A Travellerspoint blog

Fun in the Sun!

sunny 30 °C

Well guys - be for-warned this one is not for the faint hearted.

Today the Watson 5 decided to travel a little further afield and head to the Princes' Islands for a day in the sun and the water. Our lonely planet lead us to believe if we walked to the waterfront (about 10min from here) we could catch a ferry direct to the group of 4 islands. Off we headed at 8.15am to catch the 8.30am ferry, when we got to the terminal it became apparent the boats were not heading in that direction. After a couple of confusing conversations (something we specialise in) we were able to ascertain that the terminal we needed to be at was a tram ride away on the other side of Istanbul. Next with some help we mastered the ticket machine, got tokens and jumped on the next tram. Toby was excited to see another "Alligator" to go up (he meant escalator) We were feeling very proud of how we had worked out the tram system as it is a very cheap way to get around you can go anywhere for $1.50 and the kids are free. Anyway we arrived at the terminal and for $6.00 for all of us we were able to purchase a ticket for the 1 1/2 hour journey to the Islands - so off we went.
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The boat trip though long and slow was a lot of fun, many people talked to the kids particularly two elderly Iraqi men took a fancy to them putting their hats on them picking them up. We kept Bellie in the backpack for 90% of the journey as it is easier than having her out. Bellie had here photo taken about 20 times on the boat - people are intrigued by her and also the backpack. As we hopped off the boat a woman said to Matt - "Everyone on the boat loves your children - they are all talking about them."

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Bellie in a bear hug with a friend
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The kids Iraqi friends

The guide books had us believe the best island to go to was the 4th one, Buyukada and a couple of conversations on the boat confirmed this. So we sat the journey out in the hot sun and patiently waited to get there. Eventually we made it and well and truly felt we had earned our swim. These Islands were stunning with gorgeous old buildings and market type stores selling fresh produce and bread. There are no cars on the Island only bikes and horse drawn carriages. Off the boat we piled and headed for the place where you catch a carriage. You can only imagine the dismay on our sweaty faces to see about 200 people lined up to catch a carriage which was the only way to get to the beach as it was too far to walk. We didn't even contemplate waiting for what would have probably been 2 hours to catch a ride. So back to the dock we headed to catch the boat back to the 1st Island, Kinaliada which was the only one we could see with a beach in walking distance. The very same Island the guide books said not to stop at.
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It's funny they say not to go there in the weekends as it is horrendously busy. Well today it was packed and I shudder to imagine it being any busier. So we were finally there, we hopped off the boat and decided the beach to the left looked a little less packed so headed that way. It turned out this was a local beach we looked very foreign there but that was okay the people were very friendly.

So the next challenge was for the girls to get their togs on - not a change shed in site and we figured probably not acceptable to get the kids changed on the beach in a Muslim country. So after a lap of the block we managed to gesture to a guy who told us there was changing facilities at the local tennis courts, off we three trotted. The changing shed was like a shower tent so we jammed in there and melted whilst getting everyone in their togs. Bellie was doing her usual trying to take off so was pushing at the tent door whilst I was topless. Anyway back off the the beach finally.
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I tell you the pool at Dorset St is ever so appealing after this!

