Week One in Turkey

Trip Start Dec 10, 2005
Trip End Ongoing

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Thursday, March 29, 2007

Day 387 -Monday 19th March - Cairo to Istanbul
Well we are glad to say that we survived the Cairo Air flight and arrived in Istanbul. It was so nice to be greeted at the airport and chauffeur driven to the Hilton. We were so shocked to see that Istanbul was a major cosmopolitan city and so different to Cairo, given that it is only a 2 hour flight away. We walked the streets for a while this afternoon to get some lunch at the local donar kebab shop and then got dragged into some guy's carpet shop but were able to politely refuse...the hassle here is nothing like Egypt.
Day 388 -Tuesday 20th March - Istanbul
We had a full, but fun, day today exploring the town. It started with an awesome breakfast at the hotel where Wayne was like Ruphus with too many balls...he did not know which way to go and was going around in circles taking in all the wonderful food choices!! We walked through Taksim Square and then through all the wonderful little streets full of interesting shops. Another thing we found totally strange was the number of gun shops just next to normal TV shops etc...you can buy any type of gun here including the newest version of the M16 which is a machine gun!! Not a very comfortable thought that people can run around here with guns but explains why everywhere you go you have to walk through a metal detector!! Gemeah made history today and actually suggested we stop for a hot drink of tea...she never drinks hot drinks little alone tea...she is just loving the Turkish tea here. We found our way down to the harbor and crossed the bridge and watched hundreds of local men who were out fishing off the bridge catching tiny little fish...bit of a weird sight to see people fishing in the middle of the city. We took in the view of the beautiful mosques as we crossed the bridge and then found the Egyptian Spice market which was full of great food and interesting things, including slugs for medicinal purposes...not sure what medicinal purposes though!! Thankfully they were no where near as pushy as the Egyptians were. We bought some yummy Turkish delight!! We don't know how they do it but the people here can pick us for Australian's without us even opening our mouths!! They yell out at us Aussie Aussie Aussie Oi Oi Oi!! We then walked through more tiny streets full of market type shops and people selling things on the streets. We found the Grand Bizarre which has over 4000 shops and is a bit like a maze. We spent some time pricing some of the amazing lights that they have here but everything seems quite expensive after Egypt...we were a little shocked to find that our dollar is exactly the same as the Turkish Lira and things are pretty much priced the same as at home...our guide who picked us up yesterday was laughing saying that the Turkish Lira is stronger than the New Zealand dollar!! We had a yummy dinner of scrumptious Turkish food and then went to the movies to see "The Number 23" which was great...except that Gemeah worked out that she was born of the 24 8th month which equals 32 and she is currently 32 and both those reversed is 23...aaggghhhh don't start
Day 389 -Wednesday 21st March - Istanbul
Gem came down with the flu last night so she had to stay in bed today. Wayne went and explored the city a bit and went on the hunt to find somewhere to have a Turkish shave...he was told that this was the best place to have one so he has been saving up his hairy face for days and is starting to look like one big hair ball. He came back looking like a baby face again and was beaming saying it was the best shave he had ever had...they even plucked inside his nose and ears.
Day 390 -Thursday 22nd March - Istanbul
We had to move hotels today so Wayne tried to eat as much of the amazing buffet as he could. Funny thing was we got picked up by a driver, taken to the other hotel which looked rather crappy, then got told they did not have a room for us and we had to go back to the Hilton...oh what a shame...Wayne was almost dancing with joy!! Gem was still quite sick today so we just had a rather easy day visiting one sight. We went to the Basilica Cistern located on the historical peninsula of Istanbul and is basically like a underground church but the floor is full of water with big fat fish swimming everywhere. This place is where a James Bond movie was made and it was built during the reign of emperor justinianis in the 6th Century and was used to supply water to the palaces. On the way back the taxi driver tried to rip us off by charging the night time rate and tried to get us to pay 3 times as much as it had to get us to the cistern and would not drop us to the door of the hotel as he knew that the porter would step in...Gem told him off and suddenly the meter changed from 29YTL to 25YTL to 20YTL...it should have been 10YTL...she was so pissed off she took his number plate license and got the hotel to report him.  Tonight we met to find out a little more about the tour and what is planned for the next 2 weeks.
Day 391 -Friday 23rd March - Istanbul
Gem is even sicker today after having a terrible temperature all night. She joined the tour and we went to see the Hippodrome with has an Egyptian Obelisk and the area used to be used for chariot races and housed over 100,000 spectators. Unfortunately, at the second stop of the Blue Mosque Gem nearly passed out as she had such a bad fever, so unfortunately she had to go back to spend the day in bed...at least we have a nice hotel room. The Blue Mosque dominates the skyline of the Old City and is stunning as it is covered in over 20,000 blue Isnik tile and the arches are described with decorative Arabic calligraphy. Wayne got visit Topkapi Palace, Aya Sofya and the grand Bizarre again. Will have to get him to write down what he thought!!
