to be the grand entrance for the Rally Grounds. Paved with granite painstakingly mined by slave labour from nearby concentration camps it had the noble role of leading the marching masses. The 40m wide dead-end road is now a parking lot. Remnants of stone steps are still evident along the road’s edges, where people once crowded along to watch the festivities; the stones are now broken, overgrown with vegetation and disappear under tree roots and green moss in different sections. As you walk towards the Congress Hall following their intended march, on a clear day Nuremberg Castle is visible on the horizon, a symbolic throwback to the first Reich, the Holy Roman Empire and its imperial emperors. The Congress Hall appears on the right symbolising the new Reich.

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Beside the new Nuremberg Football stadium lays a haunting reminder of the past, the Zeppelin Field. Much of the area has been left to rot, the rectangle arena is overgrown with the stands fenced off and covered by meter-high grass and broken concrete. The Zeppelin Field’s centre piece was its grandstand which once stood at a length of 360 metres. It was one of architect Albert Speer's first works for the Nazi party and was based on the Pergamon Alter. It was here Speer formed the famous cathedral of light in which 152 searchlights lining the edges of the field cast vertical beams into the sky to form a barrier of light surrounding the audience. The majority of the grandstand has been destroyed. The large Swastika that once stood above was famously and ceremoniously blown up by the Americans when they liberated the area. The large Greek pillars were either destroyed during the war or used as explosion targets by the Americans. Safety concerns in the 70s saw the last remaining sections of the alter design demolished leaving only the centre grandstand, the podium and the seating. The edges of the Zeppelin Field are lined with rusted brackets which held torch bowls seen burning in Leni Riefenstahl’s propagandist epic “Triumph of the Will”. It was surreal to stand on such a significant piece of Nazi history. To see two modern doors marking male and female toilets in the front of the historic facade and a truck parked into the base which has evidently been turned into a storage space for the local sports teams who use its grassy centre. Standing now on the centre alter looking out over the sad, eerily silent place watching the storm clouds rapidly encroach I thought what had once been here. I was standing where the world most infamous dictator had stood. Below thousands of people would have cheered at the showcase of military strength and men marching passed in straight lines. It is enough to make one shudder.

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Several other sites were planned for the area including Speer’s German Stadium which would have seated 140,000 spectators. The foundation stone was laid in a pompous ceremony in 1937 but like much of the grounds, war brought all construction to a halt and the area dug out has since filled with water and is now Silbersee Lake.

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The walk around the grounds is signposted and the Documentation Centre houses a worthy permanent collection entitled “Fascination and Terror” with relics and information about the area, the initial concepts and construction plans for Hitler’s vision of a utopian Germany, one which was so far removed to what Germans then were experiencing. It also houses an honest account of the rise of Nazism in Germany and particularly Nuremberg which was at the centre of this new fascination with Hitler and Nazism. It focuses primarily on pre-war rise to power, as the Rallies were a show of strength and power not only to the world but to the disenchanted German citizens.

While it is impossible to travel in Germany without being reminded of the Holocaust and the atrocities of war, it is rare and refreshing to see a place dedicated to how and why Nazism was able to flourish in post-war Germany and essentially how it was able to become so powerful.

While by no means a common travel experience and admittedly a rather grim expedition, Nuremberg provides a unique, historic experience. These are not monuments or dedications’ but simply remains of the Reich’s former glory, where overgrown, unfinished and dilapidated buildings speak for themselves about how the mighty fell. The area provides an insight into the megalomania of Hitler. It exemplifies the extremities of Nazism, the grandeur and extravagance of NS architecture where size and splendour came before cost, logistics and the environment, the latter of which is evident by the sad state of Dutzendteich, where the jetty finishes before the water begins.

Nuremberg is now a peaceful, idyllic town which bustles with visitors in summer and is renowned for having the best Christmas markets in Germany. Most would never imagine this picturesque renaissance town on the River Pegnitz played such a sinister role in one of history’s most horrific periods.

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Posted by The Tipsy Gipsy 03:03 Archived in Germany Tagged history germany nazi nuremberg ww2 third_reich Comments (1)

Topless in Istanbul (Not a Meg Ryan/Tom Hanks film)

Visiting a Turkish Hamamı

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I had heard horror stories of both humiliation and violation so I was fully prepared for the possibility of a horrendous experience when I decided to go to a hamamı – a traditional Turkish bath. For centuries people have gone to cleanse and socialise, you sweat out your toxins and are then scrubbed down by someone, while naked.

I'm the kind of person that wears shorts with bathers so you can understand my apprehension. The idea of having to all but strip naked and be hit with sponges by a semi-naked Turkish lady was something that didn't fall on the bucket list, but rather the life experience list, things I should suck it up and do to enrich my life and my travel experience (see snorkelling, horse riding) but then again there’s nothing like a healthy dose of public humiliation to really top off a holiday. I was willing to do something touristy, something traditional and something that, if nothing else, would give me a good story.

