Gallipoli - The birthplace of nations

by CameronM Tue, September 30 2003 06:01

We could have stayed longer in Istanbul, as there were still many things we hadn't done, but as time was short, we continued travelling. Tan had decided that our theme song for the trip would be "Don't stop moving..." and I think we both adhered to it pretty well. After a bit of comparison shopping with travel agents and calculating the cost of doing Gallipoli (Gelibolu) on our own, we decided to purchase a tour which included the bus to Gallipoli, a tour of the battlefields, overnight accommodation in Canakkale (Çanakkale) and onward transport to Selcuk (Selçuk).

It wasn't long before we realised the expense was worth it. En-route to Gallipoli, we stopped at a restaurant overlooking the Dardanelles and had a very enjoyable four-course lunch, which was some of the best food we'd had so far in Turkey. In the afternoon Ali, our tour guide, gave a captivating commentary on the failed Gallipoli invasion, highlighting all the key battlefields such as Anzac Cove and Lone Pine.

The tour bus follows the road along Anzac Cove on the same route as the supply road built by NZ soldiers. The cove itself is rather small and, as you may remember, it is surrounded by steep cliffs, which look absolutely impossible to climb, especially with the 40kg pack and equipment each soldier was required to carry. Ali told us how it was the climbing time of 1 hour 10 minutes that allowed the unsuspecting Turks to gain the upper hand in the race for the high ground, with the Anzacs arriving 10 minutes later. The cove and surrounding hillside is so steep that the official Anzac Memorial, the site of annual pilgrimage for tens of thousands on Anzac Day, is located about 5 minutes walk to the north.

For the next 240 days, Anzac and Turks faced each other in trenches barely 20m apart, but neither side could gain absolute victory, with attacks and counter attacks leading to little or no permanent gain in ground. Some of the trenches are still visible, although no longer as deep as they originally were. Some trenches have even been repaired so that visitors can grasp just how close the fighting was.
 
The Australian War Memorial is located at Lone Pine, a section of high ground located about a kilometre from the shore. This was the scene of one of the bloodiest battles fought between Australian forces and Turks, in which thousands from both sides died in a 4 day and night battle. The small cemetery hides the terrible truth that many thousands lay buried in one of the largest mass graves located directly under the memorial. The tree in the cemetery is a descendant of the "lone pine" that stood on the battlefield at the time of the invasion.

In spite of its bloody history, or maybe because of its history, the Gallipoli Peninsula is a quite and thought provoking site and few leave the area untouched by the events that shaped the future for both the Australia and NZ, as well as the Turkish people, who would gain democracy and radical social changes at the hands of their Gallipoli hero, and future president, Kemal Mustafa.

Tags: , ,

Turkey

Istanbul is a cultural and sensory delight

by CameronM Sun, September 28 2003 05:53

Istanbul is a cultural and sensory delight. It truly is the place where East-meets-West. Where conservative Turkish culture mixes with the latest European fashions.

When we finally arrived at our hostel in Sultanahmet, we were surprised to find many of the inhabitants still in bed even though it was approaching midday. Over the next few nights the reasons for this became painfully clear. The hostel had a very loud and lively bar downstairs that entertained the residents until the wee hours of the morning. On our last day at the hostel in fact, we met a guy in our dorm you had stayed at the hostel for five nights, but had never slept on his bunk, passing out on the roof top terrace every night after a lively social agenda. The worst part was that many of them were Aussies, so no doubt we are again setting a terrible example to the world.

After a shower and a short nap we ventured out into the now bustling streets of Istanbul. The first thing you notice, besides the carpet shops, is Sultanahmet Square, a green oasis complete with a fountain and park benches, where you can relax and watch the world go by, while enjoying stunning vistas to the Blue Mosque and its older and a little more tired Aya Sofia. 
 
Many a evening over the course of the next few days I would wander down to the square, sit on one of the benches facing the well lit Blue Mosque, enjoying the atmosphere and the architecture, while sipping a cup of tea that I had purchased from the roving sellers, who I figure must be the Muslim equivalent of the beer sellers at football matches. During the day, the area around the square was filled with people, tourists and locals alike, and you could purchase food from street vendors and enjoy the slightly cooler sun Istanbul provided.

Tags: ,

Turkey

Bodrum to Istanbul (Why I hate buses)

by CameronM Sat, September 27 2003 05:38

Whatever drugs we were taking when we decided to travel on the overnight bus from Bodrum to Istanbul, had obviously worn off by the wee hours of the morning, as I discovered just how few interesting things there are to see in the dark.

We arrived in Istanbul on a Sunday morning, but still the main bus station was crowded. The guidebook says there are in excess of 100 different agents and gates, and looking at the vast complex, I would say they finally got something right.

For no obvious reason, the bus station is situated about 20 minutes from the main city centre, so we boarded the clean and swift Metro rail system, which emptied us out right near a main junction for the tram network. After attempting to gain some sort of understanding into how to catch a tram and failing miserably, we turned to the guidebook for a little advice. Unfortunately either my map reading skills are terrible or the maps that are provided by guidebooks deliberately leave out countless minor roads and appear grossly out of scale.

