04.09.2010 0 °C
Well here we are in Izmir for three nights to watch the tall blacks play in the Basketball World Cup. Izmir is a 1 1/2 hour drive from Ciftlikkoy so we decided about the right length of time to try out our 1st bus trip. It would be fare to say we've been a bit chicken up until now - worried about inflicting our children on the rest of the bus. Bus travel is very popular in Turkey with many long overnight 12 hour trips. It is economical but we have been worried as to how the kids would manage, however yesterday's trip went really well. The buses are more roomy than a plane and all went very smoothly including pulling up in a taxi to the bus station (Otogar) as the bus was backing out so on we jumped grateful of avoiding a wait for the next one. Supposedly they leave every 20 minutes but "Turkey time" is a funny thing and sometimes what is meant to happen doesn't.
Air conditioning is a bit of an afterthought in most buildings
We checked into our hotel - the first one we have stayed in. Always good at check in when they say with limited English "Ah there is a problem with your room" We had booked a family room which is two bedrooms however they only had available two separate rooms for the first night. So it was Matt, Holly and Toby in the 3 single beds in one room and Bellie and I next door. Next challenge - no cot despite us emailing and confirming they had one prior to booking. Their answer "just put her in the single bed". No not about to introduce that on holiday - can well imagine a night of Bellie getting up and down. "No problem we'll sort it" they said. Next minute there is a knock on the door and a man bringing in an arm chair. "That's okay" I said, "We probably don't have room for a chair in here" "No this is the cot" he replied. The plan being they were going to put the two armchairs front to front and she could sleep in the middle. "No thanks not safe" was my reply. Next suggestion was they bring in 6 dining chairs and put them either side of the single bed, again a decline from me. Finally after more discussion they went and borrowed one from another hotel. I did laugh when it was wheeled in. Matt's description is a "Russian hospital bed for midgets" it was Iron and the sides are only about 30 cm's above the mattress. Each cot we get in Turkey is slightly worse than the last and each time I think she'll climb out of this for sure. But dear sweet Bellie just seems to think well this is my bed and I am in my sleeping bag so I'll go to sleep. Other than that the hotel was great, newly renovated, clean and most importantly has air conditioning.
Watson Family off to the Basketball
So off to the basketball in what little NZ gear we had - gonna hand over to Matt for this bit as it is his thing.
We started by hailing a taxi and me showing him my ticket to the basketball with the areas name. It is Halikinpinnar Area where all the World Championship Basketball games in Izmir are held and he had no idea where it was - good start. After asking another taxi driver off we went. We all had our NZ T shirts on and silver fern wrist and head bands and of course - our NZ Flag. We got there and saw 20 odd NZ fans who gave us a wave, and an army of green Lithuanian supporters - they were in there 100s and loud. We got to our seats just before the start of the game after the diabolical process of checking in. Three men scanning the tickets of everyone coming in the arena which holds 10 000 and after the tickets are checked we proceeded through a body scanner. I did love the sign at check in which tells you what you can't bring in drinks, food, cameras and oh yes - hand guns! Good to know I guess.
The Tall Blacks littlest supporter
The game itself was OK but the best part was the Lithuanian supporters - they were fantastic. With their big drums which when played in unison and echoed around the arena getting the kids pretty excited. Bella was the most animated, clapping and dancing each time they started up their chants. It was bloody loud but not loud enough for sports mad Toby - he fell asleep in the 3rd quarter! All in all it was a cool experience going to the game with all 5 of us but I was glad it was only for 1 game.
The Lithuanian supporters
Half time Russian entertainers (that's Rach on the right)
Matt and Holly (I was busy holding Toby's head up)
Game 2 was a late start at 9pm so after helping Rach get the kids off to bed I went off to the arena dressed in my NZ Shirt with the flag as a cape and my beloved head and wrist bands - talk about looking "wicked cool". When you buy your tickets it is for the days play and not just for 1 game so I saw the end of the Lebanon v France game as well. I think its crazy selling a days worth of basketball as nearly all of the countries supporters leave when their team finishes. You can't buy beer so all the "Boys" who want to have a few, head to the bars leaving only hundreds watching the games in an empty stadium. I arrived and was greeted by a dozen NZ lads in white singlets "half cut" trying to smuggle in booze. Nice try but when the security has guns maybe not worth the risk. Anyway they called me over and asked where my kids were! I Explained it was too late at night for them and I was here solo - they invited me to join them which I said I would but would head in now to watch the other game. When I was at the check in gate another bunch of Kiwis started yelling out "Stop Kiwi Stop". I looked around and 3 girls and 1 guy asked me where my family was - again! It turned out to be Kirk Penny's girlfriend/?wife and his cousin - they also invited me to sit with them. It was nice to be invited so in the end we all stood together in one big group along with 2 kiwis I had bumped into in the supermarket that afternoon. The game was cool and singing and cheering on the Tall Blacks in a big group was fun. Even though we got beaten pretty bad the Kiwis played quite well but were outclassed especially by Ricci Rubio - he is one classy player. Maybe even better than Murray Clarke!
Kirk Penny's wife back left and cousin back right
After the game the 2 Kiwis I had met in the supermarket and I headed back to Basmane area of Izmir where we all were staying and ended up having a few pints in the beer garden of our hotel until 1ish. It was a fun night and I really enjoyed going to the games even though we lost them both. You can't beat singing Dave Dobbyn's 'Slice of Heaven', dressed up in your NZ gear watching any Kiwi team play. Doesn't matter what it is or where you are. Let me know if you've got a tear in your eye right now because I have.
Anyway back to the Boss with the rest of her insightful tales of our journey. Cheers Matt
On return from the basketball it was tea and then showers for 3 tired kids after a big day. Then there was the fun part rather than go to bed at 7.30pm in separate rooms Matt and I sat outside in the foyer so we could keep an eye on the kids and still chat. Funny part is it was stinking hot as there was no air conditioning and the foyer lights were motion activated and stayed on for 10 seconds if you wanted to keep them on you had to stand up every 10 secs - and that only made you hotter. Oh we laughed - only on holiday. Dorset Street is going to seem really big when we return either that or we'll have to invite another 4 families to move in.
Izmir was hot again and without a pool we took refuge in our air conditioned room frequently. We manage pretty well in a very small space these days and mostly everyone stays sane. We wandered around the city and checked out the bazaar where the kids bought some more cheap toys and Matt and I some cheap clothing. The highlight of Izmir for the kids was the International fair which was a 5 min walk from the hotel so we ended up going twice. It was like an enormous "home show" with everything from water filters to trucks and buses on display. As well as that was a section of amusement rides. The kids had a ball at 3 lira a ticket and 1 ticket for 3 of us to ride. (the other looked after Bellie). We rode on a kids roller coaster (which was pretty fast), a huge ferris wheel (and two kids with no fear of heights and the haunted house which they insisted we go on. At the end of the day each of them got to choose a blow up toy Holly picked "Hello Kitty", Toby "Spiderman" and then wished he had "Ben 10" and moaned for a very long time, and Miss B picked the "Strawberry Shortcake" cat. We have the funniest video of her trying to ride her cat I will attempt to upload it to this entry when we have a better internet connection. (we are 'borrowing' one from a neighbour here at the moment)
Here's the video - hope it works
The Ferris wheel
Throw the ring and win a packet of cigarettes (go the heart foundation!)
The prized blow up toys
So that's it from Izmir and now we are back out a the coast in Cesme. We have a villa with a pool which is lovely so are likely to have a quiet week before moving on - only 4 weeks today till we come home.