We woke up the next morning feeling absolutely exhilarated — it was finally time to meet our manufacturing partners & the artisans behind our towels in Babadag, Turkey. We were still in shock and full of gratitude to find some friends who agreed to spend the day translating for us. It was the result of a lot of luck and persistence.
We woke up at 5:30 AM, and got ready to meet Ersin and Muhhamet. Can you believe they even picked us up from our hotel? Unbelievably hospitable.
All of us definitely needed a few cups of coffee that morning. There was nothing more refreshing than seeing this site as soon as we got to Babadag. The only reason we stepped out of our car was actually because we had no idea where we were or where we were going. We found Turkish addresses to be a bit difficult!
We stopped by another textile plant to ask for directions. We were a bit worried because the first woman we talked to said our destination didn’t actually exist. This guy came out from behind her and told us exactly where to go. Apparently it was right around the corner. Again, Ersin and Muhammet saved our butts here since they didn’t speak any English!
I can’t even begin to tell you how much of a relief it was to see these outside of the building. We didn’t know for sure, but we at least knew we were on the right track.
As soon as the door opened, the deafening sound of the factory floor with all the looms going at once was overwhelming. We couldn’t help but smile when we turned the corner to seeing the towels getting made.
Below is the turkish cotton being fed into the loom.
We were happy to see that there weren’t any kids running around. Seriously, one of the objectives of our trip was to make sure our artisans had a safe and fulfilling workplace. Meet Remzi.
Take a closer look at one of the pestemals being loomed below. It literally gets added on layer by layer.
When comparing materials of higher end pestemal towels, we learned that ring spun cotton makes all the difference in the quality. Many towels are made from the scraps of plants like ours. These are shipped in locally, directly from Denizli.
Secondly, this is a semi-automatic process, which means the artisans are using their tools to pay close attention to producing only the finest quality of pestemal.
Spending the time tending to each towel is the reason why each artisan can only produce 15 towels a day, after about 10 hours of work. Our artisans are extremely proud of what they do, especially since they are the masters of the craft and the tradition they’ve held onto for over 45 years making these towels.
We went outside with the head artisan, Osman, to ask him some questions about himself. It was extremely loud inside and we didn’t want to be yelling the entire time.
We found out that Osman has been making towels for 45 years, since he was just 7! He told us it was a family practice and they started hand making them in their homes of Babadag. Babadag was the birthplace of the production of these towels. Eventually, they bought the semi-automatic looms, which are no longer produced anymore and kept producing from their homes.
Then, they got together and started these plants. Our plant in Babadag, is one of the last remaining ones as they have moved into the city of Denizli.
As soon as we made our way upstairs, we saw shelves lined with more ring-spun cotton on the entire wall.
Before most meetings in Turkey, tea is served in the unique glasses you see me (Zion) and Muhhamet holding. No matter what, we wanted to make sure they were the real deal.
We asked specific, targeted questions about the quality of the towels. We wanted to make sure we had a premium product, since we picked up some lower quality ones before to compare.
Below, we are all looking at the loombrand light and comparing it to some of the other towels they had. We had these custom made to our specifications, and we wanted to make sure everything checked out.
Every braid you see on our towels is braided by hand. Each one takes about a minute to do and they showed us how they do it, but don’t ask me to do it for you, I’ll fail miserably.
We asked them about their quality assurance process. Every towel is inspected one by one to make sure there are no flaws in the pattern and other imperfections in the looming process.
Once inspected, each towel is ironed before packaging.
We pretty much asked questions the entire time we were there, but we asked to take photos of everyone, these two were pretty shy at first!
But eventually they warmed up to us!
Before we left, we wanted to do everything we could to keep in touch with our new friends. Our day was finally over!
Once we wrapped up our questions, we made sure we got this group photo. We felt so thankful and blessed to have this experience forever memorialized. We heard their stories, shared laughter, shook hands, and exchanged hugs.
After a long day, we parted with our friends. Ersin recommended we take a drive out to Karahayit to check out the thermal red water springs. This part was just open to the public with benches for people to sit and enjoy.
A closer look. This water was hot when it came out and there was no predictable rhythm. It just kept spurting out like a mini volcano. Can you see where the springs get their name from?
After the man was done soaking his feet, I saw him try some of the water from the spring.
I decided to try it out. The locals were laughing at me because of the face I made. It actually tasted really metallic, like rusty water. Apparently it has some interesting healing properties. I went back for a few more sips and it got better each time.
After we walked around a bit we saw a sign for “doktor balik”. I immediately knew what it was and always wanted to try it so I dragged everyone in with me.
It’s hard to describe the feeling when you first dip your feet in these tanks. It took me at least 5 minutes to get used to it. It was one of the most foreign feelings I’ve ever experienced, and I couldn’t stop giggling the entire time.
We had a great day where we made sure we added in some relaxation after an incredibly productive and long day of work. Hope you guys follow our story to our last days in Istanbul!