Church, and State Rooms

Tuesday January 24th. Afternoon.

Antioch! Which isn't actually called Antioch! And is dirt poor but has a small industry in christian tourism because it's got a very early christian church, built into a natural cave and viewable for 15 lira...!

I'm fairly sure the early, oppressed and illegal christian church couldn't afford solid stone alters with nicely carved symbolic alphas and omegas. Or improbably kitsch statues of Saint Paul. Or an escape route with a neat square doorway. So there may  be a little artistic licence, to go with the souvenir shop.

Which has mosaics and statues showing christian themes. And islamic themes. And hindu themes. And hybrids of the above. Because why not.

I'd like to try Door Number 1, please Monty.

But nearby...

The Savon Hotel. Very high class. How high class? Most hotels in Turkey have the word "Otel" in illuminated letters on the front. This one is too posh for illuminations, and transliterates the english correctly.

Inside, rooms that boast showers...and hairdryers, according to the prospectus, with the sales pitch given in seven languages. Two rooms have jaccuzis, and the foyer has spotless white ceilings designed like church spandrels, tables of finely carved dark wood with polished glass tops, and seat-covers that would make William Morris say, "It's a little too ornate."

It also has a particular smell. "Savon" is Turkish for "Soap" - the Arabic equilvalent is "Sabon", cognate to "Saponification". The place was a soap factory from 1850 - or as I was first told, a "Soup Factory" - and since its refurbishment as a hotel in 2001, this little fact has become central to the sales literature.

The the scent of scented soap, without the soap. The pretence being that naturally odourless soap naturally has this smell, and it survives over decades and extensive building work. "Sound and perfume swirl in the evening air" wrote Baudalaire, and here the sound is the most hideously inoffensive piano-and-saxaphone smooth jazz.

Except I recognised one of the tunes. "Comment te dir adieu". Whose lyrics are about anal sex.

The best teabag I've ever encountered. Never been teabagged like it before.

Which I listened to while drinking my 7-lira "Herbs Tea". I mean I listened to the muzak, not...anyway. The tea was praeternaturally excellent, but didn't quite compare to...

The Ottoman Hotel. A hotel so grand it doesn't even need to show its name on the front. 100 lira will get you entry to the ground floor swimming baths, which, we are proudly told several times, are kept at exactly 42 degrees celsius. For maximum effectiveness at...something.

These apparently are phosphate baths, like the ones I frolicked in recently. As to which phosphate, or even if it's the same one, we still don't know.

An actual dunk may cost you dear, but a bit of charm will get you a free guided tour. So we got to see what made cubic spaces of blue cholorinated water so special, apart from the rich elderly men in blue trunks floating in them.

Deep carpeting in the corridors, chrome handrails polished to a high sheen...and pseudo-medieval paintings with vaguely virtuous implied meanings on the walls. If you can't justify the price by improving the product, you can add window dressing.

Everything says quality, but quality what, exactly?

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