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My First Trip to Turkey - How It Came About - Where I'm Going

My First Trip to Turkey - How It Came About - Where I'm Going

Old Jun 15, 08, 5:04 am
  #16  
 
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Originally Posted by Flying Buccaneer View Post
A close friend of mine in Prague says that the Russians are taking over parts of the Czech Republic. I had mentioned to her that I wanted to go to Karlovy Vary sometime, and she told me that I would be the only non-Russian there.
Perhaps not the only one but close to a minority in the city center core. Besides Karlovy Vary (I was never a fan) there are two other spa towns: Marianske Lazne (Marienbad) and Frantiskovy Lazne. I love the former, and my best friend owns an apartment there. The sad story is that the Russians from KV who want to get away from other Russians are now buying property in ML, driving the market beyond reach for locals. FL is the smallest of them all, and absolutely lovely for a day trip in the summer.
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Old Jun 15, 08, 5:07 am
  #17  
 
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Originally Posted by Flying Buccaneer View Post
This site should help with the visa fees.
I went through the list. Indeed, what did Canadians do to be charged $60 for a visa? Even more puzzling is the fact that Czech Republic is not on that list at all. I have both Canadian and Czech passport. As it looks now, it is either cough up $60 or do not go.
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Old Jun 15, 08, 7:12 am
  #18  
 
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Originally Posted by Vaclav View Post
I went through the list. Indeed, what did Canadians do to be charged $60 for a visa? Even more puzzling is the fact that Czech Republic is not on that list at all. I have both Canadian and Czech passport. As it looks now, it is either cough up $60 or do not go.
You're looking at the wrong page. Czech citizens, like those of most (all?) EU countries, do not need a visa at all to visit Turkey.

http://www.allaboutturkey.com/passport.htm
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Old Jun 15, 08, 11:54 am
  #19  
 
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Originally Posted by LBsquared View Post
Based on the Itineraries calendar, I'm literally a day behind you on the FRA-IST run (actually I'm following you for almost all the legs including FRA-JNB-FRA) also in LH C so I'm also happy to hear about the dedicated line for Bus class... also will need to look into the visa fee for each of my passports & go with whichever nationality works out cheapest!
It looks like we will both be in Istanbul at the same for a few days. I see that you are on that very early flight back to FRA, which I managed to avoid when I fly out of IST the following Saturday. I am taking an early evening flight, thus forcing an overnight in FRA, where I will be using one of the free stays I earned with last Winter's Le Meridien promotion. Then I head back to the left coast the following afternoon on UA.
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Old Jun 15, 08, 2:08 pm
  #20  
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Today was my last full day in Antalya, and I decided to take it easy. While there are fascinating archaeological sites and other natural features within 100 km of Antalya (including the Chimaera, something I have wanted to see for years), I decided that this was my dead period before work began. Many of the days in the CIEE program start before 8 a.m. and end late at night.

What better way to take it easy than go to a hamam? A little after noon, I caught the tram into the Old City and went to Sefa Hamam. It was recommended by AntalyaLiving.com, as well as Lonely Planet. It's not far from Hadrian's Gate, which is one of the tram stops, so it was very easy to get to.

When I got to the hamam, I was welcomed and shown the menu:

Turkish Bath ...........13 YTL
Peiling (Kese) ..........5 YTL
Soap Massage ..........6 YTL

TOTAL ...................23 YTL
Extra Oil Massage ...13 YTL

KOMPLE TOTAL .......35 YTL

I chose the "Komple" and was shown to a little cabin where I was instructed (by hand signals) to undress and wrap a towel around my waist. When I did, the same clerk locked the door, gave me the key, and told me to follow another man downstairs. This man took me into a room with a low entry (about 5 feet high) and then into another room with an even lower entry. I am a little over 6'4", so it was slow going. This room had a high dome above a marble platform, and it was hot (at least 100 deg F) and humid, but not quite a steam room. The man told me to lie down on the platform and left me for about 10 minutes. Lying there looking up at the light coming in from outside was relaxing.

