ANZAC Day in Turkey

Trip Start Aug 27, 2007
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Trip End Sep 17, 2011


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Flag of Turkey  , Istanbul,
Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Hey Guys,
Well its time for the latest installment of my adventures from abroad this time from Istanbul in Turkey. I warn you now that this is going to be a long one so for those with limited time if you switch off now I won't blame you.

Sonia, Donna and I set off early morning on Tuesday with good old Easy Jet. I swear our flight was 95 percent full of Kiwis and Ozzies no doubt heading for the ANZAC day celebrations at Gallipoli like us.
It was one giant Jandal fest i tell you.


After a chaotic transfer to the hotel and our first experience of Istanbul's crazy drivers we made it to our first hotel. Travelling in three we booked two rooms, Sonia and Donna to share and me the snorer destined to share with another single traveller from the tour we were apart of. The first room I was allocated to was already occupied with a couple getting busy.....joy. The second attempt to get a room wasnt so succesful either as it turned out I had been allocated a double room.....fine if i was sharing with someone I knew but somehow I didnt quite fancy sharing a bed with a stranger.

That night before retiring to bed we enjoyed a meal at a local restaurant. All I can say is man it felt good to be on holiday.....theres something about being able to enjoy a meal outside wearing shorts and jandals knowing that for the next week the stresses of work and the daily grind of life are a million miles away.....or at least a couple of hundred miles away back home in the UK. The week just felt so full of possibilities and the long days just laid ahead with such promise.

On a side note, that night we had our first encounter with the cockyness and assertiveness that Turkish men are notoriously known for. On walking past the local University Donna was approached by a man asking to touch her....he was very persistant and followed us up the road as we briskly tried to walk away from him....he even whipped out his phone to try show us home made images of porn. This was merely the first encounter....on a later date I was approached by what to me looked like a 14 year old kid carrying a bag of cold coins asking me to have sex with him. I know western women are often perceived as being 'loose' overseas. But come on do I really look like a hooker? And do men really think showing you mobile porn is going to make you jump their bones? Wishful thinking men but it aint gonna happen......

The following day we we had an orientation tour of the city and took in the sites of Hagia Sofia, the Hippodrome and also the Blue Mosque. The tile work at the mosque was just incredible and was a far cry from the cold stone cathedrals I had become accustomed to seeing in Christian countries. I think my favourite attraction though was going below ground to see the cistern....an underground water resevoir now used for hosting orchestral concerts due to its great acoustics. It just felt so eerie and if you see my photos in this entry you will understand why. In our free time the three of us headed to Topkapi palace, the famous palace of the Ottoman Empire which was far larger than I ever could have imagined. Unfortunately the Harem was closed at the time of our visit but I hear it is spectacular.

That afternoon with our tour group we took a Bosphorous cruise to see the city from the sea. By this time we had pure blue skies and it was just so relaxing to watch the city float by while basking in the sun. Our cruise was followed by a carpet weaving exhibition and this was really my first taste at watching true Turkish salesmen in action and I must say it was impressive.

We were taken into a room given turkish tea, a loom demonstration and then out of no where salesmen pop out ready to pounce on anyone who looked like they may be able to be coerced into parting with their cash. Unfortunately with most people on our tour being young backpackers we werent exactly the target market for 600 dollar rugs. Never the less they did still manage to get one sale from one Aussie who got suckered in by the sales spiel.......

Our day ended with a meal at a turkish restaurant./show. I wasnt much of a fan of the food served but the tradition turkish song and dance as well as the belly dancers definately made for an interesting show.

It was an early start to the following day....up at 5 for our bus ride out to Gallipolli for the ANZAC ceremony. We visited the Lone Pine, Chunuk Bair, Johnstons Jolly war memorials and also the ANZAC museum. I hate to say it but the Australian monument puts the New Zealand one to shame......it stands so tall and so proud as a remembrance to all those lost in the war yet the NZ monument doesnt even have its own ground as it stand in the shadow of Turkeys monument to Ataturk.

