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Çanakkale - Pilgrimage to Gallipoli

Turkey

sunny 28 °C
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Ayşegül and I arrived in Çanakkale (pronounced: Cha-na-ka-leh) after a six hour bus trip from Istanbul ending with a short ferry ride from Eceabat on the Gallipoli Penisula. Çanakkale is a nice little city with a picturesque waterfront and lively atmosphere. It's also probably the best launching pad for day trips to Gallipoli as there really isn't much choice in terms of accomodation on the Gallipoli Peninsula side.

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Just after we arrived in Çanakkale, this nice man asked if we could get a picture of us together on my camera, just so he could show his daughter the preview

Anyone who is not familiar with the Gallipoli campaign of WWI, it remains the most significant military campaign for both Australians and New Zealanders. Each year on the 25th of April, both countries commemorate ANZAC (Australian and New Zealand Army Corps) day. It was on this day in 1915 when the allied forces landed on the beaches of the Gallipoli Peninsula as part of a joint British and French operation to capture the Ottoman capital of Istanbul. The campaign was unsuccessful and boths sides suffered heavy losses. The struggle to defend it sowed the seeds for the Turkish War of Independence which led to the formation of the Turkish Republic under Mustafa Kemal Atatürk who was himself a Turkish commander at Gallipoli.

I had been in Turkey on ANZAC day (25th of April), but I was at the other end of the country having just crossed the border from Syria, this combined with the fact you usually need to book accomodation well in advance, I decided to skip trying to get to Gallipoli on ANZAC day itself and instead visit when I could find a place to stay and when it wasn't so crowded with visitors. Actually, having spoken to an Australian girl in Olympos who had been to Gallipoli on ANZAC day, I was very glad I hadn't been there at the time. She told me about gangs of drunken Aussies roaming the streets of Çanakkale making fools of themselves and annoying the locals. She said they were definitely the minority, but the way they acted was undoubtedly tainting the image of Australia and New Zealand in the area.

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The main avenue in Çanakkale after some light rain

We got up pretty early and set off on the short ferry back to Eceabat on the Gallipoli Peninsula. From Eceabat we then took a local bus to the Kabatepe Information Centre where there was also a tiny museum. Ayşegül had already visited Gallipoli, including the museum, so I popped in for a quick look around on my own. The one-room museum housed several display cases containing items such as photos, letters and uniforms from both the Allied and Turkish forces dating back to the March 1915 landings during WWI.

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Coming in to dock at Eceabat on the Gallipoli Peninsula from Çanakkale

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Bullets which hit each other in the air, Kabatepe Museum, Gallipoli Peninsula - gives you an idea of how many bullets were flying around

From the museum we travelled by foot for a few kilometers up the coast until we reached the ANZAC Commemorative Site. The sun was shining and each of the spots we stopped by were virtually empty. Being there, I could imagine what it would be like during ANZAC day with all the large crowds and tour buses driving around so I was really glad to be there on that beautiful day with no one around - I think it was a really nice way to visit Gallipoli.

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Walking down a road on the Gallipoli Peninsula

Our walk brought us to several cemetaries along the coast and in each one it was quite easy to spot the NZ soldier graves because someone had placed red poppy flowers against their bases.

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Arı Burnu Beach Cemetery, Gallipoli Peninsula

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Cemetery near ANZAC landing spot, Gallipoli Peninsula

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A NZ Soldier's grave in Arı Burnu Beach Cemetery, Gallipoli Peninsula -

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Nice quote by Mustafa Kemal Atatürk located near ANZAC Cove which Ayşegül pointed out to me, Gallipoli Peninsula

If you can't read the quote, it says:

"THOSE HEROES THAT SHED THEIR BLOOD
AND LOST THEIR LIVES...
YOU ARE NOW LIVING IN THE SOIL OF A FRIENDLY COUNTRY.
THEREFORE REST IN PEACE.
THERE IS NO DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THE JOHNNIES
AND THE MEHMETS TO US WHERE THEY LIE SIDE BY SIDE
HERE IN THIS COUNTRY OF OURS...
YOU, THE MOTHERS,
WHO SENT THEIR SONS FROM FAR AWAY COUNTRIES
WIPE AWAY YOUR TEARS;
YOUR SONS ARE NOW LIVING IN OUR BOSOM
AND ARE IN PEACE.
AFTER HAVING LOST THEIR LIVES ON THIS LAND THEY HAVE
BECOME OUR SONS AS WELL."

