Okay, so I've been slack in not posting about how fun and exciting Turkey was. And following repeated harrasment from Birte, I thought I'd get organised and write something.
If you didn't know, Andrew and I headed down to Turkey, and specifically, Gallipoli and Anzac Cove, for Anzac Day. If that doesn't mean anything to you (and probably wont, if you're not an Australian/New Zealander), go read the Aussie government web site.
It all started off pretty disastrously - I'd arranged with Andrew to meet him at my tube station at 7am; he was going to ring me when he left his house, and we'd arrive about the same time. All except, it didn't quite work out that way. I'm still sitting at home at about 7:30, waiting for him, when I find out that he's already tried to call me and somehow didn't get through, and assumed that I was already on the tube. So, he's headed off to the airport, and I'm trying to play catch up. So, not a biggy, but not an auspicious start to the week.
So, we made it there alright, and onto the flight happily. Boring flight, I tell you. I managed to see Oceans 12 on the flight - a movie I'd been wanting to go see for a while. Sorely disappointed in it. Glad I didn't pay money to go see it at the movies.
But, arrived safely in Istanbul, and met our guide there. Its very disconcerting to have your name called over the PA at the airport... Not that I heard it, but Andrew did. But after waiting ages, we got to head off to our hostel. Was quite odd driving through Istanbul - its a lot more modern than I expected. It could have been any European city. I had this image in my head of Istanbul that I got from a movie i watched a long time ago (possibly this one), an image of red brick roofs, and lots of really old buildings. But, it didn't really seem that old at all. There's lots of really old Mosques and stuff there, but the rest of the city isn't that old at all.
Anyway, we got there, met up with Paul & Lyds, who were out at dinner with some other girls from the hostel, Veronica, Shawn, and another girl (cant remember her name - she disappeared fairly quickly). Ended up having a really good night - the waiter, Alex, turned out to be completely mad (I think its a Turkish thing), and we ended up going for a wander, and drinking beer down at the harbour till all hours.
Had a lot of fun wandering around Istanbul - checking out the spice bazaar and the grand bazaar, and the mosques and general exploring. Some of the buildings there are pretty amazing - almost fairy-tale like even. The Turks are great - they're so friendly; you walk down the street, and a local will just say “hello” to you straight off. Now, a good chunk of them want to sell you a carpet, or something, but its still very friendly.
Also managed to meet up with Bec, a friend of mine from the good ol' Kmart days, who was starting her European holiday. Was pretty cool to see her after so long, even if she was seriously jet-lagged <IMG alt=":)" class="emoticon" src="/images/emotions/emotion-1.gif" border=0>.
On the Saturday morning, we jumped on our tour bus (then proceeded to sit there for an hour, waiting for some stragglers) and headed down towards Anzac Cove. After a 6 hour drive, which wasn't much fun, we ended up in Canakkale, at a youth hostel. Only problem was that our bus was full of 'yobbo' Aussies. Now, I've run into lots of Aussies while traveling (there's a surprise), but this is the first time I've really found lots of yobbos. It was pretty bad. Seemed that most people that headed to Anzac Cove were just going cos it was another stop on the Contiki tour, not for any real reason. Pretty dissapointing.
At the hostel, we had a big beach party, till all hours of the morning, where a tad too much alcohol was consumed by lots of people. Next morning, wasn't pretty. Especially when we had to climb back onto the bus, and then onto a ferry. But, that said, it was a lot of fun <IMG alt=":)" class="emoticon" src="/images/emotions/emotion-1.gif" border=0>.
After the ferry ride across the Dardanelles, we went for a bit of a tour round the battlefields. Only problem was that it was crowded. Way crowded. There's a one way road through the area, and it was chock full of tour buses. This meant that we couldn't get to see everything there, and given there was a bit of a miscommunication with the tour guide, we actually missed out on some of the good bits. But, didn't worry me that much, but the amount of whinging and whining on the bus - gah!
That night, we headed back to Anzac Cove, to the ceremony area. We arrived at about 10pm or so, and there was probably already 8-10,000 people there. So, given that it wasn't exactly a big area, it was kinda crowded. But, as we were trying to find a place to sit, we managed to almost step on Shawn and Veronica, and promptly sat with them. We ended up climbing under the stands, and sleeping there, with lots of space, whereas lots of people had about 2 square inches each... <IMG alt=":)" class="emoticon" src="/images/emotions/emotion-1.gif" border=0>
The dawn service was good. It was kinda weird, as many of the people there didn't know how to behave/react at a service, and a lot of the time, there was applause at the oddest things. But, all in all, it was good to be there. Definitely glad I went. It was a weird atmosphere there though. It was very crowded, and it was almost a gig atmosphere. People didn't seem to realise that they were at a commemoration/remembrance service. The amount of alcohol that was confiscated at the gate was quite scary. Apparently the previous year, they had fights between drunk people...
After the service, we all packed up, and trudged up to Lone Pine cemetery. Only problem was that someone had accidentally taken my sleeping bag (which wasn't mine, and didn't actually belong to the person I borrowed it from...) - at least i hope it was accidentally. Also, seeing the amount of rubbish left behind was disgusting. Everyone had backpacks - they could have taken the rubbish with them (interesting comments about this on the news limited site).
At the Lone Pine cemetery, it was quite odd. There were stands set up around the edges of the graves, with the altar/memorial at one end. Most people headed for the stands, but others (even when the stands weren't full), just headed out and sat on the grass. Never mind that the grass was on top of someone's grave. People were just sitting there, some sun-baking, some sleeping, some using headstones as pillows. We saw a girl sitting there brushing her hair, another a few feet away brushing her teeth. They didn't seem to see anything wrong either. I understand that there weren't enough seats, but i don't think thats a good excuse.
What made it even worse, was when the crowd starting doing things like mexican waves, and shouting “Aussie, Aussie, Aussie, Oi, Oi, Oi“, or when someone got out a blowup beach ball, and started hitting that round. The 'mob' didn't seem to consider the fact that they were at a graveyard, and that they should've been respectful. I understand that it was 90 years ago, and no-one is that closely related to anyone who died then, but that doesn't even come close to excusing their behaviour.
Anyway, at one point just before the start of the service, they announced that there was some spare seats available at the front, and if there were any veterans in the crowd, they should come forward. As about half a dozen came forward, they got a spontaneous standing ovation. That was quite something, and quite moving.
After that, we headed back (eventually) to our hostel, for the night, and then the next day, back to Istanbul, leaving Paul & Lyds behind as they went off on the travels round Turkey. Andrew and I splurged and went to the Turkish Baths, which was pretty cool. Not something to do if you're too homophobic. Getting scrubbed and soaped and massaged by a big, hairy, ugly Turkish guy wearing nothing but a towel is quite scary. Was a good experience, but nowhere near long enough for the price - 28 YTL (about £11, or $28).
Once again, we met up with Shawn and Veronica, and went out for dinner. We got talking to the waiter, and went out on the town with him. It was pretty cool - going to places that you wouldn't find unless you were a local. Only problem was that it was a Tuesday night, so not many people out, but was fun nonetheless. Kinda regretted being out till 4am when we had to get up about 8.30am the next morning to do last minute shopping and then head to the airport.
And that my friends, is the excitement that was Turkey. Well, I didn't mention the 8 billion cups of apple tea that we had, or the nice breakfasts we had, or the scrumptious food we had, or the nice weather, or the carpet that Lyds bought, or the turkish coffees we had (have you ever tried drinking mud?), or the... ahh never mind...
Oh, and I'm currently in the process of uploading some photos, so I'll update this with some pic's when thats done.