After I had worked up a good sweat, the first man came in and led me into the room I had come through to get there. He instructed me to lie face down on a marble bench that was flush against the wall. It was barely long and wide enough for me. I felt him pour cold water on me, then warm water, then warmer water. And then he started to scrub me with a rough mitt; this was the "peiling" or peeling. Then he doused me with warm water and I heard him doing something with water. All of a sudden, I felt myself covered with warm suds, which he "massaged" all over me. I put massaged in quotes, because he alternatively rubbed, hit, and slapped me, working around the towel that was wrapped around my midsection. Then he poured warm water all over me, repeatedly, until he was satisfied that the soap was gone. He repeated the process on the front, and then instructed me to sit between the bench and a basin. He washed my hair and poured water on me over, and over, and over.

Next came the cool down period. He wrapped me in three towels and said "reception, wait," so I went upstairs. The other man (the one who had led me to the dome room) made me a glass of hot apple tea. The man who bathed me (it feels weird to write that, considering that no one has bathed me in over 40 years!) asked me in choppy English where I was from. I said "America... Florida." He said, "I love California!" Then he asked how I like Antalya, and I told him I like it very much. He said, "Too hot!" I almost said "So is Florida," but I realized he thought I was from California!

After I finished the tea, he led me to a massage room. I get a massage a month from an outstanding massage therapist. This massage, like the bath, was more rubbing, slapping, and hitting. A little over and hour after I walked in, I paid, said goodbye, and walked out. And even though my description might not make you want to go to a hamam, I did feel better when I left than I did when I went in. Besides, it's something you have to experience. I plan to go to another one, time permitting, in Ankara and/or Istanbul to compare the experiences.

At 2:00 p.m., my stomach was crying for lunch, but I took a wrong turn somewhere and was disoriented. I was on Ataturk Caddesi, but a part I had never seen. I saw a Starbucks! I collect Starbucks mugs, so I walked in and was shocked to see Antalya mugs. I bought one, walked a little farther south and then headed back up the street. I finally stopped for a vegetarian pide and salad. On the way back to the tram, I picked up some baklava for a snack.

When I got to the hotel, I decided it was time to check out the pool. The pool area is well-kept. They close the pool at 8:00 p.m., so the water had better be clean. There are actually three pools that are contiguous but not connected. I walked around the pools three times before I settled upon a chaise. At least half of the chaises had towels on them. I figured out later that these were towels that belonged to people who had left, maybe hours earlier. OK, maybe the pool area is not that well kept. But the area is peaceful, the grounds are beautifully landscaped with pines, palms, magnolias, jasmine, and other flowering trees. And the water temperature (30 deg C) was almost exactly the same as the air temp.

After a shower and a few emails, I went back to the Old Town for one final time. As I was walking down one of the pedestrian streets east of Kale Kapisi, a man stepped in front of me and invited me to sit at one of the tables his restaurant had set up outside. The table was full, so I said "But there's already somebody there!" He started laughing, and pointed to another table and said "Then sit here!" The temperature had cooled a few degrees, it was shaded, and he had a sense of humor. How could I say no? I'm glad I didn't. The portions were huge, and the food was delicious. They even brought out a huge puffy hot "loaf" of bread, something like a huge piece of pita or a huge baked sopapilla without sugar. It was more food than even I could eat, and it came to 16.50 YTL. After a final ice cream in Antalya, I boarded the tram and came back to the hotel.

I've grown comfortable in Antalya, so I guess it's a good thing I am leaving for Ankara tomorrow. Would I come back? Definitely! In fact, I would love to spend a week here, or even more, so that I could do a few day trips to places like Perge, Side, Termessos, Olympos, and the Chimaera. And I would not hesitate to stay at the Sheraton Voyager again. I never saw the no outside food/drink policy enforced. I remember reading on TripAdvisor about how mediocre and expensive the food at the hotel is. I can't understand why anyone would eat at this hotel, or any other big hotel, when they are staying in a place like Antalya. Apparently, some of those people never left the grounds. As nice as the property is, there's no excuse for not taking advantage of the hospitality and delicious food that's just a 30-minute walk, or 1 YTL/12 minute tram ride, or 6 YTL/5 minute taxi ride away.