Firstly I decided that this was not the sort of thing to do on the cheap, no back alleys, no special prices, obviously you want an authentic Turkish experience but I also don’t want to be physically abused with a sponge or massaged by a creepy man. Çemberlitas is the oldest hamamı in Istanbul. Right by the Grand Bazaar in the heart of Istanbul’s tourist district, the baths were built in 1584 for the wife of Sultan Selim II.

I walked in with my head held high, because I was doing this, no chickening out, into an open room where a few women were sitting around chatting. They thrust into my hands a peştamal – a cotton hamamı towel slightly bigger than a tea towel but certainly smaller than a bath towel, a scrubbing mitt and a little bag containing a pair of black undies then motioned for me to go upstairs, change and put my things in the locker.

Thankfully, I went reasonably early and I was alone. I got changed into my undies, they were surprisingly comfy. I then tried to wrap the peştamal around me to cover my dignity as much as possible, and then shuffled down stairs in someone else’s plastic flip flops that were about three sizes too small.

They motion me through the wooden door, it amazing how you can get by with no words spoken, into the hamamı.
And it was beautiful, and beautifully deserted. The room was muggy, built round and made of marble with a huge domed roof with circular and star-shaped holes cut into the ceiling letting in streams of light.
The light beamed down onto a massive hexagonal marble slab sitting in the centre. There were marble basins and taps every few meters around the edge and little private rooms with more basins and taps.

The lady grunted and motioned for me to lay down on the peştamal (towel) that had been quickly whipped from me seconds before, exposing me to my new Turkish friend and whipping away what little dignity I had with it.

“Where you from?” she asks to break the ice.

“Australia”, I say as I lay down. Semi-naked. On my back. On a marble slab with a middle-aged Turkish lady in undies and flip flops looking over me.

Really, feeling like, and no doubt resembling, a swine on a sacrificial alter.

I laid on the warm marble and sweat out my toxins. It smelled a bit like people had laid on the warm marble and sweat out their toxins for the past 500 years. The room was beautiful and I laid there trying to relax, but also conscious that I was topless and lying flat on marble and squishing all my fat. Regardless of comfort, I basted myself on both sides like a rotisserie chicken.

After 15 minutes or so my lady returned and poked me to lie down on my back. It was time for my scrub. She poured warm water on me from the metal bowl filled from the basin. Then I got a full body scrub down with a peeling glove, which might just be the best piece of equipment ever. It is literally brown with muck at the end, and I didn't think I was that dirty.

“Not too clean” I thought, “I want to get rid of the street scum but don’t scrub off my summer glow”.
I flipped a few times and got a good scrubbing. It’s hard to know whether to make eye contact or just stare blankly at the ceiling, I did the latter.

Keep in mind, you are wearing only undies.

Then it was time for suds. She dunked a makeshift pillowcase in a bowl of soapy, citronella smelling suds and pushed the air through making all the bubbles land all over me.
There were bubbles everywhere, on my body ready for scrubbing, but also in my hair, up my nose and in my eyes. So many bubbles I started sliding off the marble to which she would give me a nudge back towards the centre like a game of curling. She scrubbed me all over with soapy suds and gave me a massage which was an added bonus, re-sudding the bubbles from the pillow case several times. The excessive amount of bubbles help disguise the fact that someone’s hands are rubbing all over your body. Exfoliating, cleansing and massaging.

Yes, it sounds like some sick person’s odd fantasy but I can assure you there nothing sexy about an overweight Turkish women scrubbing down an embarrassed, overweight western woman. It’s all in a day’s work for these hamamı ladies, you are silly to be embarrassed. They don’t care, most of them are topless as well.

Soon the bubbles were in my eyes and I was glad it came time to de-bubble, with a series of bowls of water thrown over me, each in decreasing temperature. Each feeling like someone throwing a bowl of water at you, often right in the face. She then led me over to one of the marble wall taps which are beautiful and look like where a Turkish princess bathed. It’s also where the nicely towel-clad women are in the postcards, not sweating just looking pretty, touching their newly smooth skin, not evident is their butt hanging out the back of their too-small peştamal or them being awkwardly scrubbed down by a middle aged Turkish woman.

She sat me down by a basin, I felt a bit like Jasmine from Aladdin momentarily, then remembered I was in a room, semi-naked in public, and more water was dumped over me to wash off all the soap. Noticing by this stage my hair was in a bit of trouble, and very un-Turkish princess-ish, she nicked out and came back with some shampoo and rubbed it in and again, threw a bowl of water over my head.
This place clearly is not in a drought.

“It’s over” she said as she dropped the now soaking wet peştamal to the floor with a thud. She motioned to the next room where there was a Jacuzzi of sorts, a stone bath with water coming from the walls. She left via the dry room to collect her bra, which they hang on the towel hooks, and pull on her Adidas shirt before returning to the foyer to chat with others about the day’s soaps.

I plunged, then lay back on the marble, then tipped some more bowls of water over myself, rinse and repeat, I wasn't sure what to do but I wanted to spend some quality time in there and ensure I was as clean as possible. Eventually I was pouring cold water on myself because it was getting quite warm; you would wonder what the appeal is in a hot country.