Now the beach - as well as being packed was made of huge stones and in the water they were slimy so the kids couldn't walk on them. So Matt and I struggled to get into the water with them and finally had a swim which was nice and refreshing. Bellie made another friend in a young teenage girl who let her sit on her lilo (don't worry Mum I was holding her the whole time) and splash her. So then it was out for a sit on the towels under our umbrella we paid $5 to hire and the plan was to get some lunch. Toby said he was keen to have a picnic there so Matt was about to head to find us something. At about that time I noticed there seemed to be something wrong just down the beach from us - people were yelling and gesturing, I said to Matt "there's something wrong" my first thoughts were a shark - though had no idea whether there were sharks in these parts. Matt had stood up by this time and said he thought they were gesturing that someone was missing in the water. He then ran into the water and swam over to where the others were looking. He got to dive under a couple of times slightly down from the others as there was a slight drift in current. When he was about 5 metres away and under again he said that there was a big drop off in the sea floor and you couldnt see the bottom. As he came up the guys beside him had found a young mans body. As they dragged him into the beach I called to Matt to come and take the kids so I could go and help. My first thought was this boy is dead, there were no signs of life. I yelled at the men to lay him on the stones, he wasn't breathing and two people at the same time started to jump on his chest and stomach. I could see they were doing so without any knowledge so pushed both sets of hands out of the way and began chest compressions. I was just at the point of thinking I needed to do some breathing as well and worrying about my own safety in doing so (hepatitis, aids etc) this guy was spewing out frothy water. Then he started breathing erratically at first but at least that took that decision away from me. The next challenge was trying to ascertain whether anyone had called for any help. It was absolutely hopeless not a single person spoke English - the first time we had encountered this on our trip but we think because we had ended up at a very local beach. Matt had come back after gesturing with 2 local girls to keep an eye out for Holly and Toby so he could come back with Bella to see if I was ok. He said men we jostling behind me and gesturing to get me away. He said he yelled at them and said Nurse, Nurse which meant nothing to them but when he said Hospital one replied Doctor and he just said yes so they wouldnt try and drag me away from guy. He also went round asking anyone if they spoke English so we could translate information about the boy and also if help was coming. Finally after what seemed an eternity of watching this guys erratic breathing and what became a semi-conscious combative state a police van arrived with a local doctor a GP I am guessing. I was unable to even give him a handover, I asked if he had oxygen and he said there was some but not here. So they got the guy into the van and drove off - we can only hope they got him to Istanbul and a hospital as he was in a pretty bad way.
All during the drama Holly and Toby were great. I had left them with instructions on not to move when I went down the beach to get Matt out so I could help. It was about 50 metres away but when Matt went back with Bella they were happy as to play with the rocks on the beach.

Matt and I were left feeling pretty shell shocked and upset. It was difficult for us to get any closure and find out what happened. We feel fortunate to live where we do - an ambulance or helicopter would be with us in minutes. We still feel quite upset tonight - it is times like these you just want to hug your family close and never let them go. That young lad was lucky today and it felt very strange for us to have been there and to have been part of it. We were astonished at the few people who helped to look for him but decided that most of them probably couldn't swim and were just paddling at the edge. Possibly what happened to this guy - he said when he dove down there was a big shelf there and the guy probably just stepped off the end of it.

By this time we decided it was time to head home and call this a day. 7 1/2 hours after we left for the day we returned. As Matt said if you told someone you travelled 7 1/2 hours to go for a swim they would think you were insane. You know those little people did not utter a whinge or a moan all day even when things took a lot longer than they should of. We can not believe how much they have changed in a week. Little superstars!

Well that's it from us guys - other than we send you all our love and take care xxxx.

Posted by Watson5 22:02 Comments (5)

Fun at the Bazaar

Another scorcher today. I'm starting to feel a bit like Rapunzel running up and down our spiral staircase and shutting the big iron door behind me. Just haven't got the hair. Our day usually consists of heading out around 9am -which is early by Turkish standards so it is good to get out before there are too many people around. Then we head back home around lunch time for Miss B to have a sleep and the kids to have a rest and cool down. Then it's off back out again around 3pm. Icecream is becoming a bit of an afternoon essential to cool down the troops, with fresh bread and corn in the morning from the street vendors.
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This morning we visited the Blue Mosque - "wow what a beautiful building" was Toby's first impression when we walked in and looked up at the vast ceilings above us.
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Then this afternoon it was on to the Grand Bazaar - I just love the place and could get lost for hours in the sights, sounds and colours. The kids loved it - taking in the sights and temptations and very accepting of the fact that we are not buying anything until we return to Istanbul on our way home - rather than drag it round the country.
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We are really amazed at how quickly the kids have adapted to life here. They have basically no toys but are able to make fun with very little. We are all living in each others pockets in this tiny apartment (I have now affectionately named " the lighthouse") with no outdoor area to run around and it is light all night as firstly sunset is late and sunrise early and secondly we have big fluorescent lights out on the street which shine in thorough the scarce blinds. Yet there is no fussing about going to bed and we've been here for only a week.