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ANZAC Cove, Gallipoli Peninsula

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ANZAC Commemorative Site, Gallipoli Peninsula

Unfortunately we didn't get close to visiting all the memorial sites around the Peninsula - not only is it a really big place, but hunger and tired limbs started to set in and we had taken most of the day to walk just a small part along the coast surrounding ANZAC cove.

On our return trip on the ferry we stood out on the corner of one of the decks to watch the scenery and almost immediately we were swarmed by a small group of school girls who'd been out on a school trip. Most of them were shy but a couple of them were a little more cheeky and it didn't take them long to identify me as a foreigner. Their English wasn't so good, so they mainly spoke with Ayşegül, asking her dozens of questions about us, giggling throughout, you know, like young school girls do. It wasn't long before their cameras came out resulting in an extended photo shoot.

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Cornered by a group of school girls on the ferry from Gallipoli Peninsula to Çanakkale - the two on my right were the ring leaders

The Dardanelles Strait between the Gallipoli Peninsula and the Çanakkale side was most beautiful at sunset when the sun disappeared behind the hills of the Peninsula.

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Çanakkale waterfront at twilight

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Me and Ayşegül at the waterfront in Çanakkale

Have I mentioned the food in Turkey is delicious? While we were in Çanakkale, Ayşegül introduced me to Tantuni (finely chopped snippets of beef are stir-fried with water, oil, onions, tomatoes and herbs, then stuffed into a half loaf of bread) and Şalgam (a delicious spicy juice made from black carrot pickles, salted, spiced, and flavoured with aromatic fermented turnips) - my mouth is watering as I write this just thinking about it. For me, Turkish food has raced up in to my top three favourite types of food, right next to Indian and Mexican.

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Trojan Horse model statue, Çanakkale - the legendary city of Troy wasn't very far from Çanakkale

Another spot to visit in Çanakkale was the Naval Museum. It consisted mostly of old WWI cannons, sea mines, the shell of an old submarine and a replica of the minelayer Nusrat.

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Fort Çimenlik in background at the Naval Museum, Çanakkale

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Destroyed submarine, Naval Museum, Çanakkale

It was also in Çanakkale where I was when the Football World Cup started (that's how far behind my blog is!) - I remember my disappointment with Mexico as they could barely manage a 1 - 1 draw against South Africa, on the other hand, I was quite happy the cup hosts didn't loose. Luckily Ayşegül was suffering from Cup fever just as much as I was so I didn't have to go and watch the matches all by myself.

After Çanakkale we made a brief stop in the small beachside town of Ören, a little farther south the coast. It was like a resort town, but more for Turkish people rather than foreign tourists. It was the first, and probably last, time I stayed in a resort-like hotel. It wasn't a particularly flash resort - you could tell it had been around for years due to the 70's retro style decor. The high season was ending so the pool was surrounded by empty sun recliners and the bar next to the pool was almost always deserted. The other guests at the hostel were mostly families with young children. Ören was all about relaxing in the sun and it was just what I needed.

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Ören beach from hotel balcony

We only went swimming at the beach once because during the day the seas were quite rough and even though the waves were small the sea was quite murky and turbulent.

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Docked boats in Ören

After Ören it was a quick bus ride to Ayvalik which was a good place to catch a ferry to my next destination, Greece. Like Ören, Ayvalik was also a small town, but slightly bigger and with a livelier waterfront. The main seafront was lined with day-trip cruise ships and small cafes. We found a nice little bar called the White Night Cafe right near the water with a big screen tv where we could watch the football world cup. We must have watched about a dozen games in that bar whilst drinking countless cheap beers (cheap in price, not quality).

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View from waterfront cafe, Ayvalik

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The White Knight Cafe - Our own little Football World Cup viewing venue, Ayvalik

As quaint and beautiful as Ayvalik was, it didn't have many prominent historical sight-seeing locations. The most obvious was a 19th-century church of Ayios Ioannis which was converted into a mosque and is now known as Saatlı Camii (Mosque with a Clock). This church-turned-mosque is quite rare because when churches were converted into mosques, structures like bell or clock towers were usually demolished or replaced by minarets.