Day 392 -Saturday 24 March - Gallipoli - Dardanelles - Canakkale
 Today we drove to the town of Gelibolu where we had some lunch and then went on to the Gallipoli Peninsula where we visited Anzac Cove and the Lone Pine cemetery as well as the monuments to the Turks. We saw the trenches that the ANZACS and the Turks were fighting in and they were so close to each other and so tiny. It is hard to describe the atmosphere here at Gallipoli as an Australian it is such a strong part of our history but you feel everywhere the respect that the Turks have for the ANZAC troops and still the bond that is formed between Australians and Turks...we have noticed that just in our group when they find out that there is a few Aussies they talk to us differently than they do to the Americans and Canadians on the same tour
Our guide told us some amazing true stories of how the ANZACS and Turks treated each other with such respect because they were not enemies who had an been bought up with an in bred hate for each other as they were from opposite ends of the earth and had only been thrown together in these horrible circumstances. The irony of this war is those who spent eight months trying to kill each other ended up respecting each other.  At ANZAC Cove there is a monument with this quote from the Turkish War hero and future leader of Turkey, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk summing up emotions perfectly;
 "Those heroes that have shed there blood and lost their lives....You are now lying in the soil of a friendly country.  Therefore rest in peace.  There is no difference between the Johnny's or the Mehmets to us where they lie side by side here in this country of ours...You, the Mothers who have sent your Sons from far away countries, wipe away your tears.  Your Sons are now lying in our bosom and are now in peace.  After having lost there lives in this land they have become our Sons as well."  Ataturk 1934.
We also went through the historical museum which was full of powerful photos, stories and artifacts from the battle. Rather than talk about everything that happened today, I though it might be best if I just share some of the stories we heard and thoughts I had during our time here......
The stories below paint a picture of real men in a real war.
On the 25th April 1915, there was heavy trench fighting between the Turks and the Allies, the distance between the trenches was between 8 and 10 meters.  A cease-fire was called after a bayonet attack and the soldiers returned to their trenches.  There were heavy casualties on both sides and each collected there dead and wounded.  From between the two trench lines came a cry for help from an English captain who was very badly wounded in the leg, unfortunately no one could leave their trench to help as even the slightest movement would have resulted in the firing of hundreds of bullets.  At that moment an incredible event occurred.  A piece of white underwear was raised from one of the Turkish trenches and a well built, unarmed Turkish soldier appeared.  Everyone was stunned and we stared in amazement.   As the Turk walked slowly towards the wounded British Soldier, gently lifted him, took him in his arms and started to walk towards our trench, He placed him on the ground gently near us then straight away returned to his trench.  We couldn't even thank Him.  This courageous and beautiful act of the Turkish soldier has been spoken about many times on the battlefield.  Our love and deepest respect to this brave and heroic Soldier.
"The wounded soldier went on to become Governor General of Australia"
The Turks began to signal, to the Australians.  Shortly after there was the thud of some thing landing in the Australian trench.  The Australians scattered thinking it was a bomb.  When the parcel didn't go off, the Queensland doctor picked it up.  It contained cigarettes.  Written on one of the packets were two sentences in French.  "Take with pleasure, our heroic enemies.  Send some milk".  The Turks and the Australians climbed out of their trenches and mingled for 15 mins.  Afterwards they fired a few shots into the air, walked back to their trenches and went on with the war.
And the classic story of Private John Simpson Kirtpatrick, aged 22 (Simpson & his Donkey). An Englishmen who jumped ship and happened to be working in Australia when the war broke out.  He soon found himself in Gallipoli, an ordinary man who did extraordinary things.  As we walked through the museum we saw pictures of Simpson, complete with donkey carrying a wounded Turkish soldier from the battle field back to safety.  After a few weeks of selfless rescue journeys through the line of fire, Simpson himself was felled.  On his gravestone we read this line "He gave his life so that others may live".  A Christ-like figure in a hell of a place.   These are our heroes.  Not generals or officials but ordinary people doing extraordinary things.  This is the beginning of the ANZAC spirit.
I think Mick Cross captured beautifully the feeling of Gallipoli in his travel diary of his visit here so credit goes to Mick for the following words... "In retrospect it could seem like this war was a wicked waste of human life, but some where along the way, on the beaches, in the hills, in the trenches, in the spirit of the men, was born a legend which has shaped what Australia and what Australians have become.  In every one of us lives the ANZAC, the larrikin, the warrior with a gentle heart.  That fighting spirit of Australians may have existed prior to this battle but somehow to me it feels like it was born on this beach at ANZAC Cove Gallipoli.  This place -Turkey is a distant land, so far from home, but no where in Europe has home seemed so close, as in these coastal hills.
