Spent the last few days in Istanbul enjoying the local cuisine and visiting some of the historical monuments this city has to offer. We're staying in a prime location only walking distance from all the main attractions. We managed to visit the Blue Mosque on a quiet evening during the week which was a good thing as on the weekend their were endless queues of tourists being rushed through. The Blue Mosque dominates the horizon and has a truly amazing interior with tiled decoration across the walls and ceiling. Lucky we had time to take it all in peace before taking a short walk through the beautiful gardens to visit Aya Sofya, another Mosque that was converted from a church to a mosque and in my opinion far more impressive. To relax we all spent an evening at a hamam (Turkish bath) which is kind of like a sauna with a domed roof and a central marble platform that you can lie on. The idea is to relax and clean yourself and to add to the experience we all signed for a traditional massage. The guys and girls were separated and we all undressed and put on a pair of rubber sandals and a towel. From the moment we lay down I had a strange feeling I was in for some punishment. Within moments of lying down on the back one the masseurs slapped me on the stomach and grinned. Okay, now I was a little scared. I proceeded to watch the rest of the guys be rubbed down and twisted and thought, "that doesn't look too bad" but for some reason I received special treatment. With Phil, Paul and Will witnessing from the sidelines, I was folded like dough by a short, stubby, hairy man that obviously enjoyed torturing innocent tourists. It didn't help that the guys were all pulling painful faces and laughing as they watched my assisted contortion act. I think this only encouraged him further as he yelled out phrases like "good, strong massage!" and "yes, feels gooooood!". All a bit disturbing really but it was only when I was placed face down on the floor with the hairy man standing on my back with him pulling my arms backwards that I believed this could be the end... sucking down suds on a marble floor with my arms and legs tied behind my back like one of the many giant pretzels you can buy on Istanbul's busy streets. After the ordeal was over I was fairly relaxed but this was more likely brought on by realising I had survived my close encounter with "death by massage". Today we visited the Grand Bazaar which is enormous and extremely cheap. You do tent to be harassed as you walk the labyrinth of halls and stalls but you just smile and try not to show too much interest. Carpets, water pipes, Turkish delight, spices and other assorted goods surround you. I was looking for something in particular, but no luck. Instead I decided to haggle over a couple of glass talismans. I guess all that practice at Victoria Market paid off and I think I did well when a final price was agreed on with a hand shake and a smile. In one section of the Bazaar you can buy animals including leeches which I'm hoping are used for medical purposes rather than as pets... either way... pass! Then you have the street sellers selling all kind of junk on the bridge. Will stopped to buy some tobacco (free sample cigarette included) when the police came running down the street. Within seconds everyone had wrapped up their goods and were running down the center of the street with the police chasing, baton in hand. Seriously, it was something out of Benny Hill. We couldn't help but laugh. We also checked out Topkapi Palace and museum but after seeing the Turk exhibition in London last month it was all a bit disappointing and not worth the colossal entry fees. It already feels like I've been here ages. Tomorrow we head to Gallipoli in time for ANZAC day dawn service.