First day in Istanbul was quite a smorgasbord of activity. I headed out with Rhami in tow with the main objective of seeing if we could buy advance tickets for a couple of impending distractions. Just along from the hostel lay one of several Mevleni houses where we bagged tickets for the once a week performance of the Whirling Dervishes. Then it was downhill to the remarkably convenient BVJ Stadium, the home of top local team Beşiktaş. Galatasaray had played the night before against one of the Ankara teams, a game I had intended to catch, but it had proved too inconvenient in the end. I was certainly able to compensate however since Beşiktaş were to play a European qualifier tonight against none other that Spurs, a game I hadnt known about until the last moment. The only activity at the stadium however was the already out in force police, so we continued down to the nearby water and headed north. Literally across the road lay one of the cities most famous attractions, the Dolmabahçe Palace. We had hit it on one of its closed days but still went through the usual farce of ineffectual gate security to have a look around the entrance grounds. In a city of such size there was a literally endless list of possibe distractions and the only way to tackle it was to split it into segments. Beyond the Dolmabahçe lay the Naval Museum which we pretty much visited for the sake of it. Given the strategic importance of the Bosphorous it was nonetheless a necessary addition to the city but we arrived too late and only saw enough to realise we missed out on the best part. We did however find a few points of note, such as Ataturk's original death certificate, why here god only knew, a few maps he had used during the Gallipoli defense, and there was a history of the Turkish fleet as one might expect. The Sultan had lost the whole of the Ottoman fleet at one disastrous point and more contemporary losses were painstakingly recorded, vessels lost had individual photos of every crew member displayed. There was a mock-up of Ataturk's cabin aboard his impressive yacht and many photos of it. Another novelty was a couple of telephone buoys, a system I had never heard of. It was just what it said it was, a buoy with a telephone inside. You tied your vessel up to the buoy, lifted the lid to reveal the handset and dialled up the submarine lying underneath on the other end of the cable. As for the allegedly more promising Military Museum up the road, that would forever lie out of reach, just not enough time.
Going back the way we came took us to the stadium again where amidst much confusion we finally found a ticket booth open. We didnt understand the problem though why they werent selling them and I harked back to my experience in Cyprus, everyone seemed to be getting turned away. But eventually we sussed it was merely that the boy didnt have change! Exact money in hand, 36YTL each (only about 13 quid) and we hit the jackpot, 2 tickets for Besiktas v Spurs and in a fit of self generosity I had already bought a Besiktas shirt to match. Another accomplishment that day was my first successful attempt at burning my photo memory to CD, it was great just to know that it was available and it worked. Back down to the ground after getting stuck in the Iftar tidalwave (the breaking of the fast) and by the time we found the right entrance gate the game had already kicked off, if only just. I can safely say its the biggest game I'd ever been to and it was certainly an eye-opener for Rhami who despite being remarkably tuned in for a Yank (he'd watched the World Cup in Germany), it was the first match he'd been to in his life. Even for me, the local fans were breathtaking. For the full 90 minutes they chanted their team on, even forming a kind of alternative Mexican wave whereby the top tier would go bananas then the lower one in turn. They shook their fists in unison and belched some gutteral warcry, absolutely vehement. It did them no good. The paltry cake slice of around 200 Spurs fans tucked away in a corner at the other end had the better team and were bussed away in a military style operation before any of the locals could vent their frustration at their 2 nil defeat. It was a pity that Besiktas couldnt at least have scored one, the place would have positively registered on the Richter scale.