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Saatlı Camii (Mosque with a Clock), Ayvalik

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Horse and cart down narrow street, Ayvalik

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Definition of pure ecstasy, Ayvalik

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Ayşegül with the night sky in Ayvalik

Ayvalik was to be the last place I would visit in Turkey. Seventy-four days after I'd entered Turkey from Syria, I regretfully said goodbye to Turkey and Ayşegül and left on a ferry to the Greek island of Lesvos - which I'll tell you right now, ended up being a little disappointing for several reasons.

There are too many things about Turkey that I loved to mention (after all, I did stay there for almost three months), but here are some of them:

  • The people - the vast majority were warm and friendly
  • The towns and cities - Istanbul, Olympos, Çanakkale and Selçuk being my favourite
  • The food - I didn't really know what to expect beyond kebabs, but I was pleasantly surprised by it all, particularly the food I had at Saban Pension in Olympos
  • The inter-city bus system - modern, comfortable and reasonably affordable. They are definitely the best way to travel around Turkey
  • The secular society - For a country which is claimed to be 98% muslim (this is highly debatable) the secular roots installed by Mustafa Kemal Atatürk should be a model to other muslim countries, sure it still has some problems with fundamentalism and the current government leans more towards Islamic values, but relatively speaking it is quite liberal (though some might disagree with me)

I can't think of anything bad about the country and I can definitely see myself visiting again - this time taking the time to visit the north and eastern parts of the country which are very different to the west.

Until my next destination... elveda!

Posted by joshuag 04:25 Archived in Turkey Tagged turkey anzac gallipoli wwi ören ayvalik Comments (2)

Istanbul - F1 Racing in Europe's Culture Capital

Turkey

all seasons in one day 25 °C
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Another long blog, but it was an awesome city and had some good times...

I arrived in Istanbul (not Constantinople) on a sunny morning after an overnight bus from Selçuk. The first thing I noticed about the city, was how vast it was. Once the bus had reached the edge of the city, I thought it was just a matter of minutes before we stopped at the otogar (bus station)... but it was about an hour later before we finally arrived at the huge station on the west of the city - though admittedly traffic was bad but we did cover a lot of ground.

Everything I'd heard about it seemed true, that is, it's East meets West and there's lots going on, the architecture, the life and the harbour skyline was turly impressive. It was busy, but it felt safe and generally very clean and modern looking.

I took the subway and a tram from the otogar to Sultanahment, the historical and touristy part of Istanbul where I was staying (in a not-so cheap hostel).

All in all, I spent quite a few days doing the "sight-seeing thing" in old Istanbul (Sultanahmet). One of the first sight-seeing spots I stumbled upon in Istanbul, was the Hippodrome of Constaniople near the Blue Mosque. Once upon a time it was an arena for chariot races and other entertainment, but nowdays it looks like a modest public park containing a few monuments. One of these monuments was the Obelisk of Pharaoh Tuthmose III which was originally located in the Temple of Karnak in Luxor, Egypt. I actually remember reading about it when I was at that temple back in February. It was built some 3,500 years ago and in AD 390, Emperor Thedosius stole it and erected it in the center of the Hippodrome. But then this obelisk is only one of the vast number of ancient monuments or statues that have been stolen from Egypt over the centuries. Since the time I was in Instanbul, I've come across several more precious Egyptian artifacts in museums and squares all over Europe - I'd be a little angry if I was Egyptian.

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Obelisk of Tuthmose III (foreground) and Column of Constantine (background) in Hippodrome of Constantinople, Istanbul

After the Hippodrome, it was a quick stroll next door to the Blue Mosque, which to my surprise, had no admission fees. It was of course, very crowded - actually since the Blue Mosque is adjacent to Haya Sophia, the entire area in between the two mosques was always buzzing with tourists.

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The legendary Blue Mosque

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Internal courtyard of the Blue Mosque

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Inside the Blue Mosque

I liked the Blue Mosque, the huge internal columns and the stained glass windows were a marvel to look at, but I personally liked Hagia Sophia better. Hagia Sophia wasn't as pretty as the Blue Mosque from the outside (at least during the day it wasn't) but the interior was a little more impressive. This is probably because it was first a cathedral, then later a mosque. So far I've found that mosque's tend to be more of a monolithic rectangles inside with fancy domes and minarets (towers) on the outside, whereas cathedrals are just as fancy outdoors, but the insides are generally more intricate.

