Monday, April 30, 2012

4/30/12: Yom Hazikaron + Yom Ha'Atzmaut + A roof party makes for a pretty amazing 5 day weekend

This was Gary and Stephane's birthday present to Israel! HAPPY BIRTHDAY!

The amazing thing about living in a Jewish state is the amount of time you get off from work and school for holidays. This round of holidays consisted of Yom Hazikaron (remembrance day for Israel's fallen soldiers) followed directly by Yom Ha'Atzmaut (Israel independence day), which, by the way, is probably one of the biggest party days and nights in Israel... Think 4th of July but better :-) Tuesday night at sundown brought the beginning of the second round of "siren" holidays. The week before I experienced Yom Hashoa where the whole country sounded a siren to commemorate the 6,000,000 Jews and 11,000,000 people who died in the Holocaust, and I would experience this phenomenon twice more for Yom Hazikaron; the day we remember the brave men and women who died defending and establishing this amazing country.

Tuesday evening around 6:30 I met with my girlfriend Susanna and we walked over to Rabin Square (a large square in the center of Tel Aviv) to hear the sounding of the first commemorative siren and to see a memorial service and concert for the fallen soldiers of Israel. It felt like it took only seconds for the square to spill over with people filing in from all corners of the city, and at 8pm sharp everyone was standing in complete silence as a siren wailed out to signal 2 minutes of silence in honor of the fallen soldiers. You have never heard silence like this before; the silence of an entire country ceasing to breathe. It was just as overwhelming as the day I heard it on the streets of Tel Aviv only a week before.

Leave it to Israeli planning, but after the siren range there was a 45 minute gap until the concert and service started. As much as we wanted to stay, we had heard music before hand, seen some memorial videos they were playing, and really didn't want to wait in the cold for 45 additional minutes. It had been a long day so we decided to head to our respective homes.

Yizkor ceremony at Rabin Square

When I arrived back home I had time to eat some dinner before going back out for a night walk on the beach to end the somber day. I think at that point I just needed to get out of the apartment, and a nighttime beach walk with Frenchy seemed to be the perfect way to end the day. The next day I made sure I was awake to hear the siren sound one last time at 11am, met Susanna for a quick coffee afterwards, and then headed back home to get ready for Yom Ha'Atzmaut, and a rooftop party that was sure to be the event of the season!

Seeing that I live with the only boys in the world that take longer to get ready than I do, I decided not to wait for them to go to the party but instead I met with Susanna around 8pm for a quick dinner so that we could go to the party together. When we got to the apartment where the party was taking place I was blown away by the atmosphere. First of all the host is amazing and probably the best party thrower in the world, the apartment was stunning, the music was loud, there was a hot tub and an open bar, props, costumes, and a whole lot of people ready to celebrate Israel's birthday the right way! After a few minutes the boys arrived and then the fun began!

As fun as the night was the real entertainment began when my two favorite French men (one of whom I live with) decided to put on a little show in honor of Israel's 64th birthday! Leave it to these boys to know how to command the attention of a party! After seeing what they had planned I have no doubt I will be recruiting their skills for my future birthdays :-)

At around 4am I decided to call it a night and I said my goodbyes and headed home. The next day is a notorious BBQ day in Israel where everyone is out with friends and families ringing in Independence day with good food, good company, music, games, and a number of other fun activities. It was the picture perfect day for a barbeque, we had accumulated some very tasty food, took two makeshift grills to the park right behind our apartment, and it was really a perfect afternoon spent with great friends. Other than the fact that most of us were a bit hungover (what can you do) it really was the most amazing holiday.

Me and my roommate Gary (he actually has clothes on here)

Relaxing with the boys!

Perfect day and place for a BBQ

After the BBQ the boys went to see a movie, I took advantage of a quiet apartment, and then everyone came back home for the night. I think we were all dead from the crazy night before and really needed a quiet night at home! The next day I spent the day catching up on some school work and spent the night working on a big paper due in a few days. I'm not so productive on the weekends so I forced myself to stay in and get some work done.