Whatever the case we decided that Sultanahmet, the area that was the main focus for tourists didn’t seem more that a few blocks away. It actually turned out to be about 2 kilometres. After a long overnight trip on the bus the last thing we felt like was to walk 2k’s carrying fully loaded backpacks, but once you start you find yourself saying, “Oh it must be just around the next corner”.

Tags: , ,

Turkey

Turkey via Rhodes and Kos

by CameronM Fri, September 26 2003 05:33

Kos was a smaller version of Rhodes, with fewer tourists, but an overload of night clubs, filled with young Brits. Like Rhodes, the city contains ruins of an old castle, however it is much smaller and more a museum piece than the lively Old City of Rhodes. The castle provided exceptional views of the harbour and nearby Turkey, as well as a large collection of coins dating back to Roman days.


 
After only one night in Kos, but with many Euros leaving our wallets, we were keen to board the ferry for the hour long trip to Bodrum, a coastal resort town in Turkey. We were among only a handful of travellers in the ferry, which was crowded with day trippers concluding an organised tour of Kos from Bodrum.

After docking, we headed to the small immigration station to get our tourist visa for Turkey. Thankfully, this was a pretty straightforward process and we were soon lugging our backpacks around the streets of Bodrum trying to find somewhere to stay. The ferry terminus is a short distance from town, so after a few wrong turns we eventually found our way to the main town and settled into our accommodation.

Bodrum, known as Halicarnassus in ancient times is a lively resort town located on the coast of Turkey in the Muğla Province. Like many coastal towns, Bodrum had a castle built to help defend the harbour. Bodrum Castle was built by the Crusaders in the early 115th century on the site of several previous strongholds dating back to ancient times.

The castle occupies a commanding position and is visible for just about everywhere in Bodrum. It is also well-preserved and certainly worth a visit.

We met a few other travellers at the hotel who had been in town a couple of days and gave us the full rundown on the nightlife in Bodrum. Apparently Bodrum is host to the world’s largest open air nightclub (or some such accolade) named HALIKARNAS, after the town’s ancient Greek name Halicarnassus.  The nightclub can accommodate thousands of people and has the ever popular foam-party. Although this sounded like an excellent way to do some laundry, Tan and I knew we were a little too old for the trendy clubbing-set, plus we didn’t intend to spend too long in Bodrum.

Tags: , , ,

Turkey

Planning a trip to Turkey from Rhodes

by CameronM Thu, September 25 2003 05:33

Today we explored the island of Rhodes, well maybe not the whole island, but at least the Old City area. It was amazing. The walls withstood centuries of attempted invasions until the city finally fell during the crusades. They are huge and it's impossible to think that anyone got past them.

The old city streets are narrow, yet the moped riders still motored along with little regard for their own safety, or more likely our safety. The place was filled with the last die-hard tourist, milking every ounce out of the summer, swimming, enjoying the cafe scene and generally having a good time.

After much debating and haggling with travel agents, we decided to head to Turkey via the Greek island of Kos. This was supposed to be a cheaper alternative, although it would mean an extra night in Greece, which was turning out to be quite expensive. The choice paid off however, with a memorable 3 hour ferry trip, when we travelled with Greek islands on our left and Turkey on our right.

We stayed overnight at Alexi’s Pension, where our host Sonya made us feel extremely welcome, which was in stark contrast to our Ouzo drinking host from Rhodes. Sonya was even able to provide a guide to ‘good places to eat’ and I don’t think any of the proprietors were her relatives.

Armed with Sonya’s advice and a hand-written map, Tan and I went out to explore the culinary delights of Kos. The meal was nice and for the first time in Greece I felt that we were paying the same price as the locals. It is always nice to see locals dining at the same restaurant as you and getting the same menu – albeit in Greek instead of English.

The only detraction to an otherwise pleasant meal was my own fault. Having sampled Retsina, the resinated wine (resin-flavoured wine) produced in Greece, when I worked for a firm of Architects I had expected the local variety to be somewhat improved. I was however disappointed to discover that even here is Greece, Retsina still tastes like Mentholated Spirits. I guess I won’t be buying a bottle duty-free!

Tags: , ,

Greece

Planning a trip to Turkey from Rhodes

by CameronM Thu, September 25 2003 05:26

Today we explored the island of Rhodes, well maybe not the whole island, but at least the Old City area. It was amazing. The walls withstood centuries of attempted invasions until the city finally fell during the crusades. They are huge and it's impossible to think that anyone got past them.

The old city streets are narrow, yet the moped riders still motored along with little regard for their own safety, or more likely our safety. The place was filled with the last die-hard tourist, milking every ounce out of the summer, swimming, enjoying the cafe scene and generally having a good time.

After much debating and haggling with travel agents, we decided to head to Turkey via the Greek island of Kos. This was supposed to be a cheaper alternative, although it would mean an extra night in Greece, which was turning out to be quite expensive. The choice paid off however, with a memorable 3 hour ferry trip, when we travelled with Greek islands on our left and Turkey on our right.