Time for bed soon, and up early for my taxi ride to the airport.
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Old Jun 15, 08, 2:18 pm
  #21  
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Originally Posted by SanDiego1K View Post
I'll be interested if you notice the impact of Russian tourism in Antalya. It's been a long while since we've been to Antalya. At the time we were there, the dominant tourist group was German. We are the host family for a couple of Turkish grad students at UCSD. They tell us that Antalya now has so many Russian tourists, there are even billboards in Russian.
Carol, I saw very little evidence of a Russian invasion in Antalya. However, that doesn't mean they aren't here. They just weren't where I went. I did see a few shops that had signs with Cyrillic script, and a bus that had something in Russian on it.

Probably the best evidence of the Russian presence here, however, is an article in today's New York Times that I found (thanks to hoyateach) in an Omni thread. It could be that most Russians are going to places like the Kremlin Palace Hotel and aren't that visible to the average tourist.
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Old Jun 16, 08, 10:37 am
  #22  
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Antalya to Ankara

I woke up at 5:00 a.m. to finish packing and get ready for my flight. I checked out of the Sheraton Voyager at 6:45 a.m. and the front desk clerk said he would call for a taxi. There was a taxi outside of the hotel with the hotel's name on the door. I wasn't sure if that was the taxi or not, and the driver was asleep. After a couple of minutes, I tapped on the window, and the driver awoke. "Airport?" I asked, and he nodded yes. A little less than 25 minutes later, I was at the domestic terminal.

June 16, 2008 AYT-ESB
Turkish Airlines 911 (Operated by Anadolujet)
B-737
Seat 11C (Changed to 8D)


I looked at the monitors to find the check in counters for the 8:40 a.m. for Ankara, and headed in that direction. The flight was operated by Anadolujet, a no-frills subsidiary of TK. The base fare was only 29 YTL. The flight would not earn miles on UA, or TK for that matter. However, given the low fare, I didn't mind. The only thing that I was curious about was whether my UA 1P status would enable me to use the *G/Business check in line for an Anadolujet flight.

After the two general lines came to a standstill, I walked over to the *G line and handed over my UA card, my passport, and my printed confirmation. The I placed my bag on the scale: 27.4 kg. Uh oh! The baggage handler put a "Heavy" tag on my bag, while the agent shyly (almost apologetically) explained that I was 12 kg over the 15 kg allowance. Therefore, I would need to pay an excess baggage fee at the TK office, and she motioned to it. I asked if I should leave my bag with her, and she said I should.

The excess baggage fee was 3 YTL per kg over, or 36 YTL. Not too bad. The base fare, plus taxes and fees, plus the excess bag charge, still was just 90 YTL. I went back to the *G/business line. When the agent saw me, she motioned me to the front of the line and handed me my BP, bag claim tag, passport, and UA card.

The flight started boarding around 8:20 a.m. Boarding buses, that is. Pax in rows 15 and higher were told to go in the back door, everyone else, the front door. I walked down the aisle to 11C, and found both 11A and B occupied. That was not a problem for a 45-minute flight. However, the lack of legroom was.

According to TK's website, one version of the 737 has seats with 29-30" pitch. This was it. When I sat, the seat in front of me moved forward. I sat up straight, and my knees still dug into it. However, just before the door closed, I noticed that there were many sets of three seats unoccupied. I moved over to 8D and asked a FA if it was OK. It was.

By the way, this is my biggest gripe with airlines that don't allow pax to choose their own seats, either at ticketing or while boarding. Self-selecting pax will almost always scatter themselves throughout the cabin better than a check-in agent. The pax are interested in where they sit, and check-in agents have more important things to worry about.

The flight took off at 9:03 a.m., and shortly after the seat belt sign was turned off, the FAs were in the aisle with packages of cake and mineral water. Again, this was a brief flight on a no-frills airline! However, the lack of legroom and no magazine were reminders.

The flight landed at ESB at 9:42 a.m. and took less than 10 minutes to taxi to the gate. Bags appeared within 20 minutes of reaching the gate, and I was on my way.