The next day I was left with the apartment to myself again so Stephane (frenchy, I decided I might as well just use his name already) and I decided to experiment with some more cooking! This time we decided to try to do homemade chocolate chip cookies completely from scratch. Now, when it comes to making cookies that are already prepared I'm pretty excellent, but doing everything from scratch was a whole new story. Not only were recipes in grams and cups and American measurements that don't exist anywhere else in the world, but we didn't have measuring tools, and had to improvise with the baking soda ingredient. However, with that being said, I think we fared remarkably well! When we mixed all the ingredients and the dough actually looked like dough I was more than satisfied!

Homemade cookie dough!!!

Though I think I might have overestimated the sugar and butter a bit (which really isn't the worst thing ever although I thought Stephane was going to die when he saw all the butter used) we had a lot of fun making them and they turned out very good, which was evidenced by the fact that my roommates ate most of them!
Stephane was very proud of his creation

He's being so domestic!

First batch! please disregard his little creation in the corner... Boys will be boys :-)

After our baking extravaganza all the roommates came home and then we all went out for a nice Italian dinner to end out the holiday break! The food was absolutely delicious and it was great having a meal where we could all be together (minus Morgan who was in Italy! We missed you Mo).

Gary and Steph waiting for their food! They look so cute and innocent here
It was a perfect end to a perfect 5 day vacation and I spent it with my favorite people in the world! Well that pretty much catches everyone up on my life up to this point. I have a paper due on Thursday and then it is bound to be another fun filled weekend! Once this paper is out of the way I can really enjoy and maybe even get in some good beach time :-)

Lilah Tov ya asdeqa <3,
Jordana Simone

4/21/12: I Cooked And Didn't Kill Anyone! MIRACLE

My First Shabbat Meal

Dear readers,
I am very sorry that there have been no blog updates for some time. I unfortunately have a very sick computer and have not been able to update while it has been in the shop. Luckily, however, my roommate went to Italy for a few days leaving me his computer so I will try to write as many blog posts as I can before he gets home tonight!

As I have stated many times before, this little adventure of mine is about growing, new experiences, finding myself, and through that I am discovering some very exciting hidden talents that I never knew I possessed. This is the story of how Jordana learned she could cook!

Aside from the sweet potato pie and stuffing I made for my first Thanksgiving in Israel I really have not had much experience in the kitchen... and by that I mean I really have not had ANY experience in the kitchen (comes with being lazy!). With that being said, I find the fact that I offered to cook a very special friend of mine a legitimate, multi-course dinner quite humorous. I clearly was not being rational when I made the offer, however, he has cooked for me on many occasions so I thought it would only be fair... Really, aside from the fact that I HAVE NEVER REALLY COOKED IN MY LIFE, it was a fantastic idea! Luckily my family consists of brilliant cooks, especially my Uncle Scott, so I figured I at least had genetics on my side :-)

Luck seemed to be on my side as well because that Friday night all of my roommates would be gone leaving me, for the first time since moving in, completely alone in the apartment for the entire night. I capitalized on this opportunity of solidarity, and suggested that I cook the meal that night, which just happened to also be Shabbat. Not only was I fulfilling a promise, but I was also giving myself an opportunity to prepare my first Sabbath meal! Friday morning came, I decided exactly what I wanted to cook, bought the ingredients, came home, waited for the last of the boys to leave, and then got to work! I had a good few hours to clean the apartment, cook the meal, and get myself all ready before my friend returned to the apartment. Since I am not sure if he is ok with me using his name I will refer to him as Frenchy for the time being. That is the name I used to call him before I really knew him.

Anyways, I decided that I wanted to cook something simple (since this was my first time), but I still wanted it to be interesting and delicious so I settled on roast rosemary, garlic chicken with roast onions, peppers, and mushrooms, Israeli salad, and sweet potato pie; after all my sweet potatoes were a big hit during thanksgiving. Thank God for FaceTime because I was able to talk to my mom while I was preparing everything just to make sure I was doing everything correctly; I really didn't want this meal to send Frenchy or me to the hospital so I figured some motherly advice would be a really good idea. After I went over everything with momma I set to work marinating the chicken, washing the potatoes, and obsessively chopping the vegetables for both the Israeli Salad and the chicken dish. As I was chopping I giggled because I realized I was just like my grandfather in the sense that I was making sure everything was finely chopped and the same size... can you say obsessive compulsive!!

