Day 5 - Istanbul

After a long day of basketball and crime fighting, we all had our first full nights sleep since arriving in Europe. I was first out of bed at around 7.15am and it finally feels like the circadian rhythms are sorting themselves out. 

Today was a rest day in the basketball, so we set out to the Basilica Cistern. We were able to squeeze in a little shopping along the way, with the girls picking up some very nice pashminas and Michelle got a great pair of Ottoman slippers.

We headed down the hill, past the Milion Stone and arrived at the Cistern. Once again, I'll let the pictures do the talking.

We went over to Sultanahmet Square for some lunch in the park and then went for a wander up to the Topkapi Palace. It is gorgeous and we were able to get our first real glimpse of the Asian side of Istanbul. We didn't go into the palace proper today, but will return tomorrow to see it and Ayasofya. The gardens are beautiful and a myriad of other buildings. On our way back to the train, we walked through another park just below the palace walls. Gülhane Park used to be the outer gardens of Topkapi, but is now a spectacular public park. We also got to see some fantastic views of my beloved Galata Tower :)

We arrived home around 6, having clocked up almost 8 kms walking, had dinner and were treated to a wonderful couples massage by our creative, special children. They are quite the little role players and are starting to feel more comfortable in the big wide world.

Day 6 - Istanbul

We had great plans to get out early today, but a few of us went back to bed after breakfast. I have been fighting off a sinus infection since the flight here, but it just wasn't getting any better. This holidaying stuff is really wearing us out! We let sleeping kids lie and gently roused them around 10.30 and got our selves ready for the walk to Ayasofya.

After doing some research regarding doctors in Istanbul, I discovered that you can buy antibiotics over the counter. So on the way to Ayadofya, we went past a pharmacist. With my lack of Turkish and their lack of English, I managed to explain what my ailment was and what I needed and I walked out with a course of antibiotics and 10 effervescent Vitamin C tablets for $12 Australian. Noice!

We made our way up to Sultanahmet Square past the Blue Mosque and on to Ayasofya. This place shares the magnificence of the Blue Mosque, but it is a very different place. Darker colours and more grandiose. Never the less, a breathtaking and amazing building.

When you visit these buildings, you can understand the power of religion in the middle ages. To the the average person, living in medieval homes, these places must have truly seemed the work of some other worldly power.

After Ayasofya, we were back off to the stadium to watch the Opals secure an automatic quarter finals berth with a 87-45 victory over Belarus. Greta news, as that gives us an extra day for sight seeing!

Day 7 - Istanbul

Today, we finally tackled the Grand Bazaar, and after all the waiting, I must admit it was disappointing. The architecture and oldest parts of the Bazaar were great, but the shops were not fantastic. Some great jewellery stores and shops with ceramics and lamps, but a lot of clothing stores that are like Queen Victoria markets in Melbourne.

Once you get out the back of the Bazaar, that's where the bargains really begin. Che picked up a Lionel Messi Barcelona playing top for 10 lira ($5) and I picked up a Galatasaray top for 20 lira ($10). We also found a great little store that sold art and old drawings and Michelle and I bought a beautiful detailed colour artwork of the Golden Horn with Ayasofya and the Blue Mosque in the background. Hopefully, we will get it home in one piece.

We then went to visit the Süleymaniye Mosque, built by Suleiman the Magnificent. Another active mosque, we arrived just as the call to prayer had begun, which meant that we could not go inside until prayers had finished. Still, an impressive and beautiful piece of architecture.

Next, we made our way back to Galata Tower to get some of the best views of Istanbul available. Once up the top, you get an appreciation of just how densely populated and insanely large this city is. Over the Bosphorus, the Asian side of the city sprawls into the distance. It's quite overwhelming. But you also get wonderful views of the Old City and it's famous mosques and palaces.

Day 8 - Istanbul

Today was an official rest day in the tournament and a travel day for us to move to the Asian side of Istanbul and closer to the stadium where the finals are being played. It took us close to 2 and a half hours to travel 9.5 kms to our new accommodation. 

Our new digs are wonderful. A large garden for the kids to run around in. A large suburban block on a hill overlooking the enormity of Istanbul's Asian side. Our hosts are lovely and have two teenage children that are very friendly and they play soccer! The kids were very excited.

We did some shopping and had a nice quiet afternoon in the Lovely Garden.

Days 9 and 10 - Istanbul

Ok, now I'm getting lazy and cramming 2 days into one post, but we really have just been resting and going to basketball :) So I thought I would post some photos of our neighbourhood where we stayed on the European side.

Now we are over on the Asian side and it is far more densely populated, but we are lucky to be staying up on the side of a hill in front of a lovely park.

We watched both semi finals in the Basketball last night, with Spain defeating Turkey and the USA defeating our beloved Opals. The crowd for the Turkey game was amazing, and the Opals will play-off for bronze against Turkey tonight. It should be an awesome atmosphere.