A havas (airport) bus was waiting outside, and I handed over my heavy bag and boarded. An agent came through the aisle collecting 9 YTL from everyone. ESB is more than 30 km from Ankara, so the havas bus is the best bet for getting into the city. The bus made a couple of stops for individuals, and then stopped at the havas terminal. About half the pax departed, and I wasn't sure if I should or not. So I asked the driver, who did not speak English. Thankfully, another pax interpreted for me, and asked me where I was going. When I told him the Sheraton, he told the driver, who said the terminal was my closest point of exit. I thanked them both, got my bag, and boarded a taxi. The taxi and bus together were 24 YTL, compared to 60 for a taxi. I was in no hurry, because I was not sure if I would be able to check in so early.

I arrived at the Sheraton a little after 11:00 a.m. The hotel is easily-recognizable, with its circular tower design. It's a lot like the Sheraton Park Tower in London, just taller and not quite as big around. As the taxi approached, security checked the back and underside. Before I could go into the lobby, I had to put my bag and backpack through and x-ray machine.

Check-in was fast. My room was ready, and I had been upgraded to a Club room on the 21st floor. The agent explained that the Club Lounge on the 20th floor was open 24 hours a day with coffee and tea, happy hour started at 6:00 p.m., and continental breakfast at 7:00 a.m. Then someone from the lobby took my bag, showed me to the room, and practiced his English with me. His English was excellent anyway. Much better than my Turkish!

I spent most of the afternoon relaxing and exploring the immediate area. The area is close to a number of embassies, and is very different from Antalya. From what I can gather, it is much different from the rest of Ankara. Were I not spending 5 more nights in Ankara, in a hotel in a different part of the city, I would explore farther. However, that will come, as I was reminded when I called the local coordinator of the program, and she said "We have a packed itinerary."

The reason I chose the Sheraton was simple. The cash and points rate of $45 + 2800 *points was tough to beat for a property that's part of The Luxury Collection. The best rate (including VAT) was $243. I didn't need the stay for requalification, so paying $49 (including VAT) and 2800 points made each point worth about 7 cents. Not a bad return. (I know, there are better deals, but I liked this one.)

The club lounge is divided into smoking and non-smoking sections. Coffee, tea, cookies, and fruit are available all day. (The tiny pears are delicious!) I went to happy hour a little after it started, and there were just three other guests there. I got a bottle of Efes Pilsner (no charge) and stood next to an open window. One of the club employees brought me a dish of three types of roasted nuts: hazelnuts, almonds, and pistachios. Then a dish of Doritos. (Yeah, Doritos. I'm sure of it!) Then a dish of sliced carrots and cucumbers dressed with lemon juice, watermelon balls and kiwi chunks, and cubes of white cheese.

If there's one thing I could change about this hotel, it would be the neighborhood. I know that's a stupid comment, but it's a little too chic or trendy for my taste. Then again, I am in what is considered the top hotel in Ankara, so what did I expect?

Anyway, feeling the cool breeze while sipping a beer and looking out over the vast city more than makes up for any issues I might have about the neighborhood.
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Old Jun 16, 08, 4:29 pm
  #23  
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Originally Posted by Flying Buccaneer View Post
If there's one thing I could change about this hotel, it would be the neighborhood. I know that's a stupid comment, but it's a little too chic or trendy for my taste. Then again, I am in what is considered the top hotel in Ankara, so what did I expect?
I visited Ankara 6 times, starting in 1990 and last about 11 months ago. The area that you are staying in has changed a lot over the years, and IMO it is quite pleasant. Take my word for it, back in 1990 it was dusty and dowdy. Ankara proper as a whole has improved dramatically, while the suburbs have been deteriorating (due to the influx of lower and lower middle class people from rural villages).

Enjoy Ankara. While not one of the great capitals of the world, its negatives are offset by the wonderful residents, and the reasonable prices.

One final note, while in Turkey make sure you get a haircut. It ranks with the Hamam for memorable "grooming" experiences.
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Old Jun 17, 08, 1:00 am
  #24  
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Originally Posted by Craig6z View Post
I visited Ankara 6 times, starting in 1990 and last about 11 months ago. The area that you are staying in has changed a lot over the years, and IMO it is quite pleasant. Take my word for it, back in 1990 it was dusty and dowdy. Ankara proper as a whole has improved dramatically, while the suburbs have been deteriorating (due to the influx of lower and lower middle class people from rural villages).

Enjoy Ankara. While not one of the great capitals of the world, its negatives are offset by the wonderful residents, and the reasonable prices.

