Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Turkey, April 2007

A run down of the time I spent in Turkey during the leadup to ANZAC Day 2007.

Well, here I am back in Bath, after having the most amazing time of my life in Turkey (of all places)!!!!  As I mentioned earlier, I went to Turkey for the ANZAC Day commemorations at Gallipoli.  It started with a 6 day tour around the western parts of Turkey before finishing at ANZAC Cove for the commemorations.
The annoying thing about the whole thing, is that words are really hard to come by to describe the trip.  The fact the we did so much in the space of 8 days doesn't help either.  I guess I'll just have to make this a big long spiel about everything, and see how I go.

Day 1:  We (meaning Grant, Alex, Nigel and myself), left from Bath the night before we left and arrived at Luton airport to settle in for the night before our ridiculous 6:30am flight.  We had the intention of Drinking at the airport, but we were quickly disappointed when told that alcohol wasn't being served until 5am.  After checking in, we headed through security and found a bar in the waiting lounge, so we proceeded to start knocking back the beers.  Eventually we got on the plane and headed to Istanbul.  Once arriving, we cleared customs (Alex got held up for a bit but who knows why) and found the tour guide.  We met a bunch of people who would be touring with us and got onto the bus.  After waiting 1 and a half hours, we finally left the airport.  There was some problem between the drivers of various buses.  That really gave us some confidence in the whole tour!!  Anyway, we got into Istanbul and to the Hotel, which was fairly average, but better than the Hostel.  We left there and headed out to explore a bit.  We managed to find Kebaps for 1.25 Lira (about $1.25) so got one each.  We were all expecting to get ill, but here I am writing this, so they were all good.  We ended up walking past a Mosque, so went in there and took some photo's.  On the way out, a guy gave me a shortened copy of the Koran too, which I'm sure I'll never read, but hey, who knows.  Anyway, after wandering around for a while we headed back to the hotel and met up with the Tour Guide, Tenar.  We met all the people on our tour too.  The whole group was awesome, and being amoungst some New Zealanders again was great too.  After all that, the four of us decided that we would head into town, while all the others went out for dinner.  On our way out, we met another guy, Hayden, who had come in late and missed the tour briefing, so he came with us.  Well, what a night that was!!  We started off being taken to a bar where they wanted to charge us 25Lira for a beer!!  There was no way that we were paying that, so left very quickly.  We found a better bar and paid only 5Lira for a beer.  Much better.  We started drinking and moved on to a few places.  There were some real dodgy places, that wanted to charge us huge prices, and the atmosphere in some was just crap.  We eventually ended up at a bar that had some good live music and reasonably cheap drinks.  Oh, before that, Grant almost got into a fight with a Kebap guy because he wanted to charge him for a different kebap that what Grant had ordered.  We were just lucky enough to walk out right as things were about to kick off.  We ended up back at the hotel at about 3am I think, and the Taxi driver tried to charge us more than what we had agreed on.  Eventually a guy from the Hotel came out and sorted everything out.  I'm not sure if we ended up paying in the end or not though.  Like I said before, this could be a really big entry, simply because we did so much.

Day 2:  We were up pretty early, 6am I think to head off on the tour of Istanbul.  We went to the Blue Mosque (one of the biggest mosques in the world), AyaSofia (an old Catholic church that was converted into a Mosque during one of the various invasions over the centuries), a massive Palace of the old Ottoman Sultans and into an area underground that was used as a massive water tank during Roman times.  Everywhere was really amazing and interesting.  Later that afternoon, some of us went and found a pub that had the Aussie v NZ cricket on, so watched that for a while, then had to leave to go on a boat cruise on the strait that seperates Istanbul into Europe and Asia.  That was really cool, and was a really good to get to know the people on the tour.  Once we got back, we all decided to go back to the Pub to watch the rest of the cricket, so headed back to there.  We all got blind drunk as most of us skipped dinner.  Eventually we left there and headed into another bar where we proceeded to drink more, and dance a bit.  We also sampled some flavoured tobacco, which was great.  Gives you a small buzz too.  We ended up back at the hotel at some stupid hour and only had about 2 hours sleep before the wake up call to get ready for the bus to leave.  I got a call just before that though, from Nigel saying he was on his way back to the Hotel, and had just been through some shit at a Russian Bar, where they tried to charge him 4000Lira for a few beers.  Needless to say, he didn't pay it.  I'm not really too sure what the whole story was, but he made it back alive, so it's all good.

Day 3:  As I mentioned, we were up pretty early to get on the bus to head off on the tour around Turkey.  Our first stop was Bursa, where we got an Iskander Kebap (Alexander the Great Kebab), which was really good.  After that, we headed to another Mosque, which was different because it had a fountain in the middle to provide some form of natural air conditioning, and it had a Glass Ceiling to provide extra light etc.  After that, we went to a Silk Market, where there were some amazing things.  I got myself a Silk Tie for 20lira, ($20).  It was supposed to be my only present to myself on the tour, but that all went out the window on Day 4.  The majority of Day 3 was spent on the bus, travelling to Kusadasi.  Once we arrived there at around 9pm, we had dinner, and kicked back next to the pool with some beers for a while.  Most of us headed to bed around midnight or so.