When everything was marinated and chopped the chicken and the potatoes went into the oven, the cucumbers and peppers went into the salad bowl along with olive oil and lemon juice, and the remainder of the veggies went into the frying pan to be sauteed. At this point I had about 30 minutes to kill time so I figured this would be the point where I would shower and get myself ready. I was making sure to make the meal look gorgeous (if it was going to taste like crap I at least wanted it to look good) so I wanted to make myself decent as well (I didn't think my robe would be so appropriate). When I was all finished getting ready I walked back into a transformed kitchen smelling of the most wonderful scents; rosemary filled the room with hints of garlic and lemon to accent the scrumptious smell. By now it was time to check the chicken to make sure I had cooked it well enough, and when the juices ran clear I knew I at least wouldn't kill him with undercooked meat :-)

The apartment was clean, I set the table making sure to include Shabbat candles, Challah, and wine (I wasn't half assing this Shabbat meal), and then awaited Frenchy's arrival. Like I said before, this was my first time cooking so if it wasn't going to taste good I at least wanted it to look good. I hope I achieved at least this!

At around 9pm Frenchy arrived, I revealed the fruits of my labor (which I think he was at least a little impressed with), and then we sat down for the meal. I didn't know if he was lighting candles with his family earlier so I lit the Shabbat candles before he arrived, however, I was in for a HUGE treat because he graced me with a Sephardic Kiddish (which was the greatest thing ever), we washed hands, said the prayer for the Challah, and sat down to a wonderful Shabbat dinner. I was so happy that the food turned out to be very tasty, no one got sick, and it was a perfectly wonderful meal.

All jokes and humor aside, this was a big event for me for reasons that go beyond the fact that I discovered I am actually a pretty decent cook. From the time I was a baby my Jewish identity has been shaped and nurtured by my parents and grandparents; they would cook the meals, prepare the seders, say the prayers, and the Jewish environment in which I grew up was shaped completely by them (as it should be). This, however, was the first time I was able to take all that I have learned and create this same kind of Jewish environment for myself, and I have really never felt so grown up. From preparing the meal, to lighting the candles, to going through the rituals of Kiddish, Motzi (blessing over bread), etc. it was the first time I was able to take our age old traditions and make them on my own; no elders holding my hand. This night was an eloquent illustration of how parents pass down traditions to their children in the hopes that they, one day, will be able to master them and pass them on to their children, and that is a very special thing to not only witness but be apart of. To most people reading this entry this meal might seem like a very small kind of accomplishment, but to me it illustrated a right of passage so to speak, and that is the biggest kind of accomplishment. My parents gave me the tools that I will now use to shape my Jewish adult life and to them I say Kol Hakavod! YOU TAUGHT ME GOOD!!! I'm just very happy I got to share another one of my special experiences with a wonderful friend who only made the experience a million times more special.

Until we meet again <3,
Jordana Simone

Thursday, April 19, 2012

4/19/12: We Will NEVER Forget: Yom Hashoah (Holocaust Remembrance Day) In Israel

As the sun set in the sky yesterday, leaving Israel blanketed in the most beautiful colors, it signaled the start of one of the country's most somber national holidays: Yom Hashoah, or Holocaust Remembrance day. Beginning at around 6 o'clock last evening all stores all over the country began to close, including those that are usually open 24 hours a day/ 7 days a week like AM PM, and busses and all other forms of public transport ceased to continue running. Unfortunately I am a commuter who has a late class on Wednesdays that ends around 6 so I was especially lucky that a good friend in my program happened to drive to class and he was able to give me a lift home.