We stayed overnight at Alexi’s Pension, where our host Sonya made us feel extremely welcome, which was in stark contrast to our Ouzo drinking host from Rhodes. Sonya was even able to provide a guide to ‘good places to eat’ and I don’t think any of the proprietors were her relatives.

Armed with Sonya’s advice and a hand-written map, Tan and I went out to explore the culinary delights of Kos. The meal was nice and for the first time in Greece I felt that we were paying the same price as the locals. It is always nice to see locals dining at the same restaurant as you and getting the same menu – albeit in Greek instead of English.

The only detraction to an otherwise pleasant meal was my own fault. Having sampled Retsina, the resinated wine (resin-flavoured wine) produced in Greece, when I worked for a firm of Architects I had expected the local variety to be somewhat improved. I was however disappointed to discover that even here is Greece, Retsina still tastes like Mentholated Spirits. I guess I won’t be buying a bottle duty-free!

Tags: ,

Greece

London to Rhodes, Greece

by CameronM Wed, September 24 2003 05:23

The Gatwick Express whisked us from London's Victoria station to Gatwick Airport for our early morning flight to the island of Rhodes in Greece. Unfortunately once on board the plane we didn't whisk anywhere for an hour or so. I started to worry when the captain explained that they were having difficulty storing the fuel required for the flight!!! Surely my backpack didn't weigh that much that they needed more fuel than was usual? I think this was merely a story to cover up the fact that after a night on the town the pilots had forgotten how to fly and were getting last minute tips from the ground grew on how to take off.

After a relatively short flight – well you need to remember that I am used to the 24-hour trip from Australia – we arrived in Rhodes and caught a taxi to the Old City and wandered the streets for a short time before deciding where to stay. We had planned to stay at a local backpackers, but upon arrival we found that there were no staff in sight and were told by one of the residents that we shouldn’t expect them anytime soon. Thank Lonely Planet for that great reference – maybe next time you should actually send someone to Rhodes to check your facts.

We ended staying at a Pension – which is basically the same as a B&B with the family living downstairs and a small number of bedrooms upstairs. The accommodation was clean and well located, although the proprietor neglected to mention that he and some visiting relatives were planning an Ouzo drinking binge, complete with late night ranting. Welcome to Greece!

Tags: ,

Greece | UK

Job secured it's time for Turkey

by CameronM Tue, September 23 2003 05:18

Thankfully the return bus trip is on time and without delay, so we are soon back in London and ready to plan out trip to Turkey.

Planning was brushed aside when I received a message from an employment agency about an interview that afternoon. As we were leaving for Greece in the morning, Tan and I had left the bulk of our luggage with a friend of his. This included all of my good ‘work’ clothes. I had to race down to Kensington High Street and ducked into the old faithful Marks and Spencer and buy some new clothes. I say old-faithful because, although I had never shopped there, it seems like I have since the countless British TV shows I watched growing up as a child frequently mention chain of stores.

After a mad dash back to the hostel and a quick shave and shower I ran to the tube and headed to Wimbledon Park station. I actually arrived at least 20 minutes late, but it did not seem to phase the panel, Denise and Karen. I guess I made the right impression and they offered me the job of Credit Controller for Manhattan Toy Europe.

With the interview over and a job secured for when I returned from Turkey, I was free to relax and enjoy the next 2 weeks travelling.

Tags: , ,

UK

Salisbury Again?

by CameronM Mon, September 22 2003 05:14

Breaking with tradition, we stay slightly longer than most other travellers at the hostel and begin to feel a little like unwanted dinner guests who just don't get the idea that you want to go to bed. I'm sure the hostel workers just didn't know what to do when we re-booked for yet another night - hadn't we already seen Stonehenge?

While not a huge tourist Mecca, Salisbury does have a few sights of its own, including a Cathedral and surrounding buildings. The Cathedral is impressive and the attached museum contains one of the few surviving copies of the Magna Carta and several pieces of royal correspondence from numerous monarchs over several hundreds of years.

Tags:

UK

Walking to Stonehenge

by CameronM Sun, September 21 2003 05:03

After too many lazy days on buses and in London, I decided to walk the 4 hours between Salisbury and Stonehenge. The weather for a change was overcast with showers, but we managed to keep dry and soon the skies cleared and we were able to enjoy the walk through the countryside.

I was just beginning to think that the walk wasn't a great idea, when just in time we walked over a small rise to see the ruins of Stonehenge lying before us. We sat under a tree in a field, resting and admiring the view from afar, before joining the hundreds of other tourists herded like sheep around the ruins. Don't expect to get any pictures of Stonehenge without at least 20 total strangers blocking your view. The place is packed.

After the obligatory walk around the ruins, where we are kept at a safe distance by a rope fence, we handed in our audio tour headphones and left with a slightly disappointed feeling. On the bus ride back to Salisbury, we talked to a local who says that the best time to see the stones is at night after the guards have gone, when it is possible to get up close and personal, as well as avoiding all the tourists.

Don't expect to get too close to Stonehenge

Tags: ,

UK