We finally managed to get hold of some goats milk for our littlest princess today thanks to the people who own the apartment. It turns out it was there all the time - it was just no one understood us and how do you make a goat noise and not sound like a sheep. The same little princess who seems intent to find a Turkish family to join. She has it down to a tee - tilt your head, blow a kiss and then lift up you arms to be picked up.
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Posted by Watson5 04:09 Comments (4)

Heat and moving house

30 °C

Well today has been a scorcher 30 degrees +, fair to say we all wilted a bit today. We had to move house today as the apartment we were in was booked out for the rest of our stay. So we packed up our bags and hailed a taxi to take us across town which ended up being a relatively long trip as you can't drive through the centre of town. It was like a roller-coaster ride racing up and down steep narrow streets backing at times to let other cars through. The kids were laughing Matt and I a little nervous about getting there in on piece. Anyway we made it and the apartment is nice and clean with all the mod cons but - (there always is one) It is small, and on three levels. Bottom floor entrance is kitchen and main bathroom, 2nd floor, master bedroom, toilet and single room, third floor twin room and lounge. There is a door at the top of the stairs that you can only shut from the third floor so it is a logistical feat at all times making sure either Matt or I are up there with the kids stopping Bella falling down 2 flights of concrete spiral stairs - fun times and you know how you always forget something so should be fit running up and down the stairs all day. And you know that expression you couldn't swing a cat - well it is true the cat would get hurt. Anyway onward!

This afternoon we took the kids to the spice bazaar - threw them in to the cultural melting pot as it were. It was hot and crowded and full of colours and smells and noise. Just a wee taste for them before venturing in to the Grand Bazaar which has 4000 shops. They coped pretty well but got tired and hot quickly. Miss Bellie has the best seat in the house in the backpack and sits up there singing and munching on a cob of corn.
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The Spice Bazaar with melting kids
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Yip there really were that many people there.

Matt and Holly went out for a drink down at a local restaurant tonight. They had lots of fun and Holly was made a real fuss of. She came back very excited about the little paper umbrella she got in her drink. She also had an interesting question for Matt which took some dis-ciphering. Why did people suck on candles and puff smoke out. Turned out that she had never seen anyone smoking cigarettes - something we can be proud of.

This is a beautiful country but really with no infrastructure. There is lots of litter everywhere. No obvious building standards - the wiring and plumbing modifications are hilarious. As Matt said - you can see why when there is an earthquake most of the buildings fall down. Our neighbours here seem to live in an old mosque and there are pvc pipe chimneys poking out with smoke pouring out all day.
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So that's another day in paradise. I was reminding Holly today how cold it is back home - she struggled to get her head around it. "Mum" she said, "I like this City - it's a wonderful place!" That makes it all worth while.

As an aside about the TV thing. Ben 10 gets away with speaking Turkish - just, but man Postman Pat just sounds ridiculous.

Posted by Watson5 12:06 Comments (3)

Sightseeing and spinning tops

Well a couple of busy days have past. Yesterday we headed to the underground Basillica cistern built in 527 - 565 it is an amazing structure. 140 metres long and 70 metres wide with 300 9 metre high stone pillars it is an awesome structure. The darkness and minimal uplighting long with classical music and water dripping from the ceiling made it a very mysterious place for the kids where their imaginations could run wild.
The Underground Water Cistern

The Underground Water Cistern


In the afternoon Matt headed off the Ayasofya with Holly and Toby while I stayed back with Bella as she sleptP1000478.jpgP1000459.jpgP1000481.jpg