As I was walking to my apartment from the spot where I was dropped off down the road I couldn't help but notice how the entirety of Tel Aviv is currently adorned with Israeli flags, cars drive around proudly displaying the flag in their window's, balconies are covered in Israeli Blue and White, and, with the holidays of Yom Hazikaron (Remembrance day for fallen soldiers), and Yom Ha'atzmaut (Israeli independence day) rapidly approaching, you can feel, more than usual, the patriotism, pride, and love, everyone has for this country.

When I woke up this morning I quickly readied myself for the day (I overslept a bit so "quickly" readied myself is a bit of an understatement) and ventured out to central Tel Aviv for my appointment at Misrad Haklitah (Ministry of Immigrant Absorption) to finalize my monetary absorption packet! YAY MONEY! However, when I scheduled the appointment, weeks ago, I did not realize I made the appointment during Yom Hashoah, and I was very sad thinking that there was a chance I would miss being outside during the national siren. My appointment was for 9:30 am which, in Israel, means no earlier than 9:45... The siren was scheduled to go off around 10am so as I was waiting for my absorption counselor I lost all hope of seeing the scene outside on the streets during the alarm. Around 9:45 I was finally called in and within 10 minutes I was finished and jetting out onto busy Dizengoff street. Though Israeli's are usually late I can't deny that they get things done REALLY, REALLY fast once you actually begin.

As I was walking around Dizengoff waiting for the alarm on this absolutely gorgeous, picture perfect day, I began to think about what the experience would be like. I have never been in Israel for a national siren (they sound on Yom Hashoah and Yom Hazikaron), and had little to no idea of what to expect. I was told that all cars stop, everyone gets out of their vehicles, no one moves or speaks, people come out of buildings and offices, and the country completely stops for the 2 minute siren. I thought to myself "surely there are some cars that still drive, or people who walk around and carry on with their daily activities", I also had my doubts about the ability of everyone to hear the siren, but all of my reservations, and doubts were soon put to rest as I experienced one of the most powerful events of my entire life...

At exactly 10:05 am, as I was standing on the corner of Dizengoff and Frishman, the air filled with the sound of a very powerful, single toned, high pitched siren. Almost the second the siren began every single car, bus, sherut, and motorcycle on the road came to a complete standstill regardless of it's position on the road, and all of the passengers exited to stand next to their vehicles. Everyone on the sidewalks came to a complete halt, turned towards the streets and, though the alarm was ringing loudly, you could cut the silence with a knife; the people looked like statutes: unmoving, unspeaking, seeming to not even breathe.

I was frozen in my tracks completely overwhelmed by what I was seeing and experiencing. An entire country standing as frozen as stone statutes, observing 2 minutes of silence to honor and commemorate the 6,000,000 Jews and 11,000,000 people in total who perished at the hands of the Nazis in the Holocaust. There was not a single movement on one of the busiest streets in Tel Aviv, and the fact that I was able to be in the middle of this was a testament to the fact that fate was, yet again, on my side. As I was staring out towards the people standing next to their cars, with hundreds of Israeli flags waving in the windy background, I could do nothing but shed tears. It is hard to describe the power of what I was witnessing and I didn't dare move to take a video or picture (the picture above was taken from the internet after the fact). Nothing could capture the true intensity of this moment, and even if the desire to film was there I was physically incapable of any movement; I could hardly breathe as it was I was so overwhelmed.

After what seemed like 2 very long minutes the sirens shut off, people re-entered their cars and vehicles, and life resumed as if the previous moments were a figment of imagination. I was left standing on the corner greatly needing a minute to process the event that just took place. As I was remembering the 6,000,000 of my people who perished at the hands of bitter hate and prejudice, I was hit by such a sense of pride, awe, and astonishment as I realized where I was and what it meant to be here. I was standing on a crowded street in the heart of the Jewish homeland surrounded by hundreds and thousands of people who share with me one of the most special pieces of my entire being; Judaism.  I was in one of our holiest places in the world, created to keep the Jewish people safe, thriving, and prosperous in the face of overwhelming hate and prejudice issued from all corners of the globe, and I was able to see a whole country stop to remember those who were taken from this world and in whose memory were planted the seeds that grew into this beautiful, amazing country that I, today, am lucky to call my home.