After wandering about for another 30 minutes other people started coming in. It was amusing to see people walking in with all their modesty, nervously clinging to their peştamal and looking around for someone to tell them what to do.

“Ah I was you only 45 minutes ago, now look at me, walking around like I own the place, filling up my own bowl at the taps”, I think.

I eventually decided I had poured enough hot water on myself for one day, I soaked up the beautiful room once more then found a peştamal on the floor by the door as mine had disappeared and headed into a drying room. The towels were fresh and seemed to moisturise your skin, and smelled like coconut tonsillitis medicine. They were neatly piled up in the arches of the marble walls, the heat from the main room creating a towel warmer.

I jumped in the shower and used some more shampoo because that lady was severely underestimating me if she thought a bit of 2-in-1 was going to do the trick. I dried off slowly, this cost 70 lira I was going to milk it. I’ll towel off my ears and toes for that price.

Eventually I had to accept I was done and walked back into the foyer and up to my locker. I ran someone else’s comb through my hair and gave it a quick dry, knowing full well the humidity of outside was going to ruin any major hair works instantly. I was quite happy in my towel and smooth skin I didn't really fancy going back outside and getting all dirty again.
Maybe I could become a hamamı lady and stay in there all day.

I got dressed and left, wondering if I was radiating as I walked down the street. I was actually red faced and dehydrated.

It was a rather fantastic experience. I had gone in there with low expectations, expecting a good story if nothing else, but I had a great Turkish hamamı experience - I got silky smooth skin, I was squeaky clean for my flight that night to Melbourne via Dubai and Kuala Lumpur and with all that massaging I probably got a free breast examination so it’s a win win.

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Posted by The Tipsy Gipsy 01:30 Archived in Turkey Tagged istanbul turkish baths hammami the_tipsy_gipsy embarassing Comments (0)

I’m Not Dead

I've Just Been Busy Sulking

Excuse my tardiness, it’s been weeks since my last story-telling endeavour. It’s not that I don’t love you it’s just that since I arrived back to Australia I’ve been extremely busy dwelling in a post-travel hole. It was a scheduled dwell. Like clockwork upon arrival. It’s akin to crossing through the Bermuda triangle, I go off radar. It involves a certain amount of hibernation, much like a bear in the winter months. I snuggle up with the cold, harsh reality of my life, store food so I don’t have to venture out and grow my hair long for warmth. I rarely go out and only interact socially when required. I fall off the face of the earth, ‘incommunicado’ - and there are no stories to tell when you hibernate in a cave as everything you are doing is of incredibly limited awesomeness than before.

Ah the returner’s blues. Traveller’s depression.

I have been home in Australia for just over 6 weeks. I had been away for 15 months, living abroad, being independent and grown-uppish, living in a city, paying rent and being my own boss. Sleeping in and staying up, mixing colours and whites and leaving my towel on the bedroom floor. I am now home in my small country town with my family. At my old job. In my childhood room. In the town I grew up in.

So I’m hibernating. It’s not for any depressing reason it’s just part of the re-entry process. The excitement of returning has long since faded and been replaced by the ever-to-familiar sights and sounds of life. Why am I stuck in this place? Why don’t I live in New York? Googles *cool apartments on the Lower West Side*. Everything is ‘meh’. It also seems as though every single person I know is living it up all over the world and having the most amazing adventures. Suddenly everyone is travelling and seeing cool new things except me. It’s not true at all, but it feels that way. I don’t think of the opposite when it’s me away and others working the daily grind.

So I avoid social media, by avoid I mean cut down my hours from excessive to the human average. I don’t respond promptly to text messages nor make any calls but then I never did.

It's the returner’s ennui.

I moan about being bored and having no friends. The trouble with travel is that it seems as though everyone you know lives somewhere else. I sit on the couch and flick through TV channels. I might try and find a slice of the exotic by spending two weeks looking for paneer cheese.
I can’t actually remember being away it’s like it’s never happened. I've slotted back in to the past. The past 16 months are a blur. I dwell on how life is going on the other side of the world without me. I think of what I am missing and all the things I never got to do rather than the cool stuff I did do.

But never fear. Soon I will be on to phase two of the re-entry process, which is a bit more social, in fact I think I may be at the cusp. That is when I re-emerge from my slump, and I spend a lot of time looking at maps, reminiscing, looking at photos and pouring over books like 100 best destinations or cool stuff to do next trip, instead of “oh great, look at the cool stuff I haven’t done”. I’ll stop and smell the roses. The glass will be half full. The world will be my oyster again.

I will re-adapt to my life of before. I won’t like getting up to work but I will do it. I will save my money and think of new adventures, where to go next? What will I do? Will I be wearing a cool hat?

Oh the possibilities will be endless. In the meantime I’m just going to lay in bed looking at photos, eat a box of Aldi lebkuchen and wait for the light on the other side.

Posted by The Tipsy Gipsy 04:06 Archived in Australia Tagged home australia returning Comments (0)

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