If you are lucky enough to travel to Turkey then I would definitely recommend a Hamam or Turkish Bath. It is an extremely traditional and relaxing experience that you will never forget. And like most tourists we were able to arrange our Hamam in Fethiye through our hostel. The added bonus of being outside of the super touristy Istanbul is that it only cost us 35 Turkish Lira each.
We really did not know what to expect from our first Hamam but luckily were warned to take along our bathers. Cole was keen to go traditional but considering we were with 5 other randoms from our hostel he decided against it. And yes, while unexpected for us, there were random butt naked Turkish men there getting their Hamam on at the same time as us. They will try to be a tad discreet with their sarong but it does not leave much to the imagination.
Being greeted by big, hairy Turkish men with nothing but a small sarong on definitely came as a surprise and we were glad that we were there with our new found Hostel buddies. Nothing secures a friendship like awkward situations! And even though our masseuses didn’t speak a word of English they were very professional from the beginning which made us feel very comfortable.
Word of advice; Generally the Hamams will be conducted by men but if this makes you slightly uncomfortable you can ask for a female.
To begin our experience we were ushered in to a sauna for 20 minutes and proceeded to sweat out all the delicious bread we had consumed over the past week. The heat to begin with is totally unbearable but after about 5 minutes you start to relax. Cole seemed to think that being stuck in a claustrophobic hot room with half naked foreign men is a great time to practice his language skills and continued to butcher the Turkish language.
All sweated out after the sauna we were taken to an intricately carved marble room that had a large platform in the middle. Ushered onto the marble surface, which to my surprise was lovely and warm, we were suddenly assaulted by cold buckets of water as they were tossed over us. Spluttering there was no time to regain our senses before the real Hamam started.
The same big hairy Turkish men began to scrub us vigorously with an exfoliating glove all over. It feels amazing as you are literally shed of layers of skin turning us a sparkling pink. Being flipped from front to back on the slippery marble tiles is actually quite fun although I was worried about being flung across the room. And my knobbly knees and hip bones were getting a beating!
I again tried to strike up a conversation to mask the awkwardness I felt when they were scrubbing my chest however their English was limited so don’t expect too much conversation or the chance to ask too many questions.
Next up was the massage. You are literally covered head to toe in soap bubbles until you look like a giant snowman. The masseuses are extremely gentle and have a knack to hit all the right spots where you are tight and sore from travelling. Their gentle hands are a massive contrast to the hard marble beneath you and are very relaxing after the skin cleansing scrubbing and sauna.
Halfway through the massage I was awoken from my half sleep state by my back being cracked in seven different places. My first thought was “oh my god I hope he knows what he is doing” whilst picturing myself walking out of the hammam hunched over. But the more he cracked the more the tension drained out of my back, neck and shoulders. There didn’t seem to be a method though to how they were performing the Hamam’s as Cole swears he didn’t get the back cracking while some of the others in our group did as well.
Be careful when they motion for you to sit up as the overwhelming heat may leave you a little bit light headed. And close your mouth as the next cold bucket of water is thrown over you! The “hair wash” comes next although it was actually more like a “head wash” as my whole face got washed with shampoo! A pleasant enough experience as long as you remember to keep your mouth and eyes closed.
Feel free to sit back and relax in the warm Hamam room while your friends go through the same experience. And it is quite nice being able to provide them with a bit of support if they have been watching you the whole time as well. We just had to constantly keep dousing ourselves in cold water from the basins dotted around the room while we waited so that we didn’t overheat.
When you are all done you will be ushered back out into the bright sunlight are are quickly wrapped up in far too many towels and ordered to lie down in the cool breeze with a refreshing bottle of water. You will feel totally relaxed, invigorated and exhausted all at the same time. While all you will be thinking about is when you can do it all again!
Travel Tip: Don’t do the Hamam at the end of your time in Turkey or you will lose all of that hard-earned tan you have been working on!
5 European Cities to Visit in the Dead of Winter
As one of the most polarizing seasons, winter could be termed as both a blessing and a curse by those who like making the most out of nature.
After all, while it brings about the opportunity to build snowmen and to ski on magnificent ice slopes, it also brings a chill to the bone and a desire to never get away from the fireplace.