Below is a video taken from youtube of someone recording what I was experiencing:

Every day I wake up thanking God for all the blessings that have led me here to Israel, and I have never felt more honored to be a citizen of this incredible country than I do at this very moment. I am tied to this place in ways that go far beyond the mere fun I have and the excitement of my life here, and it is as if I am sewn to this place by the threads of history, ancestry, religion, and faith. I wanted to run away from my home in the States to come to Israel to find myself, be free, and experience everything new and exciting, and in the process I not only found myself, but I strengthened myself (and continue strengthening myself), found independence, fell madly in love with a place and a land, and created a new home for myself that I will grow in and carve out my adult life in. Who could want anything more. I have been profoundly blessed.

Until we meet again <3,
Jordana Simone

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

4/14/12: A Day At The Bath House! Turkey Day 4

As the forecast predicted our last day in Istanbul was plagued by that pesky wet stuff that occasionally falls from the sky, mostly at very inopportune times. Luckily we planned ahead and had two very fun indoor activities to keep us busy during this gloomy day. As per the suggestion of one of our Hostel owners we booked ourselves a session at one of Turkey's authentic Bath Houses (Hammam) for a regular treatment plus an oil massage. This was our last day in Istanbul so why not pamper ourselves a little! We booked late enough in the day to give us time to see the last big attraction that we wanted to explore; the archeological museum of Istanbul.

With the rich history of the Middle East, especially Turkey, you can only imagine how large this museum was. There were buildings after buildings, rooms after rooms, situated on floor after floor. Thank goodness we weren't expected at the Hammam until 5 or we would have never had time to see everything housed in the museum. We walked through room after room of incredible stone carvings, miraculous and intricate sarcophagi, and artifacts from all over the Middle East from Pre Islamic periods to the 19th and 20th centuries. There was even a piece of the Beit Hamikdash (Jewish Holy Temple) but we must have passed it without realizing it because we couldn't find it anywhere (and trust me we looked... everywhere). The pieces displayed were absolutely astounding.

After what seemed like hours of walking around observing God's gifts to archeology it was time to brave the rain and head back to our hostel to get ready for the baths. Since I didn't have an umbrella I decided to wrap my head and attempt to blend in with the local population. That is actually how I discovered that scarves are not the best means of hair protection from the rain...

As Susanna and I were walking through the torrential downpour to get to the bath house we were both nervous and excited and speculating as to what to expect. I have heard about the Turkish bath houses so I had a relative idea of what might take place, but until experiencing it there is no way to really know exactly what takes place inside. Susanna did not want to be naked in front of anybody but I had a feeling there was little way to avoid this... A feeling that was soon to be confirmed.

When we arrived we handed the manager our receipt showing we paid for a regular session plus an additional oil massage, at which point we were led into a private room where we were to undress, wrap ourselves in a towel, lock up our belongings, and then enter the bathing area. Not being a person who likes to be naked, even when I am alone in my room, I was a little apprehensive about undressing and being so exposed, but the towel gave me a rather false sense of security, at least for the moment. Susanna and I turned back to back so as to not make one another uncomfortable, undressed, wrapped ourselves up, and were then led into the bath area by a rather pushy Turkish woman. At first we were led through a maze of steam rooms until we reached a heated room with 4 stone basins filling up with water from faucets above them. When we entered the room I hardly had time to process what was going on when the Turkish woman ripped my towel off threw it on the ground and told me to sit and start pouring the water over my exposed body. Lucky for Susanna the Turkish lady got to me first so she had time to gather her wits and insist that her towel be left wrapped around her. I was already standing there naked in a room with Susanna and the woman so I figured I might as well just continue with the authentic experience... When in Rome, right?