We attended an ANZAC eve Barbeque before heading into the cove where we would camp put for the dawn service the following morning. Luckily enough we managed to meet up with Laura and Mark. friends of ours who had taken a different tour than we had. It is estimated that 15000 New Zealand and Australians turned out for the event. Despite not much sleep being had that night the feeling of being apart of such a group sleeping under the stars was very powerful and moving. It was so cold and so windy that night but it was all worth it to be part of such a moving event. The cermony itself was hosted by the one and only Judy Bailey with Winston Peters being the guest speaker on behalf of the NZ government.

My only criticisim of the ceremony was at one point the crowd in high spirits did a Mexican Wave to be promptly given a speech by an Australian official that went something like this "I take this occasion to remind you of the meaning behind this event. We do not wish to be published on the front page of national papers in Australia as being Australias worst international exports. Respect this event and dont forget why you are here'. The speech was so uncalled for and harsh......every single person in that 15000 strong crowd had travelled from all over the world to be there at that event, to participate in it and to celebrate the lives and the memories of those lost. Not one single person their that night underestimated the importance of the event.

After the dawn service the Australians and Kiwis went their seperate ways heading to each nations monument for a more local service. We began the 6 km uphill walk to the NZ monument.. We managed to catch a ride for the last couple of ks with one of the only busses allowed up to the monument ..it was brilliant as it meant we could by pass the crowds and manage too get seat in the grandstand and catch a couple of hours kip before the NZ cermony began. It was so moving to see people holding medals and photos of their grandfathers lost in the war. I may not have had anybody personally in my family in the war but the ceremony definately touched me.

After the ceremony and another long transfer back to Istanbul we arrived at our second hotel. We headed out to tea at a local restaurant where we decided to sample the local Raki, the famous Turkish alcohol we had heard so much about. The girls didnt like it much but me, I loved it. It tasted just like the pernod Goetti used to let me have back in Switzerland. A sweet aniseed taste which was beautiful.....i ended up trying to polish of Sonia and Donnas glasses as they werent fans and ended up being asked to stay behind to try the top shelf bottle with the manager once the restaurant closed. Needless to say we made a run for it.

The following day after a hassle with our last nights accommodation not being booked by the tour company despite paying for it we headed to the Grand Bazaar and man was I bedazzled. 4000 stalls all under one roof and each with an unrelenting salesman posted outside the door to try woo you into buying thier goods. Here is a list of some of the favourite one liners from salesmen from our shopping experience.

"Hello sexy, my name is Pepsi"
"Hello Girls here I am"
"How can I help you part with your cash today?"
"You must be cold....want to buy some socks?"
"you must be cold.....want to buy a carpet?" (does anyone other than me fail to see the logic in this?)
"Hello Model.....i have skirt in small size for you"( prompted by him chasing Sonia up an aisle)
"Aussie Aussie Aussie" (needless to say this was about as sucessful as trying find a needle in a hay stack)
" Is the fern your symbol? follow me ...and illl give you a new one"
Ah the joys of shopping in a market where every second stall sells the same thing and the competition for your attention (and cash) is fierce.

The following day we headed off to try a Turkish Bath. Man was I in heaven....turns out the place we went to is on the list of 1000 things to see before you die....only 999 left to go.

After our relaxing bath it was time to head off to the airport. All was fine and dandy until I reliased at the airport I had accidently taken someone elses bag from the hotel. Curse having the same red Kathmandu backpacker that every other Aussie and Kiwi seems to have. I can honestly say I was about to crap myself at the airport and started hyperventillating. I jumped in a cab to try get back to the hotel when I managed to get through to the concierge and the girl whose bag who I had stolen. Turns out she was flying from the same airport at the same time so she brought my bag with her to the airport. I got the taxi driver to do a u turn and take me back to airport where we switched bags...you have no idea how relieved I was...things definately could have been a lot worse....ie my luggage could have ended up in Amsterdam where she was heading.

All in all it was a fantastic trip despite the few hiccups with the hotels and me being incredibly blonde and picking up some one elses bag. So heres to the next trip....Brussels? Austria? Who knows....
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