Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Turkey February 2010 - Day 1-2

Turkey February 2010

Saturday 13th: Arrived in Istanbul to be driven to the wrong hotel much to the embarassment of the Tour Company. Our hotel - The Hotel Byzantium - was in Sultanhamet very close to the Hotel Park we stayed at 11 years ago.
We took a wander to a close Bazaar and around the neighbouring streets bustling with hustling restaurant criers begging for trade as people huddled by in the evening drizzle and chill.

On Sunday we headed off on Joy’s primary mission to find leather poufs for members of the family. Once found we headed for the Grand Bazaar with the aim of prowling the alley-ways and stalls of the souq only to find it was closed on Sundays! We’re too used to Qatar with normal business on Sundays.

As we walked around the Sultanhamet area we ran into our Bin Mahmoud neighbours - Vince & Andrea - who were also on tour in Turkey. We had an apartment reunion beside the shoeshine stall where Joy later relived our last visit and the numerous requests to clean her boots by having her boots polished.

We revisited the Haga Sofia and the Blue Mosque then headed back to our hotel through the grounds of the Tokapi Palace where couples were passionately celebrating St.Valentines Day in a manner that would bring out the morality police in more conservative Islamic states.
Once we had eaten at a very pleasant restaurant we got ourselves organised to head off on our Tour of Turkey with its first stop at the traditional ANZAC pilgrimage site - Gallipoli.
Monday: Gallipoli and beyond:

Our tour left at 7.00am headed for the Darnanelles and Gallipoli battlefields and cemeteries. Our group consisted of three Australian girls on mid-term break from their jobs in the U.K., our Guide and driver on the five hour drive with a stop at a roadside kofitesi for a breakfast of lentil soup and coffee then along the coast of the Sea of Marama and Thrace to the lunch stop before the tour of the Gallipoli National Park and the museum at Kabatepe.
Here the fronts of World War I that forged decisions that gave NZ an identity in the world even though it took till 1947 before we had the nerve enough to declare total independence from the UK.

The cemeteries are monuments to the futility of war and the sacrifice of an entire generation of men from a country of less than a million at the time. The memorials at Anzac Cove, Lone Pine, The Nek, Johnston Jolly and Chanuk Bair for the dead of both sides believed to be buried somewhere on the peninsula dot the landscape recording losses from towns and villages across Australia and New Zealand. The ages of the men range from 14 to 40 all killed in the attempt to capture the strip of land,with the trenches no more than 8 metres apart, in a bungled campaign.

One can’t escape from the fact that this battle front is as crucial for Turkey as it was for New Zealand for the memorials to Kemel Attaturk and the Turkish war dead tower over the area as well. The Turkish memorial is named the 57th Battalion Memorial to commemorate an entire battalion that was wiped out during the campaign. Our guide said that one major secondary school had no graduating class from 1915 as all had been killed.

From Gallipoli we took the ferry to Cannakule for the night before visiting Troy and the memorials from another long ago campaign to capture the Dardanelles for strategic purposes even though mythology declares it was to rescue a beautiful woman from the dastardly man who’d captured her from her husband.

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