I sat on my towel near my stone basin, which hid most of my body from Susanna's view, and did as was instructed; took the little bucket provided and proceeded to drench myself in the cool water which was a relief in the hot and steamy room. After a few minutes another lady was brought in, and just my luck she was seated right in front of me. I was mortified at this point, and felt so incredibly exposed, but I stuck it out and remained completely unclothed; I kept my eyes to the ground until she was led out of the room a few minutes after arriving. When it was just Susanna and me in the room again I could relax a bit. As I was pouring the cool water over myself the call to prayer rang out and filled the room with such a beautiful sound, and I was finally comfortable in my own skin. It is quite liberating when you can get past the fact that strangers are seeing you naked.

After about 20 minutes or so in the heated room a topless Turkish lady entered followed by an older Turkish lady in a bikini, and they led us to a room with two stone tables. I took the walk to the next room as an opportunity to wrap myself back up in my towel, but as soon as we were in our next destination it was again ripped from me and placed on the table where I was to lie down. At this point one of the massages began, and thought it was very relaxing, I was lying there completely naked with an old Turkish lady putting her hands all over my body and getting dangerously close to places I didn't want her hands to be... I don't really need to spell that one out any more explicitly. After a while I relaxed a bit and was able to enjoy. Then she asked me to turn over... At this point I told myself these ladies are probably so desensitized to the naked body that I should just relax and go with the flow; so that is what I did. At this point they covered my body with oil and warm bubbles and continued the massage. When the bubbles were rinsed away they did a full body scrub to get rid of any dead skin, and then they washed my hair! What treatment!

When the wash was over the topless younger lady took Susanna away and I was left with my masseur. Finally I was allowed to wrap myself back in a towel where I was led to a room with a large hot stone bed. I was instructed to lay on it and just relax until it was my turn for my oil massage. The room with the stone bed was a room that newcomers had to walk through to get to the first room where they would be instructed to wash. As I was laying there a group of 4, young, European women (probably around my age) were led into the room where they were then de-toweled. The sound of their grunts of discomfort were quite humorous since I recently experienced the same thing! After about 20 minutes of laying on the hot stone with my feet submerged in cool water, I was led to a parlor where my oil massage would begin. I'm sure it comes as no surprise that I was, once again, stripped of my towel and left completely exposed. By this point it was no big deal and I was just very excited to get another massage! After my 2nd full body oil massage I was given back my cover and led to the room where my clothes were. I was so relaxed and comfortable that I didn't want to put back on my rain soaked clothes, but since I really didn't think it would be wise to walk through the streets of Istanbul in a towel that barley covered me, I re dressed myself.

Susanna and I both had a blast experiencing the Turkish Hammams and I wouldn't hesitate to do it again, in fact, I really want to go to the Hammam in Ramalla when time allows. When all was said and done I was so relaxed, my skin smooth as silk, hair clean, and I felt completely rejuvenated. When we were all dressed we braved the rain, yet again, and headed back towards our hostel. On the way back I wanted to pick up a few souvenirs so we stopped in a cute little shop right next door to where we were staying. Upon entering the shop the two owners, who had been asking us to come in and visit since our first day there, were very happy to see us FINALLY. The younger owner told me that he had been watching me every time I passed by the shop because he was in love with my eyes. He then proceeded to tell me that I was so beautiful and he loved my green eyes, and then he asked me to leave the Untied States, move to Turkey, and marry him :-). As flattering as the offer was I respectfully declined. However, he did give me amazing deals on gifts. I picked out a magnet that had an Islamic saying written in Arabic and when he started to tell me what it said I stopped him and finished the recitation myself. He was astounded that I knew Arabic and he re offered his proposal of marriage.

I guess if I don't find my gorgeous French, Israeli, Jewish husband, I have an alternative in Turkey! KIDDING MOM!! After buying some great little gifts we headed back to ready ourselves for dinner, one last hookah session, and then some sleep before having to leave the hostel at 3 in the morning to get to the airport. It was one of the best trips I have ever been on and I had such an amazing time, but there was nothing like the excitement I had at returning to Israel. I couldn't wait to get home! When we landed at 9 in the morning we got through security with no problems since we both had Israeli passport papers, boarded the train, and at around 10am I was back home. I immediately went to sleep because I had class 5 hours later.