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The world famous Hagia Sophia, which is directly opposite the Blue Mosque

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Inside Hagia Sophia

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Main hall and dome ceiling of Hagia Sophia, Istanbul

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Gold Mosaic Panel of Christian figures in Hagia Sophia

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Hagia Sophia at night - which to me looked much better than in daylight

After that I went to the Basilica Cistern only a short distance from Hagia Sophia. It is the largest of several hundred ancient cisterns (water resevoirs) that lie beneath Istanbul. It was built in the 6th Century AD during Emperor Justinian's time. It's basically a huge underground chamber measuring approx 138 by 65 meters whose roof is supported by 336 marble columns. Little walkways suspended above about 1 foot of water guide you around some of the marble columns which are lit up by glowing orange lights. The cistern is easily missed because of its relatively hidden entrance and I only went there because another traveller recommended it to me (I'd skimmed over it in my Lonely Planet). I have to admit that it was quite impressive and I enjoyed it more because I didn't know what to expect.

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Columns of the Basilica Cistern in Sultanahment, Istanbul

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Only a small part of the huge area covered by the Basilica Cistern, Istanbul

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Upside down Medusa head at base of supporting column at the Basilica Cistern, Istanbul

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A tram in the suburub of Sultanahmet (Old Istanbul)

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A Whirling Dervish in Sultanahmet

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Gardens in Topkapı Palace which is next to Haya Sophia

After my main sightseeing was over, it was time for some fun. Basically since the time before I left New Zealand, my hope was that I'd get to go to at least one Formula 1 Grand Prix race somewhere in the world. As it turned out, the race in Istanbul coincided with my journey perfectly.

I was also in luck because the Turkish GP is one of the least attended races of the year and I'd have no trouble getting tickets for it (for most of the other races the tickets are sold out well in advance). I didn't even have to book tickets over the internet, I just turned up at the ticket office at the race track to get mine and it only cost a mere 70 TL (NZ$ 70) for a general admission ticket.

For anyone that doesn't know much about Formula 1 GP racing, each event is held over an entire weekend, Friday to Sunday. On the Friday they do a couple of practice sessions, then on the Saturday they do another practice session followed by a qualifying session. It is at the qualifying session where they determine which place on the starting grid they will start the big race on the Sunday. I decided to skip the Friday practice sessions, but I did go on the Saturday and, of course, the Sunday.

As I was having breakfast at the hostel early on the Saturday morning before heading out to the race track, I happened to meet an Australian guy, Ryan, who was also going to the Grand Prix. We decided to team up and go together which turned out great because I think it turned out to be more fun than going alone, plus the fact that he was even more into Formula 1 than I was. Actually, I'd never met anyone who knew Formula 1 the way he did. He knew details about drivers, teams and past races that probably most of the sport's commentators don't know or can't remember. I mean, he was really a bonafide Formula 1 geek. I say that in the nicest way of course because I'm proud to call myself an F1 geek too.

So we set off on one of the special buses that the city puts on that take spectators to the track from stops in the main suburbs of Istanbul. The track is not really in the city, but more towards the west on the outskirts so the bus took about an hour and a half to get there. As we were walking from the bus to the ticket office, we met and started talking to three Brits, two sisters and their dad, who were huge Formula 1 fans. We all got general admission tickets which technically only allowed us to enter the grassy areas in between the seated grand stands, of which there were several dotted around the track.

Ryan and I sat on one of the grassy hills for the practice session and there we met up with the English family again. This is the first time I ever got to hear an F1 engine live and it didn't disappoint. I knew I was definitely going to need my ear plugs come race day. After the practice session, there was a break for an hour so Ryan and I together with the Brits, decided to head over to the gate of one of the grand stands where they also sold food. I forget how much I paid for a hot dog and a couple of beers, but it was nothing short of extortion at around four times the amount you'd pay in the city! After food, we all decided to try our luck and enter one of the grand stands because security looked pretty sparse and we'd heard they didn't care too much where you sat on the Saturday anyway. It wasn't the main grandstand on the straight where the start-finish line was, but it was a stand on turn 8, which is part of the course where there were a series of really fast corners and there was even a large video screen in front of it (I say large but it was actually quite small and difficult to see). At least we'd know what was going on with the big screen because at the first place we sat, you had no idea what times the drivers were setting around the track, let alone whether someone had an accident or something. Fortunately we got in to the grandstand quite easily and we had a good viewing position for the entire qualifying session.