Day 4:  We were again up fairly early to head to Ephesus.  It is an old city from 2000 years ago or something to that effect, but only 18% of it has been uncovered.  It was really amazing to see, because so much of it is in really good condition.  It was after that, that I began spoiling myself.  We went to a Turkish Carpet Factory, where we saw a demonstration of how they are made, and how each type of carpet varies depending on what it is made from (ie Silk, Wool, Cotton etc).  I was looking at some silk carpets, which for a small one, about 30cm x 20cm, cost about $6000!!!  Obviously that was out.  I ended up seeing some Wool on Cotton carpets though, which were made from undied wool, and looked really nice, and for $365 it was a bargain.  So I bought one.  Credit Cards are dangerous.  Seriously though, to have a genuine Turkish carpet is cool.  Far better than the cheap Warehouse Turkish Rugs that you can get!!  Ha ha.  Anyway, the next stop was a Leather Factory, where they made Jackets and the like.  We were treated to a fashion show of some of their stuff which was pretty funny, just because we weren't expecting it.  After the show, we were taken downstairs to the store, where although there was 'No Pressure to buy' most of us ended up walking out with something, including myself.  I found a really nice Jacket, that is in the sort of style that is a bit longer (Down to my thighs) than most Leather Jackets.  The price on it was 720 Euros ($1400), but 'just for us', we had half off (In the words of Chode "Thats almost 50% savings!").  So After talking to the guy for a bit, we agreed on 200pounds, which works out at around $550, on the current exchange rate.  So I was pretty happy about that.  The Jacket itself is made from Female Lamb Skin, so it is incredibly soft.  They certainly made a killing off us.  I think out of the 17 on the bus, 12 or 13 of us bought something.  Eventually, we ended up back at the Hotel in Kusadasi, where we were told by Tenar, that he would be taking us out into town for a bit of a night out.  Before that though, we had the option to go to a Turkish Bath.  What an experience!!  You strip down to a towel, and go into a big room that is heated by a huge Marble Block in the middle.  It's just like a Sauna.  After lying on this block for about 30minutes, a guy came in and got us to lie on another cooler block where he scrubbed off all the dead skin and other crap.  After that, we move onto another block, where another guy washes us down and massages us a bit.  After that, it was a quick cool shower then out of there where we were wrapped up in dry towels and handed Apple Tea.  It was so good.  Once we got back to the Hotel, we had Dinner and headed into town.  We ended up at an Irish pub, where every other Kiwi and Aussie in Turkey had gathered.  It was insanely busy, but was a great night all the same.  The drinks were fairly pricy though, so it was just beer for most of us.  Most of us ended up with free T-shirts too, which was a bonus.  Eventually, we ended up back at the hotel, again at some stupid hour, but this time, we were lucky enough to be allowed to sleep in a bit, so we weren't up till about 9:30 the next day.

Day 5:  We left Kusadasi at around 11am, and headed to Pergamom, which is again, an ancient city.  It was quite interesting, because it was built on top of a hill, where they had to use Arches to support the huge Temple etc.  We didn't spend too long there, I think because Alex, Nigel and Grant had been drinking on the way there, so Tenar was a little annoyed by their 'disruptive' behaviour.  Ha ha.  We got some good photo's though, and continued on to our next stop.  I cannot for the life of me remember the name of the place we stayed at that night, but I remember the hotel being pretty average, and the town itself being really run down and shitty looking.  I think they were doing renovations everywhere getting ready for the summer, so it was just a bad time to be there.  It kind of reminded me of Nice in France though.  It was a beachside town, and as soon as you got back from the beach, everything started looking really run down.  Anyway, we had a few beers and things at the hotel, and most of us were in bed at around midnight.

Day 6:  We were up reasonably early and on our way to Troy!!  Who would have thought, after hearing all the myths and things about troy that it actually existed.  I certainly just thought it was a myth, but no, it is a real place, albeit in ruins, but again, it was quite exciting just to be there.  It was bizzare to learn too, that it was actually 9 city's all built on top of each other, because of the amount of Earthquakes etc that happen in the area.  After being in Troy, we got to Cannakkale where we had to catch the ferry over to the Gallipoli Peninsula.  Before that though, we had really good kebaps.  They were probably the best kebaps that I have ever had, but damn expensive.  14Lira ($14) for the 'special' kebap that I had.  Anyway, after that, we headed over to the peninsula, where we arrived at the Memorial Museum.  It was damn hot over there, and it was definately where most of us picked up our tans.  After looking through the small museum, we walked around to ANZAC Cove and had a look around.  It was a really amazing place to be in, and to think about how 15,000 odd men stormed the beach and cliffs 92 years ago.  It was one of those places where you don't really know how you should feel.  Anyway, we headed off on the bus again to the final stop, where we then had to walk about 30mins to the Commemoration site where we settled in on the grass for the night.  It was perfect timing really, because after we arrived, the Grass had filled up, so people then had to start sitting in the stands, instead of lying on the grass.  The night was a really great experience, and I'd recommend that every New Zealander and Australian did it.  It definately makes you feel proud to be from New Zealand (or Aussie).  The whole night they had small documentaries on about the WWI.  Oh, and the entire night, was alcohol free, meaning that no alcohol was allowed into the site.  It actually made the night really good, because you had to think about why you were there, instead of getting wasted.

