Sunday, 13 May 2012

ANZAC Day in Gallipoli & a Short Sweet Stay in Istanbul

What I most anticipated about this trip was leaving the blazers at home and living in chucks for a week, basically I was after a chilled out non western travelling experience, I got that, sort of, there was little relaxing.

All of Saturday was spent travelling as we lost 3 hours when arriving in Turkey. A lovely man at the airport noted our roof gazing and wandering in circles then gave his assistance on getting us to our accommodation thank goodness, he even asked us if we were in the right country.

Kelly and I have a theory that we’ll figure it out when we get there, it’s worked so far.

We stayed in the old town of Istanbul; our first two nights were at Sinbads hostel in a 6 bed room (no snoring either night’s woohoo). Upon arrival we explored our surroundings and soon learnt a lot about the Turkish men, let’s say if you are starved of compliments got to Turkey and you’ll come back not wanting to hear another! Turkish men and kiwi men, different ends of a spectrum for sure!

We went to dinner in a little old back street restaurant and dined on mezze platters, Kebabs and baklava for desert. Our waiter Mehmet taught us our first 6 words in Turkish… Of which I can remember one.

While walking home I thought to myself, this is a long way from Te Puru.

After an amazing sleep in slightly dingy hostel, only to be disturbed by barking dog, we rose and went to a restaurant near the Aya Sofia mosque. I had my first Turkish coffee! I wasn’t told till after that you weren’t meant to drink the dirt in the bottom, here I was thinking I was being a bold traveler by downing the whole thing!

Add caption

We then explored the Arasta Bazaar and met many carpet dealers. One convinced us into his little shop to see his ‘magic carpet’. Everyone, everyone! Offers you apple tea here! We politely declined and complemented his carpet flicking skills and made our way to the ocean to walk along the shore into the town.

Magic Carpet

Arasta Bazaar before the crowds

Strolling along the waterfront

First of many kebab stands

We went through the spice market harassed by touts the whole way which was quite off putting, there seemed to be less of them after we swapped our jeans for skirts because we were so sick of the ‘complimenting’. The Spice Market is a really colourful place though bustling with humans and hustling salesmen.

Spice Market

Grand bazaar

Beautiful lamps

So many trinkets

The only time ventured out of the old town while staying in Istanbul was to pop across the bridge for a roof top lunch. The restaurant had squatty toilets and I was attacked by a pigeon, luckily the view was amazing looking back over the old town at the mosques.

View from restaurant where pigeon attack took place

One of the mosques

After lunch we headed up to the Suleymoniye mosque where we lost our shoes and gained some headscarves in order to go inside the mosque! They are beautiful but slightly strange looking big things. There are so many of them around.

Courtyard of the mosque

All wrapped up and ready to go

Inside the mosque

Loving that Vitamin D

After a beer in the sun we head to the Turkish baths…. In case you haven’t heard what a Turkish bath involves… You put your bikini and a silly pair of clogs on go into a 600 year old big room and lie on a slab of marble for 40 minutes (The room is between 40-60 degrees) to get all the toxins out. A Turkish man (some baths use old naked Turkish women) comes and gets you and proceeds to exfoliate your body, put you on aother marble slab and clean you, followed by a massage. You come out and are wrapped in cloth then sent on your way, red faced and ugly but with a few less layers of skin and dirt! A must do if you go to Turkey.

When we got back to our hostel after the bathes we found barking dog has now been painted purple, that will teach silly barking dog, or so we thought.

We waited to meet friends later that night who never showed as one got a bit ahead of himself (Rowan Edwards handle your drink!) so we went to another bar to meet other Topdeck crews and our old flatty’s from Tooting Kerry and Tim. We had a taste of some of the night life in Istanbul, one type of beer on tap, Efes, lots of shesha and cushions!

The next day we encountered two missions, #1 find my missing camera #2 find out where our meeting point for our tour was. The missing camera turned out to be mission impossible. The missing location was luckily sent through to us last minute. That was some max stressing. We took a wrong turn somewhere on our way to the hotel and ended up walking through the Grand Bazaar; literally thousands of people and streets that look exactly the same while carrying our heavy luggage in the hot sun.

Fueling for our missions

Steep hills to climb...

Thoroughly enjoying the callouses getting larger on our hands

Sea of humans to pass through

Best afternoon tea ever

Turkish treats are my absolute favourite

Nom nom chewy pistachio ice cream

Chilling by the chulips

We finally arrived at our Hotel and were upgraded to a five star for the night! We had a catch up with our tour group and all headed out for dinner and drinks and a get to know one another.

View from the roof top of our 5* hotel

Epic pool on roof top

We had to get up at 5am to head to Gallipoli so after a couple of hours sleep we were on the bus. We stopped in a very small village for an hour along the way. There was on small café that had probably never had some many customers in it life and public squatty toilet which a Turkish man soon took liberty of occupying as his business for the afternoon and charging us all a Lira to use.

Man selling bread at roundabout

Once we arrived at Anzac cove on the Gallipoli Peninsula we were pleasantly surprised by the beach that awaited us. It could be compared to any beach along the Bay of Plenty and ironically brought back memories of home. Plus it was nice to feel some sand between the toes as any Antipodean Londoner will tell you.


Could be Bay of Plenty right?

Chilling on the beach then....

Out comes the sunshine....

Off come the shoes!

Once through the security after a 4 hour wait we quickly found spots to set up camp, the 5am start really was worth it! We laid our tarps down and soon layered up the possum wool and hoodies and tucked into our sleeping bags. Although there were things going on throughout the night, lights, documentaries, music and people arriving, we were all out to it by half 9 and probably had the best sleep of the trip.

Just got through security charging on through to camp

The wait!

Kerry and Tim!

Our campsite for the night

Getting cosy

Beautiful view from our accommodatio  

Add caption

We woke just before the dawn service started. It seemed very appropriate that my first dawn service be at Gallipoli. Camp was quickly packed up and then we started our 8km hike uphill to Chanuk Beir where our NZ service was held, we sat roasting in the sun for another couple of hours waiting for it to begin.

Still smiling the morning after

At the memorial

One of the cemeteries along the way

Chanuk Bair

Where NZ memorial service was

Aussie PM Julia Gillard

I don’t really know what to say about the services, attend one if you want to know the feeling but I feel proud to have attended and paid my respects and to have finally learnt a lot of what the whole mission was about. Although it was a royal ‘stuff up’ and waste of human lives I think it’s important respects are paid to the people who lost their lives there even now we are a few generations on.

After the service we boarded our bus for another 5 hour trip back to Istanbul. For our final night we went out for dinner and drinks again. On our last drunk-walk-home-via-a-kebab-shop, drunk tour leader in tow, we were graced by (sleazy) Turkish men folding napkins into roses for us, probably the most class I witnessed from Turkish men the whole time we were there.

Our final day was spent travelling back to London, we arrived with sunburnt skin and heavy backs to a very grey wet airport, where the ‘other passports’ line, usually empty, was chocka with Kiwis and Aussies returning from Gallipoli.

Turkey a must as is heading out to the Dawn Service if you are ever over these ways around this time of year.

The warm weather was such a tease though and my tan is now fading so I feel a trip to somewhere hot and sandy is in order!