A friendly country – Gallipoli

7th July 2006

ANZAC cove was our next stop the next day, we were woken at 5am and had a lovely breakfast in the hotel. We then boarded the bus, which was put onto a ship for the crossing of the Dardanelle Strait. The bus was put into the cargo hold with us still aboard and then when it was secured we were allowed to go up on deck. Kylee and I sat talking with Chona, before I got up to stand at the very front of the ship, watching the other vessels doing the crossing. It was unbelievable, on one side of us was the land of Troy and on the other Gallipoli, two of the most famous battle grounds in history. We got off the boat and reboarded the bus and drove for about half an hour to ANZAC cove. I distinctly remember passing fields and fields full of sunflowers all facing the sun and smiling at us.

I was surprised to find that when we reached Gallipoli, many of the tour guests did not even get off the bus. Of course, these were not the Aussie’s. I relished the opportunity to go to a place that I had spent much of my early academic life learning about. As soon as I got off the bus, I felt overwhelmed by sadness and when I read the words carved in the stone set up by Ataturk, I burst into tears. It was one of the most moving experiences of my life, and as I sit here typing this up, tears still spring to my eyes at the memory of it.

Ataturk Gallipoli
The words of Ataturk at Gallipoli

I stood on the stony beach on which the Anzac’s landed, it was eerily quiet and as I looked around, I could see the cliffs where the Turks were waiting. It was so obvious! It’s unbelievable even to me how obvious this trap would have been, and I know little to nothing of military tactics. I sat on the beach for a while and picked up two rocks, one for me and one for my mate Ray, who I had promised I would go to Gallipoli with on the 100-year anniversary of the battle. He had asked for a souvenir, but I didn’t think there would be a souvenir place at ANZAC cove. I was of course mistaken, but the souvenirs they sold were rather tacky and had little or nothing to do with Gallipoli.

The whole place was eerily calm and quiet, there were no birds or crickets, not even a gust of wind, just the noise of the trickling water on the beach. We visited lone pine cemetery and saw the actual trenches the soldiers fought in.

We were then taken to Istanbul and dropped at our relevant hotels, mine and Kylee’s were around the corner from each other. I was staying at the Erboy and she was staying at the Orient Express. The people at the Erboy were very friendly and gave me a card with a map on it to show me how to get back to the hotel should I wish to go exploring.

I was taken up to the hotel by one of the bellhops and freshened up before meeting up with Kylee to go to the Grand Bazaar with her and Aunty. We managed to find it by taking the tram, which was really nice. We entered the bazaar and I was absolutely horrified at Kylee’s reaction to it. Kylee treated it just as you would a major shopping centre in Australia! Walking in this shop and that, exclaiming how much she liked everything, I pulled her to one side and laughed, “If you continue on like this we will both walk out of here bankrupt!” “Show me how it’s done then” she said. So that’s what I did. I bought myself another scarf, bright blue this time and managed to get the price down from 30 lira to just 10. Kylee was impressed.

I told Kylee that the main secret was to never give anything away. Don’t look interested at all. Both of us wanted to by water pipes I watched Kylee attempt haggling with one shop keeper for hers, which amused me no end, as I watched her try out the techniques I had suggested. She managed to talk the guy down to about 60 lira from the 90 he had originally wanted. She came over to me and said “So, how did I do?”, “Very well, for your first go I think, remember this strategy, or you will get eaten alive when you go to Egypt!” The haggling in Turkey and the annoyance of sellers and souvenir hawkers was really quite tame compare to Egypt, whose merchants would literally chase you down the street still trying to offer you their “best price”.

Leaving in Istanbul - tour group
My tour group in Turkey

I haggled my larger water pipe down to 50 lira and even got the shop keeper to throw in some tobacco. Kylee was sizably impressed. We did some more shopping and stopped for coffee in and nice little shop. We then took our purchases back to our hotels and agreed to find a nice spot for dinner.

Smoking a cigar by the Marmara Sea
Smoking a cigar by the Marmara Sea

We walked around the fantastic old city for hours looking for somewhere nice, we walked down to the Marmara Sea, the road we took was through a slum area, in which the building all had boards on the windows and children playing in the dusty streets. We arrived at a very expensive seafood restaurant and sat down. The waiter came over to us with a very large silver platter with about six different dead fish on it, of different kinds, including this weird spiky flat fish, and asked us which one we would like. Kylee and I just looked at each other and asked what he recommended, I ended up getting calamari and what I was told was sea bass. We were brought our dinner and it was lovely. There was so much of it and again there was a little cat hanging around, so we fed her some of our fish. People were going around the tables selling things and one guy had a load of cigars. I waved to him, but he didn’t see me. When I finally called out to him, he came up and apologised, saying that he didn’t think I was waving at him as there were all females on our table, females whom he supposed did not smoke cigars.

I bought some nice cigars which I paid for in Australian Dollars, Euros, Pounds Stirling and a few Lira and got up and sat on the edge of the Marmara Sea smoking a big fat juicy one, with a Jack Daniels in the other hand. Istanbul was growing on me. The sun was setting and as I looked across the Marmara Sea, looking at the Asian part of the city, which looked very modern, the buildings and skyscrapers appeared to glow blue in the failing light. I looked behind me at the old city, only to see its minarets and mosque domes in a warm red glow in the same light, with the sea dividing the red from the blue.

We managed to get a cab back to our hotels and I said goodbye to Kylee who was leaving with Aunty for Vienna the next day. I told her she had better keep in contact with me and that she had made the tour a little more exciting for me. I would be staying one more day in Istanbul and went up to my room to have a shower and do some writing. I also made the first call to my parents from Turkey. I had not been able to figure out the phone systems and I gave it another go from my room and thankfully it worked. I was yelled at for not calling, but it couldn’t be helped.

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