Day 7:  I woke up after getting about 2 hours sleep on the grass, just as things were starting to get ready for the Dawn Service.  As soon as there was a spec of light behind the hills, the service began.  It was amazing how quickly it all went, and was amazing again, at how proud you felt to be from New Zealand or Australia.  I have to admit, that there were some teary eyed people around, including myself, espesially during the National Anthems.  It's the first time ever, that I have been happy to sing the Anthem!!  After the dawn serice, we headed back to the bus, got changed and began the 1 hour walk to Lonepine for the Australian Memorial.  Most of us Kiwi's on the tour left about 30mins before it began to head up to the New Zealand Memorial at Chunuk Bair.  We took our time getting there, stopping off at various Cemetries to take a look, and walking through some of the trenches and things.  On the way, we also walked past the Turkish Memorial, which looked quite interesting, but they weren't allowing any foreigners in.  We arrived at the Chunuk Bair to find a really crap seating arrangement.  In the end though, most of the group ended up sitting of top of a bank, just above everyone else and watch the memorial on the TV.  Grant and I though, went right up to the top and watched it in person.  The 'Honourable' Winston Peters gave a speech, most of which was read directly from the paper he had.  Pretty piss poor I thought.  Again though, the whole thing was quite moving.  After the service had ended, we all met up again, and after waiting for around an hour, met up with the Bus again, and began the trip back to Istanbul.  This is where this entry could get really long...  We got back to Istanbul at around 9pm.  When we checked in, Grant realised that he couldn't find his passport.  He swore that he had put it in a bag the day before because he wanted to leave it on the bus during ANZAC Day.  Obviously he started stressing.  We called up the embassy, and he was informed that he would have to go to Ancora (the Turkish Capital) to get a new passport etc.  This would possibly take quite some time though, as he was already on an Emergency Travel Document from when he had his passport stolen in Nice.  Once we had sorted all that out, he went to bed as he had to be up at 7am to get down to catch a bus to Ancora.  I went down to catch up with the rest of the group, and had a couple of beers.  Because I hadn't had dinner, they went straight to my head.  A group of about 6 of us, plus a couple of guys from the Hotel, headed back to the area where we had watched the Cricket back at the start of the tour.  Two of the girls from the tour though, wanted to head more into town.  I ended up going with them and the two guys from the Hotel.  We ended up at a Bar called Sin City, where it was decorated with scenes from the movie Sin City.  It was really cool, and what made it even better, was that the guys from the Hotel paid for everything.  Taxi fares, Drinks, everything!!  Since it was a pretty cool, but quiet bar, we ended up staying there for quite a while, before heading back to the hotel.  I'm not sure, but I think we got back there at around 4am, but I'm really not sure.

Day 8:  I got up when Grant did, to make sure he was all sorted, and he got away fairly quickly to the bus station.  About an hour after he left, I got a call from him, saying that the bus driver from the tour was waiting for him at the bus station, and had his passport!!  All conspiracies aside, he was damn lucky, and had to leg it back to the hotel, to be there on time to get a taxi to the airport with us.  Eventually, he got back, we were all packed, and then had to go through the drama's of finding someone that would take us to the airport for a reasonable price.  At one stage, we had 3 people on the go, each trying to out do each other.  We ended settling on 50Lira from one guy.  After saying goodbye to everyone that was left from the tour (which was actually a really sad time), we set off in the taxi.  And what a ride it was.  Although it took this guy a while to get us onto the motorway because of traffic, once we did, he was flying along at 130Km/h.  It was great!!  We ended up at the airport with plenty of time to spare, and we ended up paying the guy an extra 10Lira, because it was such a great ride.  Eventually, we got on the plane, and began the hua journey home.  4hours on the plane, an hour wait at Luton for the Bus, 1:20 to Heathrow, then 40minutes waiting, then another 4hours back to Bath.  We were all so damn pleased to see the pub, although we were all really disappointed that it was over.

So anyway, like I said at the start, going to Turkey was definately one of the most amazing experiences of my life!!  As Alex said, none of us really knew what to expect, other than a potential 3rd world country.  But this tour, and the overall experience put all those expectations out of our heads, and filled it with some of the best times of our lives.

Long Live the ANZACs

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