Chapter 45: Turkish history lessons
Trip Start Oct 01, 2003
56Trip End Nov 2004
Show trip route
Where I stayed
My bus left at 12:30 and took 5 1/2 hours to reach the ferry port town of Eceabat across from Canakkale. The ride was pleasant, as the bus was very comfortable, my book was interesting ("Stupid White Men"), and the scenery outide was beautiful: fields of sunflowers and the sparkling Sea of Marmara dominated the views. We just missed the 6pm ferry, so I wandered along dusty Eceabat's main street and found TJ's Hostel, where the friendly staff told me all about their Gallipoli/ANZAC tour and recommended a place to stay across the water. When I arrived in Canakkale at 7:30 I booked a room at the hotel they'd suggested (The Yellow Rose Pansiyon, which thankfully only cost $7/night), grabbed a chicken kebab, and watched "Fahrenheit 9/11" since I was in a Michael Moore mood after reading his book. The movie was fascinating, but it made me pretty ashamed of the US government and didn't give me the urge to come running home anytime soon!
The next morning I signed up for the Gallipoli tour (Yellow Rose sends people over to TJ's), and had breakfast at the hotel while watching Peter Weir's "Gallipoli" movie. The film starred a young Mel Gibson and was excellent; it actually made me interested in the local WWI history and excited to see the battlefields, and that's quite an achievement! At 11:45 I took the ferry back to Eceabat along with 3 others from the hotel: Josh from Australia, and Tanya & Mark from New Zealand. Gallipoli is especially meaningful to the Aussies & Kiwis, as the most famous battles there involved ANZAC (Australia & New Zealand Army Corps). April 25, the day ANZAC landed on Gallipoli, is a national holiday in those countries, and thousands flock to Gallipoli for religious services each year on ANZAC Day.
We met up with the TJ's crew, and spent the next 6 hours exploring various battlefields, museums, cemeteries, and memorials with our excellent guide. He's something of an ANZAC expert, and has co-authored or been an advisor for many articles and books about Gallipoli, so he knew his stuff in detail. It was almost too much detail, in fact... after hours of non-stop war history and hot sun I was definitely fading fast and ready for a nap! Unfortunately we missed the 6pm ferry back by one minute (I HATED the unpredictable ferry at this point), so Mark, Tanya, and I ducked into an internet cafe for 45 minutes. As soon as we left the cafe, we heard the horn and watched in horror as the "7pm" ferry left at 6:45 without us. We grabbed some lentil soup and bread at a cafe, chatted for a while, and made sure we were on the next boat in time!
The next morning I had breakfast at the hotel again and watched the resident tortoises playing in the garden. Well, "playing" might be a stretch... by all counts it looked like one bully was repeatedly trying to commit tortoise-rape, so the other tortoises had to stay on their toes to avoid being mounted. When I'd had enough of Wild Kingdom, I caught a bus to the ruins/excavations of Troy (Truva in Turkish). I spent about 90 minutes walking around the site, which was a confusing jumble of stones and walls from 9 different incarnations of the city that had occupied the small space through the centuries. It was hard to get much of a feel for what used to be there aside from the occasional ramp, but the 1970's wooden replica of the Trojan Horse was fun to climb inside. I took the bus back to Canakkale in the late afternoon, and spent the rest of the day exploring the nice waterfront city.
Thursday was another travel day. I spent 6 hours on the bus south to Izmir, and then another hour on a small bus to the town of Selcuk, near the Ephesus ruins. When I arrived in Selcuk I headed for the ANZ Guesthouse and bargained them down to 25,000,000 per night for a single with bathroom, including breakfast and a home-style dinner. I'm glad I stayed there, because the employees did an excellent job of making people feel at home and introducing guests to each other, and the atmosphere was excellent as we all relaxed on the rooftop terrace on comfy cushions with beer. Within minutes I met Mike and Andre from Auckland, Frederick from Finland, and many other friendly people, and I ended up hanging out until midnight.
The next day Mike, Andre, and I took a tour bus to Pamukkale/Heiropolis, which is 3 hours from Selcuk. We didn't actually pay for the tour, though, so the bus dropped us off at the site so we could wander around on our own. We started in Pamukkale village, paid the National Park entrance fee, and walked barefoot up a long slope of calcium deposits from numerous thermal springs. The valley looked pretty cool as everything was covered in white calcium, and the terraced pools of spring water reminded me of Yellowstone. The ruins of the ancient city of Heiropolis are located at the top of the slope, and they're much more impressive than those at Troy (I guess they're thousands of years newer, too...). We liked the Necropolis, the Theater, and a small Martyrium church isolated up on a hillside with amazing views. On the way back to Selcuk our guide made us stop at an onyx factory, a textile factory (really an outlet store), and a tea shop, all of which thoroughly annoyed the three of us, but seemed to make a hefty old Romanian woman very happy.
This morning the Aucklanders and I set out together again - this time for the ruins of Ephesus, just three kilometers from the hotel. One of the staffers drove us to the southern gates and dropped us off. The ruins (most from the first or second century AD) were amazing and very photogenic. It was hot and crowded, though, so we pushed through the whole site in about 75 minutes before walking back. I relaxed and took a nap through the heat of the day, bought a bus ticket with Frederick to Fethiye on the southern coast for tomorrow, and jumped online after dinner. From Fethiye I might do a 4-day backpacker cruise to Olympos... we'll see how I feel about money & time when I get down there. That's the update for now, and I'll be in touch!