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Michael Schumacher during qualifing, Turkish F1 GP, Istanbul

So Michael Schumacher isn't doing so well this year (the first in his big comeback after three years of retirement) but at least I got to see him racing. Not that he's my favorite driver at all, in fact, he's done some pretty controversial things in his time like allegedly running other drivers off the road and blocking others during qualifying, but at seven times the world champion nobody can deny that he's still a legend of the sport.

After qualifying, it was back on the bus back to Istanbul. Ryan and I hunted for some dinner in Taksim, which is on the northern (European) part of Istanbul and is definitely one of the busiest. After dinner we wandered around the area for a while before heading back to the hostel to have an early night before heading back to the race track early the next morning.

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Me and Ryan after dinner in busy Taksim - there's one particular area of Taksim that is just street after street full of bars and restaurants

Ryan and I decided to team up for the trip to the race track once again so after breakfast the next morning we were off! Since we'd been successful in getting in to one of the minor grandstands the previous day, we half joked about trying our luck with the main grandstand in front of the pit-straight. To be honest, I didn't rate our chances very highly, but I happened to be with the perfect person for such a caper. Once we arrived, we scoped out all the entrances to the main grandstand (there were about five different gates leading to different sections) and we saw that each gate had around four or five different officials. They were checking tickets, searching bags and putting arm bands on people's wrists. At this point I lost all hope of sneaking in and started to walk away from the grandstand. But before I'd even taken a step, I turned around and found Ryan was already deep inside the nearest gate area and he was looking at me motioning for me to come over. I walked in straight after him, smiled at one of the girls and stuck my arm out so she could place a band around my wrist, she didn't even batter an eye lid and kindly complied. It turned out we had walked in at the absolute perfect time when three of the officials were distracted as they checked other people's bags and in the confusion combined with our cheeky confidence, the other two officials must have thought our tickets had already been checked and just let us in! We couldn't believe our luck and once we'd climbed up the stairs and entered the grandstand it was high-fives all round. As it happens, we had not only snuck into the main grandstand, it was the Platinum section right in front of the start-finish line and with a perfect view of a huge TV screen. After the race I checked the internet and discovered tickets to this area cost 660 TL (yep, that's NZ$660!) and we got in with our paltry 70 TL general admission passes - needless to say we were chuffed.

Eventually the grandstand filled up considerably and we had to move a couple of times when people turned up to claim their seats, but we still ended up with excellent seats because the grandstand wasn't absolutely full to capacity (probably because it was too expensive for the average Turkish GP fan).

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Me (left), Ryan (right) waiting for race to start from Main Grandstand

I don't usually buy souvenirs or merchendise, but this was a special occasion. In the photo above I'm wearing a Sebastian Vettel T-shirt, he's German and is my favourite driver. Ryan, being an Aussie, is of course a fan of Mark Webber so he's got a Webber T-shirt on. As it happens Webber and Vettel are team mates in the Red Bull team. In a way I'm kind of glad there isn't a Kiwi driver in F1 because I get to choose a driver to support based on ability and personality rather than for patriotic reasons.

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Race about to start

Video of the actual start of the Turkish F1 GP - You couldn't not wear ear-plugs from the grand stand, you would seriously go deaf after only a couple of laps.

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Sebastian Vettel crossing the start line at the Turkish F1 Grand Prix during the race

Unfortunately, the Turkish GP was a disaster for the Red Bull team and Sebastian Vettel in particular because about half way through the race, Vettel tried to pass his own team mate (Webber) and they collided with eachother resulting in a huge accident. Worst of all was that before the crash Webber was running in first place and Vettel was coming second. Unfortunately this resulted in Vettel crashing out of the race completely and Webber got a puncture which eventually saw him finish the race in third place. Ryan and I of course debated who was at fault and although it was disappointing, it didn't bother me too much because I was just glad to be there, especially being lucky enough to be on the main grandstand.