And with that I end my tales of Turkey! I hope you have all enjoyed hearing about my newest adventure, and you can bet that there will be many more to come :-)

Until we meet again ya chaverim <3,
Jordana Simone

4/13/12: Now It's Istanbul, Not Constantinople: Turkey Day 3

Day 3 in Turkey was probably the best in terms of weather, which was extremely fortunate for Susanna and me since we decided to book ourselves on a private cruise/tour of Turkey from the Bosporus. We were scheduled to be picked up from our hostel at 1pm to partake in this half day cruise so we decided not to try and squeeze something in in the morning for fear that we would not be back in time for the cruise. We slept in until about 10, decided to have a nice little breakfast at a very cute, European style, cafe by our hostel, and then decided to explore the surrounding area and do a little shopping; you always have enough time for shopping! We really were staying in the most quaint little area, where the buildings were brightly colored, and the streets strictly cobblestone.

Yay they don't hate us! 
After our mid morning exploration session it was time to head back and await our pickup for the cruise. Karma was very much on our side that day because it was the first, and only, remotely warm-ish day we experienced in Turkey. A tour bus came to gather us at around 1:15 and take us to our boat. When we boarded the vessel we waiting for one more group to come and then we were off! The interesting thing about tours in Turkey is that they are not exactly separated by language so we had a guide who said everything twice... Once in English and then in French. It was quite an experience :-)

One of the hostel owners

Our cute little boad 

Gorgeous day in Istanbul 

The first half of the cruise was exploring the side of Turkey that lies on the European continent. While sailing we could see all of Istanbul's most famous landmarks, including summer palaces of Sultans (turned into hotels today), grand mosques, bridges between the European side of Turkey and the Asian side, colleges, fortresses, and so much more, all while listening to explanations in both French and English :-)

I wouldn't mind having this as a summer home 

Finally it was time for our first off boat experience of the cruise (there were two). We were dropped off on the Asian side of Turkey to try a famous yogurt dish native to this part of Istanbul. I didn't quite know what to expect, and I am not one to try new types of food, but one of the hostel owners said that this yogurt dish was a "must try". We were given 20 minutes to eat and do a little sightseeing of the harbor. The yogurt tasted like most yogurts of this region, but what made the dish unique was that it was served with powdered sugar! I've never heard of that combination before but it was absolutely delicious! After taking a few pictures we headed back to the boat to continue our cruise.

The famous yogurt dish 

We continued our tour of the Asian side until we were let off, once again, to see a beautiful tower with a view overlooking all of Istanbul. After taking 15 or so minutes to enjoy the view it was back on the boat to begin our return trip to the Golden Horn where we began. At this point it was late in the afternoon and the sun hit the water in a way that made it look like a million glittering diamonds. As we pulled into the Golden Horn the call to prayer rang out all over the city; it was a perfect welcome home gift! I tried to capture a video but our lovely guide continued to talk through almost the whole call... What can you do!

When we docked Susanna and I decided it would be a good idea to go back and rest a bit before dinner. We had a little mix up and were under the impression that Pesach ended on this night so we were waiting until sunset to go to an Italian restaurant up the street where we would partake in eating pounds of bread and pasta... Well, we missed the memo that Pesach ended the next night, a fact that was point out to me by my friend Stephane, AFTER we had eaten the pasta... We were not so happy about this but we figured God would forgive us for drastically miscalculating this one time :-) After dinner it was back to our hookah bar for some hot chocolate and peppermint nargila followed by a good night sleep. We were about to brave the Turkish Hammams the next day and wanted to be fully rested. We were also leaving Turkey the next day at 2 in the morning so we knew this was our last chance to get a decent night sleep.

Stay tuned for the Hammam post! I apologize in advance for the explicit nature but you really can't get an idea of what goes on unless I'm rather descriptive, and since, for obvious reasons, there are no pictures I have to use my words!

Yom Nifla!
Jordana Simone