Don’t forget about the hot chocolate either.
That is why, when it comes to vacationing in winter, it gets quite difficult to choose from a location – especially when the destination is as diverse in climate as Europe. Do you select a place that’s sunny and warm? Or somewhere that lets you enjoy the ice and cold in the best ways possible?
To make that decision easier for you, here are 5 European cities that you could visit in the dead of winter, with the assurance that you would come out of the vacation phase with a smile on your face.
Barcelona is a city that is synonymous with sunshine, warmth, and some of the world’s most breathtaking architecture.
The temperature rarely drops below 45 degrees even in the coldest months of the year. While the sunshine remains present amidst the rainy days. This means that you can enjoy the best effects of winter without having to endure the worst of them.
If you happen to be a fan of football, then these effects can be increased by several times. This beautiful city is home to one of the greatest football clubs of all time and with Barcelona FC in contention for a championship virtually every year, odds are you’ll be walking out with a smile on your face after watching a win. Not a bad way to take a break from the beach!
While you wouldn’t be able to go to Mount Olympus’ mythical version in this day and age, you can still experience Greece’s magnificence through the beautiful city of Athens.
Like Barcelona, Athens also sees rare drops in temperature while being consistent around 45 degrees throughout the heaviest months in winter. With the architecture that you can experience under the sun, this weather can actually be ideal for an exploratory walk.
And if you are a fan of Greek food, then checking out local restaurants for authentic dishes would only add to the overall experience of your trip.
Since Italy is full of some of the most breathtaking architecture in the world, it would be quite debatable to say that Venice is the crown jewel of the country in terms of structural beauty.
But it is.
From the way that the city has been designed to the manner that the buildings have been developed, Venice remains a breathtaking sight for anyone who visits it.
That remains true even in the months of winter, where the does drop to around 30 degrees, but still provides the tourists and inhabitants with a way to enjoy the magnificent sights under the sun.
Germany is considered to be one of the coldest countries in Europe, but it is a good thing for those who enjoy a bit of snow during their travels.
And for those who do, there are perhaps not many places that are as marvelous as Zugspitze in terms of a memorable winter experience.
With snow covered mountains and a temperature that dances around -14 degrees in winter, you can enjoy an array of winter sports such as skiing, sledding, and snowboarding to your heart’s desire. If you are one to enjoy snow and everything good there is about the season of winter, then Zugspitze is the place to go.
While Paris gets quite cold in winter without the weather enhancing any effects of life within the city, Marseille seems to be quite the opposite. The city is as lively in the winter as it is during its busiest days in summer, with plenty to do in adjacent areas.
You may visit the many architectural sites and tourist attractions in Marseilles itself, but you can add to that experience when you choose to visit the Christmas markets in Aix en Provence or Avignon.
With that, the many warm and steamy French soups and bouillon based dishes that you can enjoy in Marseilles only add to the trip. This means that by the time you are done with your visit to Marseilles, you are bound to be fed well, have some goods in your shopping bags, and some memorable pictures in your phone to boot.
Even the Most Expensive Cities Have Cheaper Alternatives: Paris
According to the results of The Economist Intelligence Unit’s “Worldwide Cost of Living” survey, Singapore, Paris, Zurich, Hong Kong, and Oslo are the most expensive places to live – and visit – this year. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t visit them, though – actually if your budget allows it, you should cross them off your bucket list as soon as you can. But this doesn’t mean you have to break all your piggy banks and sell your soul only to spend a weekend in one of the most expensive cities in the world. Unless you’re adamant that it’s “Paris or bust”, there are alternatives to this crowded and top-dollar destination you might want to consider – and start saving for your dream trip nonetheless.
Lyon has a history of almost two millennia, and it shows: the remains of the Roman settlement Lugdunum, built at the confluence of the rivers Saône and Rhône, are showing to this day. Lyon might not be a capital city – it doesn’t have the size or the population – but its role in the everyday life of France was always important, both as a trade and a cultural hub.