Today we headed to Topaki palace the kids enjoyed a run around in a wide open space and we laughed when holly told us her favourite part was chasing a ladybug in the garden. They are intrigued by the buildings and their little imaginations work overtime chatting about where the dragons might have lived.
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Then we headed out on a 1 1/2 hour double decker bus tour of the city after a lunch of fresh bread and barbqued corn. All for a mere $5 - which we needed after having paid $14 for a slice of chocolate cake and $7 for a can of lemonade at the Palace. Overcome by the excitement of the city tour Bellie and Toby fell asleep.
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It is fair to say sleep is still alluding us. The time zone thing still has us waking at around 4am and Tob in particular takes some convincing to get back to sleep. That and our not so considerate neighbours downstairs who talk (yell) loudly half the night, ring the door bell (which sounds like and exotic bird being strangled) and slam the door on the way to pray. We figure they have to sleep some time so hopefully get sick of hearing our kids during the day. I was thinking it takes the kids about a week to adjust to daylight saving so at that rate they might have worked through the time difference in 9 weeks - excellent!

The kids are still making friends all about the town - particularly Toby. The turkish hold boys/men in high regard and he is constantly having his hair or cheek stroked which is taking him a little to get used to. He has a friend Haron who has the shop at the bottom of the stairs to our apartment. Each time the kids go by he gives them something - first "evil eye" braclets which are meant to keep you safe and then spinning tops. Holly had been dying to have one of these spinning tops. The vendors sell them for $1 outside all the mosques. We had had a chat to Holly saying we would get one but she probably wouldn't be able make it work as the guys demonstrating them have loads of practise. Well she was not to be deterred and after some practise has it mastered and is now working on some tricks. Our kids are know to be determined (as Matt would politely say) others might say stubborn - nevertheless a quality that will take them a long way in life.

Bellie is the other one winning friends and influencing people. Today she had a muslim women in the park pick her up give her a kiss, sit her on her knee and proceed to wipe her sticky hands and face after an icecream. This lady didn't speak a word of english. Our baby backpack has also become something of a novelty about the place. We are constantly stared and pointed at for having what they probably see as packed our baby into a bag. They also love our seat that we screw to the tables - people have offered to buy it off us - Phil and Teds could do well here.
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Posted by Watson5 12:42 Comments (4)

Exploring our surrounds

And conquering 4am starts

30 °C

Well we are settling in to life over the other side of the world. Yesterday our little people decided the day started at 4am - which makes for a very long day when it is raining and the small apartment walls start closing in on you. We can't even blame the call to prayer as each of the kids woke before it. Their reactions were priceless though. Toby who was in with me trying to get back to sleep said "What's that" I replied "It's the call to prayer" "Oh" he said, "Lets go pray" " We can't" I said " It's the middle of the night". Next minute Holly appeared (Matt was in the kitchen with the window open filming the call to prayer -No wonder it was so loud) "What's that" asked Holly "It's the middle of the night" replied Toby. And so the call to prayer was renamed!

Weary and banned from afternoon sleeps by a Mum that was trying regain some sleep patterns - we all headed out for a stroll to the park, however the cobbled roads were very slippery and Holly and Toby took a few tumbles so there were lots of tears. Then it started pouring so we headed for a little cafe for icecream followed by fresh turkish bread and hummus. Ths is is what we came to Turkey for - the faces were dirty but happy - chatting to the locals and watching the lady roll the bread. Holly was keen to go and tell her she was "a good maker". Bellie has quickly perfected the art of turning on the charm. She had worked out that if she goes up close to people and starts laughing they love her.
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The kids made their first friend.

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Aladdin with his icecream mo

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Happy as - this is what we came for

School lessons have started with Holly doing her best to mould me into her beloved teacher Mrs Scott. She started a travel diary last night as a way of practising her writing. So I was told "this is how Mrs Scott would mark it and this is what she would say and she'd put a sticker here and she wouldn't do that Mum" She may have me knocked into shape by the time we come home. We are also amazed at how quickly she mastered Matt's laptop and the silly mouse pad that Matt and I have struggled with for weeks - kids certainly are adaptable

There is a TV in the apartment with Cartoon Network - however all voiced over in Turkish. It amazes us the kids actually still want to watch "Ben 10" in Turkish and protested when Matt muted it.
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Right at home

Posted by Watson5 04:56 Comments (1)

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