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The winners podium after the Turkish Grand Prix - Jensen Button (2nd place), Lewis Hamilton (1st place) and Webber (3rd place)

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The hoardes of people streaming out of the Turkish F1 Grand Prix

A couple of days after the race, I arranged to meet up with Ayşegül for a coffee in Taksim. As I mentioned in my Olympos blog, she worked as a marshal at the Grand Prix and we'd kept in contact via email before I got to Istanbul but she'd been too busy before and during the race weekend to catch up. It turns out she was posted at the part of the track where I would have been sitting had we not snuck in to the main grandstand. Even funnier was that during a break before the race she put up a sign with my name on it so I could find her, but of course I wasn't there to see it - though she did get lots of people in the crowd yelling, "I'm Josh! I'm Josh".

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Ayşegül and I having Turkish coffee in Taksim

I didn't have any definite plans on where to go after Istanbul and I was enjoying the city so much I decided to stay a while longer. Instead of staying in Sultanahment, I moved to another hostel in Taksim where it wasn't so touristy - still increadibly busy though. I spent my remaining days in Istanbul, hanging out with Ayşegül around Taksim and sheltering from the rain which arrived with a vengeance for a couple of days.

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The incredibly busy Istiklal Caddesi in Taksim, Istanbul

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Restaurants under Galata Bridge and Yeni (new) Mosque in background - We went to one of the restaurants here where Ayşegül introduced me to balik-ekmek (fish sandwich) which is a traditional Turkish meal

I happened to be in Istanbul while the controversial boarding of the lead boat in the Gaza aid flotilla by Israeli Commandos. This raid resulted in the deaths of nine Turkish pro-Palestinian activists. The day it happened I saw lots of young men walking around wearing bandanas and carrying what looked like Palestinian flags, but I didn't know what it was all about. The next evening, Ayşegül and I walked through Taksim Square to find a huge protest group. It wasn't violent or anything and in fact it looked organised with a small stage and microphones. Needless to say, the Turkish government was also not amused by what happened and would have supported the protestors.

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Protest rally against Israel at Taksim Square the day after the incident

I really liked Istanbul and I already know I'll be back there one day, but eventually I had to leave the city or I would not get to see other parts of Turkey, in particular Gallipoli, which is as close as it comes to a pilgrimage destination for a Kiwi (which is not saying much). Ayşegül, was on holiday and she herself had been travelling around Turkey so I asked her if she wanted to come with me and show me around the western coast of Turkey. She agreed and early one afternoon we were on a bus on the way to Çanakkale, a decent sized town near the Gallipoli Peninsula ...but that's the subject of another blog.

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Stray Cat hostel ...looks like the word got out

Until the next installment...

Posted by joshuag 09:18 Archived in Turkey Tagged turkey istanbul constantinople sultanahmet formula_1 f1 taksim turkish_grand_prix turkish_f1 Comments (2)

Ephesus & Saklıkent Gorge - Waist-Deep in More Ruins

Turkey

sunny 24 °C
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As I eluded to in my last post, I departed Olympos with two Aussies, Scottie and Charlotte, on our way to Ölüdeniz near Fethiye. Our main reason for heading there was because it was a good base to visit the nearby Saklıkent Gorge (or Canyon).

Our first night in Ölüdeniz was very quiet and involved a couple of beers, a game or two of table tennis and our discovery of the most delicious chicken kebabs in Turkey - actually I had got my Turkish words for "chicken" ("tavuk") and "wrap" ("durum") mixed up so, in each of the three occasions we ate there, I confidently offered to order for all of us by saying, "Three chicken tavuk lütfen!". So in effect I was asking for "Three Chicken chickens please!"... The women at the fast food joint were so nice they held back from laughing at us.

Early the next morning we set off on our trip to the canyon 50 km to the east of Ölüdeniz. The canyon is 18 kms long and in parts is 300 meters deep. Only about 4 km of the canyon is accessible by foot and it can only be done during summer. The very beginning of the canyon is narrow and the water is too deep to walk through so the only way in is through a wooden walk way bolted to the side of the cliff.

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The path just past the entrance to Saklıkent Gorge

Once past the deep and narrow entrance, the gorge widened a little and we passed a small but violent waterfall that fed water to the last part of the canyon. After this waterfall there wasn't as much water flowing through the main canyon but the water became extremly murky, which is what made walking up the canyon a challenge. Most parts were knee deep but others were just above the waist level and there was no way to tell which parts were which (a walking stick would have been handy).

