Taking a Hamam
Visiting a Turkish bath rose out of the Islamic requirement for cleanliness, and public hamams made this obligation easily available to the masses. The hamam experience was taken to its sublime extreme in the Sultan's private quarters, where he was surrounded by servile concubines fulfilling his every bathing need. Going to the hamam fell out of favor among middle-class Turks until recently; with growing popularity of spas, a Turkish bath provides a minivacation. A good hamam experience includes the proper traditional ambience and a heavy-handed scrubbing. For historical and architectural value, you can't beat the coed Süleymaniye Hamami. If the royal treatment is your thing, you can try to get an appointment at Les Ottomans or at the Çiragan Palace. The lounge area of the men's section in the Yeni Kaplica in Bursa is fabulously decorated with some of the most gorgeous wood details; you'll feel like royalty. The Queen Mother of all luxury hamams, however, is the skylit and picture-windowed marble hamam at the Ada Hotel in Türkbükü, outside of Bodrum, by candlelight.
Taking a Boat Ride up the Bosphorus
Nowhere else in the world can you cross to another continent every 15 minutes. Connecting trade routes from the East to the West, it's no surprise that any conqueror who was anybody had his sights set on the Bosphorus. Float in the wake of Jason and the Argonauts and Constantine the Great, and enjoy the breezes, the stately wooden manses, the monumental Ottoman domes, and the fortresses that helped win the battle.
Sharing Tea with the Locals
Tea is at the center of Turkish culture; no significant negotiation takes place without some. But more than commerce, tea stops the hands of time in Turkey; it renews the bonds of friends and family. Having tea is inevitable, as is the invitation to share a glass with a total stranger. Accept the invitation: There's more in the glass than just a beverage.
Soaking in a Thermal Pool
Sometimes Turkey seems like one big open-air spa; chemically rich waters bubble up from below while frigid spring water rushes down from above. The Çesme Peninsula seems like one big hot bath, and a whole slew of brand-new luxury facilities are willing to accommodate. In the Sacred Pool of Hierapolis at the Pamukkale Thermal, you swim amid the detritus of ancient civilizations as sulfur bubbles tingle your skin. Bursa's Çelik Palas Hotel has a domed pool hot enough to make your knees weak. Down the road at the Kervansaray Termal Hotel, the pools of running water are enclosed in a 700-year-old original hamam.
Exploring the Covered Bazaar
Nobody should pass through Turkey without spending a day at the mother of all exotic bazaars. The atmosphere crackles with the electricity of the hunt -- but are you the hunter or the hunted? The excitement is tangible, even if you're on the trail of a simple pair of elf shoes or an evil-eye talisman. It's the disciplined shopper who gets out unscathed.
Cruising the Turquoise Coast
Words just don't do this justice. Aboard a wooden gulet (a traditional broad-beamed boat), you drift past majestic mountains, undiscovered ruins, and impossibly azure waters as the sun caresses your skin from sunrise to sunset. In this environment the morning aroma of Nescafé takes on an almost pleasant quality when enjoyed on deck, anchored just offshore a pine-enclosed inlet. By 9am, you're diving off the rail and cursing the day it all has to end.
Paragliding over Ölüdeniz
There's no better place in the world than the surging summit of Babadag for this wildly exhilarating and terrifying sport. For 15 brief minutes, you're flying high above the magnificent turquoise waters of Ölüdeniz with the mountains in the foreground. The safety factor? Not to be underestimated, but that nice body of water should break your fall.
Ballooning over Cappadocia
Watch this surreal landscape change character right before your eyes: In a matter of minutes, the sun rises over the cliffs, valleys, and ravines, and colors morph from hazy blue to orange, pink, and finally yellow. The capper? A post-flight champagne breakfast.
Spending the (Hopefully Romantic) Night in a Cave
The ceilings are low, the light is dim, and there are niches in the wall for your alarm clock -- this is the troglodyte life as the Cappadocians lived it for thousands of years. Some of these "cave hotels" are rudimentary, others extravagant; but all are cool in summer, warm in winter, and as still as the daybreak.
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