This day has changed me, in more ways that I could ever have thought.  Every Australian given the opportunity should visit this Beautiful powerful coast of Gallipoli."
Lest We Forget!
This afternoon we crossed the continents into the Asian part of Turkey via the ferry and drove to our very posh hotel in Canakkale. This place had the most amazing views and we made the most of the great facilities and Wayne had a Turkish bath which is like a full body exfoliation and scrub and I had a massage.
Day 393 -Sunday 25th March - Troy - Pergamum - Kusadasi
Gem is now starting to feel better but has unfortunately passed the germs onto Wayne who is now suffering as well!! Bugger. This morning we visited the ancient town of Troy with its famous wooden horse which has been rebuilt just for the tourists...the one from the movie is also on view on the harbor. The ruins here are hardly impressive, yet the rich legend they evoke easily makes up for this and even today you can still see the ramp which the Trojans dragged their wooden horse through. At lunch time we visited a Turkish rug making place...we don't really like the rugs but we have a new respect for them after we saw how long they take to make and the processes involved. This afternoon on the drive to Peramum we got to watch the DVD "Troy" so we could remember the legends....mmmm all I can say is Brad Pitt looks good!! This afternoon we visited the ancient town of Pergamum which sits on the hillside above the town of Bergama. The ruins here rate among the finest in the entire Mediterranean and the ancient amphi theatre was rather impressive. Tonight we got to stay in a very very lush new five star hotel right on the water and it was heaven going to sleep with the sound of the water just outside our balcony.
Day 394 -Monday 26th March - Ephesus & St. Mary's House - Kusadasi
This morning we toured the famous ruins of Ephesus which is supposed to be the major rival to Pompeii as one of the best preserved ancient classical cities. It was very pretty but we did not think it compared to Pompeii. The finest part was the Library of Celsus which had a delicately pillard fašade and intricately carved interior that you could wander around in. Next we went to visit what the Turk's call Meryemana which is the Virgin Mary's House. Apparently Mary was bought to Ephesus by St John, so that she could spend the last years of her life here. This afternoon we could have done an optional tour of an old town but we were both so sick again that we slept until dinner time.
Day 395 -Tuesday 27th March - Aphoridisias - Pamukkale
This morning they took us to a leather factory...as Turkey is also famed for its leather. However, we found the place just another tourist trap that was way overpriced. We get pissed off as well as everywhere here they quote stuff in US dollars or Euro...everything except their own currency. We then drove through fertile valleys to Aphrodisias city of Aphrodite to whom the city was dedicated. The area comprised of the Temple of Aphrodite, monuments, theatres and baths. There was also a spectacular stadium where athletics rivaling the original Olympic Games were staged. It was huge!! We drove onto the area of Pamukkale and from the distance you could see a huge white mountain...when we got close it was quite spectacular but we get to explore more tomorrow. So next it was off to the hotel for a thermal swim and some belly dancing.
Day 396 -Wednesday 28th March - Pamukkale - Antalya
This morning we got to walk through more ruins of Hierapolis (bit ruined out now) and then onto the amazing pools of blinding white crystal spilling down the mountainside...this is Pamukkale which we have been looking forward to. These pools receive their water from the nearby warm springs and the minerals have gradually been encrusted along the limestone slopes forming spectacular sloped terraced pools. We could walk on them but only in bare feet which was fine as we were also walking through the thermal pools. They say that because of the hordes of enthusiastic tourists it is no longer as spectacular as it once was but it was still very pretty. Next we had a big drive to the coastal town of Antalya where we got to relax a bit by the Mediterranean cost.
Day 397 -Thursday 29th March - Perge & Aspendos - Antalya
This morning we went to the ancient city of Perge where our guide showed how the ancient Roman baths worked...however given they were just ruins they were no where near as impressive as the working ones we saw in Bath in England. Hence, Gem went shopping as the streets of this ancient city were filled with ladies who had their goods out for sale on blankets...Wayne had a business meeting on the phone. Later we went to Aspendos which has a very impressive and well preserved ancient amphitheater ...which even wowed us. Later the tour operator took the bus to a diamond and jewelry factory...however the prices were just ridiculous and Wayne and I just laughed at the prices...his watch he bought in Geneva was here for sale for twice the price...nevertheless there are always some gullible American tourists who think they are getting a bargain!! Turkey is really not cheap anymore...stuff is pretty much the same price as in Australia if not, more expensive.
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