One final note, while in Turkey make sure you get a haircut. It ranks with the Hamam for memorable "grooming" experiences.
The area is definitely pleasant. And I think my first impression might have been a little unfair. It was based upon exploring just the immediate area: the mall, the upscale shops, and the residential area. However, I went for a more extensive walk last night and found a bustling street scene with people walking, talking, eating, and browsing. I bought a chicken doner from a shop, an ear of corn from a street vendor, and a piece of baklava.

Things are definitely looking up in Ankara, and I am looking forward to seeing more of it during the next 5 days. And I am sure that once I check into the Dedeman Hotel, I will truly appreciate the Sheraton!
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Old Jun 17, 08, 3:14 pm
  #25  
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After waking up and getting dressed, I went to the Club Lounge at the Sheraton. I realized that this was my first "Turkish breakfast" since I arrived in Turkey. I had simit (bread that looks like a seed-studded bagel), tangy white cheese, cucumbers, tomatoes, and black and green olives. I followed that with yogurt and fruit salad. I look forward to more breakfasts like this in Turkey, though I doubt any of them will be accompanied with the view I had this morning.

I delayed my departure until noon, and took a short taxi ride to the Dedeman Hotel. No one will mistake the Dedeman as being the same class as the Sheraton, but it more than meets my needs. The rooms have A/C, free wireless and wired internet, TV, and bath. The rooms are clean, and I was able to get a room on the non-smoking floor. I had read the reviews on TripAdvisor, and I was a little apprehensive. However, I should know by now that TripAdvisor seems to attract a larger proportion of dissatisfied customers than satisfied ones.

The Dedeman is in an area of Ankara known as Bakanlıklar, which is about 1.5 km north of Kavaklıdere, where the Sheraton is. Bakanlıklar doesn't have the upscale shops and restaurants that Kavaklıdere does, but it is by no means a downtrodden area. There are more shops and cafes in the immediate area. Both areas are within easy walking distance of Tunali Hilmi Caddesi and Ataturk Bulvari.

While I won't bore anyone who is reading this with the details of the program--I have put in enough details about other things to bore you --I will keep you updated about the sites we see, some of our activities, as well as the travel/hotel info. I will say that only 15 out of 19 participants were present this evening, due to travel disruptions. In addition, a few of those who were here this evening faced delays en route. One arrived a day late due to weather at IAD, and another spent 21 hours on a plane because of a mechanical issue at JFK that required about 12 hours to fix. Pax were told that they could not deplane, otherwise, the flight would cancel! I wonder what type of compensation pax will get for that!
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Old Jun 22, 08, 3:23 pm
  #26  
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It's been five days since my last report, and I figured it was time to update what I have done in Turkey.

The first two days of the program involved lectures on Turkey, including discussions of the Turkish Republic, Turkish national identity, Turkish political parties, human development, issues relating to religious and secular minorities in Turkey, and the European Union. All of the lectures were given my lecturers at Middle East Technical University (METU), except for one by the head of Amnesty International Turkey and another by a member of the AK Party (the largest party in the Turkish parliament).

On Friday, we had a chance to escape the classroom and visit the Olgunlasma Institute. This institute has an enormous collection of traditional handcrafts from the past 200 years or so, and it also trains women how to produce them today. Then we went to Tuzlucayır, a lower income region of Ankara. We visited a community center that provides education, training, and support for women who are in failing or abusive marriages. We also visited a cooperative that sells items made by the women at the center. Finally, we went to a restaurant that showed us how to prepare Turkish foods like grape leaves, kofte, cracked wheat salad, baklava, and a few other things that I had more fun eating than making!

Saturday started with a visit to Atatürk's Mausoleum. If you know nothing about the formation of the Turkish Republic, you owe it to yourself to do some research on Mustafa Kemal Atatürk. His contributions to modern-day Turkey are substantial, and his mausoleum reflects how revered he is, even today. There is also a museum as well as exhibits of some of the battles he commanded, including the battle of Gallipoli. Then we traveled to Ulus and saw the Bayram Mosque and the ruins of the Temple of Augustus. We spent the afternoon touring the Ankara Citadel and the Museum of Anatolian Civilizations.