The city has many gorgeous sights to see, like the Basilica of Notre-Dame de Fourvière, the Tour Métallique (a tall TV tower that replicates the top of the Eiffel Tower), among others, covering every age from the birth of the city to its modern times. Plus, it has museums, parks, gardens, and a street art group that has been designated the cultural ambassador for the city. Not to mention its cuisine, the unique and popular Lyonnaise cuisine that has become a worldwide sensation.
A relatively small city in the north of France, Lille is another charming alternative to a crowded and overpriced Paris. It features many distinct architectural styles, most of them with a clear Flemish influence. Among its landmarks, you find its Cathedral (Basilique-cathédrale Notre-Dame-de-la-Treille), its Citadel, its palaces, and gardens. Lille is also the place with the biggest flea market in Europe – Braderie de Lille takes place on the first Sunday of September, with millions of attendees and over 10,000 sellers gathering in the streets of the city. It’s a charming, agreeable, and colorful city that will offer its visitors a beautiful experience.
Last but not least, let us mention a city with a double significance – on one hand, it’s the official seat of the European Parliament, on the other, it’s a wonderful place to visit and a great alternative to an overcrowded Paris.
Strasbourg is a place where French and German architecture mingle in a unique way, with an Old Town filled with timber-framed houses surrounding typical French landmarks and churches. It also has many notable parks, some with historic significance, and almost too many museums for its small size. Plus, it’s a distinctively multicultural city where visitors will find it easy to fit in.
Let’s Do A Road Trip In Europe Fin
Its that time of year again. It is the holidays and vacation, mirth and much merriment is upon us. Those of us who are lucky are able to take a few days to a few weeks off for vacation and can enjoy it abroad or do a staycation. A trip abroad is probably preferred, there’s so much to see and do, it would a pity to while the days away in your own hometown.
Get a move on, grab your bags, get a ticket and jump on a plane to Europe. When you get there, rest for a bit and begin your road trip. Nothing beats traveling on the road and taking all the sights that nature has to offer while stopping by at different locations.
Remember, a road trip can be very feasible and pleasant if it is done right. Make sure to have your car inspected, checked and ready to go for a long distance road trip.
You’ll want to make sure that you have your oil checked and your tires as well. Proper tires from suppliers such as Kwik Fit will get you squared away and ready to hit the road.
Oh, The Places You’ll Go
One of the top places that you’ll want to go is in Austria. There’s this little spot called Grossglockner Hochalpenstrasse, this spot is one that is talked about by road trip aficionados of all kinds.
The Grossglockner is the opposite of what it sounds like, it’s not gross at all, it’s quite pleasant actually. The path will take you through different sights ranging from mountain tops to rivers, to rock formations and more. What’s fun about this place is that you will also be able to have different changes in the road itself, it is not just one straight path but one that is filled with turns and changes to keep you from getting bored.
Italy and the Amalfi Coast
Italy is a place that won’t disappoint, it has food, culture, and history to keep you company. Italy also has beautiful sights all over too. One of the best places to drive through would be the Amalfi Coast.
The Amalfi Coast has everything you could possibly want, beaches, cliffs, and beautiful fishing villages. The place is not only beautiful in nature but in culture as well. One can check out the Cathedrals, Villa Rufolo, engage in some boat tours for a quick respite from their road trip and also view the Sirenuse from afar.
Portugal – The Estoril Coast
Drive from Italy, pass by countries such as France, Spain and reach the destination of Portugal. You will find the climate and the overall setting over here to be appealing. On your way to this beautiful place, make sure to check out popular spots such as Lisbon and other prominent locations such as Sintra. The Estoril Coast was home to the nobility of ages past and even to those that we see as nobility today, celebrities, wealthy people and tourists with a couple of euros or dollars to their name stop by this place and immerse themselves in the manmade and natural attractions that this place has to offer.
Don’t Hesitate, Time Stands Still For No One
Time is slipping, check out budget and look into which part of Europe you want to stick to. Make the decision and take the trip, it will be a great refreshment and you will be glad you were able to have the experience. Take a few snapshots and indulge in the experience of #RoadtripsofEurope
Meet Cole and Adela
We have been wearing out our jandals (Kiwi for flip-flops) on our travel adventures around the world since 2009. We think our blog is thought provoking and a little witty. But we have been proven wrong before. Find out more about us here...
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