Today, we left Ankara for Ürgüp, stopping in Hacıbektaş. We explored Capadoccia briefly today and will do more tomorrow. We just returned from a Whirling Dervish performance about 10 km outside of Ürgüp. It was incredible.

As you can tell, our days have been full, so there has not been much time to write. I will try to update the report again on Wednesday, after we arrive in Istanbul.
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Old Jun 22, 08, 4:59 pm
  #27  
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Originally Posted by Craig6z View Post
One final note, while in Turkey make sure you get a haircut. It ranks with the Hamam for memorable "grooming" experiences.

Can you elaborate? My son just got an airport at the IST airport while waiting for his flight. While a few things were a bit different (washed his hair leaning forward instead of backward), it was nothing to write home about whereas it sounds like your experience was.
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Old Jun 22, 08, 10:25 pm
  #28  
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Haircut in Ankara

From a trip report I posted in 2003:

http://www.flyertalk.com/forum/showthread.php?t=182140

After a while we took a drive and ended up at my friend’s barber, as he needed a haircut before heading to Athens on business. I’ve been in Turkish barber shops before, as an observer, but this time I decided to imbibe.

I sat down in the chair and was prepped. However nothing would proceed before all participants (me, the barber, and his apprentice) had a mandatory glass of strong Turkish çay. The locals also needed to inhale (and unfortunately, exhale) a few unfiltered Turkish smokes. Having consumed the tea and the cancer stick, the barber spent a couple of disturbingly long minutes contemplating my head.

During this time I learned the other barber doing my friend’s hair, who is the shop owner, also moonlights as the local “Muhtar”, which is an elected politician akin to an Alderman. His Ward consists of 6,800 constituents scattered over 2,200 apartments in 280 buildings. Responsibilities include registering citizens as they move in or out of the Ward, certifications of good standing, and dealing with local “pot hole” issues. His phone rings off the hook, and people stop in to ask a question or two.

Once the barber recognized his job was to do little more then give me a haircut, he slowly cut with scissors and an electric trimmer the lower half of my hair. Over the next twenty or so minutes he cut slowly, sometimes clipping four or five individual hairs before re-contemplating. He then stopped and repeated the tea and cigarette absolutions, before returning to deliberation on what to do next. After a pause he started combing and brushing my hair, which gave me the impression he was done cutting, ignoring the thick mass on top of my head that had not been clipped. Instead he decided to light my ears on fire.

The barber took a massive Q-Tip and dipped it into some sort of rocket fuel, then lit it, creating some sort of incendiary device. The sucker was burning a bright blue and he ran it close to my ears, singeing any hairs it came in contact with. What was the point of this, apparently to singe any hairs it came in contact with!

After he cleaned up the burned flesh, he then grabbed a straight razor and shaved the back of my neck, so that it was baby behind smooth. Finally he wrapped a towel around my neck and pushed me into the sink, whether for decapitation or a shampoo. I’m happy to report my head is still intact (although my wife would attest to the fact it’s contents are quite loose).

After a partial drying, another tea and smoke, the barber went to work with the scissors on the bush on top of my noggin. The cutting and contemplating his sculpture took another long time, but finally he was satisfied and began blow drying it. Next he extracted an electric massage device and gave me a full back, shoulders and arm massage. Not great by massage standards, but heck, I’m in a barber shop.

After the therapy, the barber threw some mousse on my hair, brushed it again and stopped. Another tea and cigarette break took place and he stated in Turkish, “Sihhatler olsun!” which roughly translates as “May it last for a while or may it be healthy” (which apparently is a carry-over from ancient times when the barber was a blood-letting physician).

My friend settled up with the Alderman/Barber for the total damages which came to a total 14,000,000 TL excluding tips of another 2,500,000TL (exactly $12 grand total for the two of us, and my buddy also got a facial shave with a circa 19th century straight razor).
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Old Jun 23, 08, 1:34 am
  #29  
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Thanks Craig. I'm going to email my son what he missed out on. The Q-tip thing would have had him out of there pretty quickly ...haircut finished or not.
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Old Jun 24, 08, 3:55 am
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very informative and interesting read ... looking forward to next installments! ^
pepsii is offline  

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