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The shallow part at the beginning of Saklıkent Gorge

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Treading carefully in Saklıkent Gorge

Two seconds after I took the above photo, the girl with the yellow top lost her sandal and it floated slowly away from all of us. She pleaded for someone to run after it and stop it but we were all just as far away from it as she was and we didn't know how deep it got so we stood there with the old "don't look at me" looks on our faces. Her boyfriend standing on the bank on the other side didn't seem to try too hard to go after it either. We didn't stick around long enough to see if it was rescued or not. The three of us were all wearing snug wet-socks that we hired to protect our feet so we weren't in danger of loosing ours.

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The incredible looking Saklıkent Gorge

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One of several precarious looking rocks in Saklıkent Gorge

We were never in much danger of being swept away as the canyon alternated between deep and shallow points every so often, but we were always in danger of getting our cameras wet if we accidentally stepped into a deep spot so it was quite slow going. Most of it was quite easy, but certain areas were quite tricky and they involved climbing over boulders or walking around the edges of the canyon hugging the cliff side where it wasn't so deep.

Eventually, after about 2-3 kms, we reached a waterfall and although we could have continued physically, going underneath it would have resulted in the end of our cameras as well as everything else we were carrying, so at this point we decided to turn back.

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The waterfall at the end of our walk through Saklıkent Gorge

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Charlotte and Scottie at the waterfall in Saklıkent Gorge

There were local guides walking up and down the canyon helping people navigate their way through tricky areas. Inevitably, one of them tried to guide us without us asking for his help. I was a bit reluctant to accept his help because at that point we were managing quite well and we knew ulitmately it would lead to demands for money. As it turned out, he did turn out to be quite helpful when we reached parts where it got deeper and the current became much stronger. He obviously knew the river bed like the back of his hand because he knew exactly where we needed to step and he didn't even hesitate as he strolled through the area like a cheetah. On our return he also took us over a large boulder which we had previously waded around on our own with the water lapping up to our chests.

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On way back through Saklıkent Gorge - We used the guide's knee and hand as steps to get past this large boulder

A few hours after we started, we were back at the entrance to the gorge with a bit of time to spare before the next public minibus departed for Ölüdeniz. Once back in Ölüdeniz, we indulged in another "Chicken chicken", before we embarked on a long walk down the valley to the beach so we could catch the sunset.

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View of Ölüdeniz Beach from top of valley - I have to stop doing that pose, it's getting old now

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Me, Scottie and Charlotte at Ölüdeniz Beach

The actual town of Ölüdeniz wasn't much to write home about, in fact it didn't feel like we were in Turkey at all. The town is full of British tourists, lots of families and plenty of middle-aged men who paraded around proudly with no shirts on, their pasty white pot bellies hanging over their too-short shorts. Even the Union Jack was flying more prevalently than the Turkish flag throughout the town. All the stores, restaurants, bars and hotels had English signs and the restaurant menus were dominated by items like steak, chips and mushy peas - I guess the locals are willing to put up with this pseudo-invasion in exchange for those precious tourist dollars (or should I say pounds).

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A rather contrived action pose during one of our table tennis matches at a bar in Ölüdeniz

Early the next day Scottie and Charlotte sadly returned to London (where they are working) and I jumped on a bus to Selçuk in the Izmir province on the west coast of Turkey.

Even though Selçuk has its fair share of tourists, it doesn't feel like they've overrun the place. The cafes were full of locals (mainly men) playing backgammon and oKey (a traditional Turkish board game) and most of the people out walking around appeared to be Turkish. This was surprising considering that this is the town at the door step to what once was the second largest city in the Roman empire (after Rome).

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Fountain and Aquaduct (with stalks nesting on top) in the center of Selçuk

The day I chose to visit Ephesus (also known as Efes) was almost unbareably hot and the crowds were out in droves, but it was still well worth it. The amazing columned facade at the Library of Celsus was easily the most impressive structure. The Great Theatre would have been just as amazing had part of it not been obstructed by the ubiquitous cranes, fences and scaffolding I keep on coming across during my trip. I tell you, with all the scaffolding I've seen ruining the vistas of major tourist attractions, I predict that it should be an excellent time to go backpacking in around 2012.

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The Great Theatre in Ephesus - only by the use of a clever angle and on-the-fly cropping was I able to obscure the crane and fencing to one side of it

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The amazing Library of Celsus in Ephesus

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Curetes street leading to the Library of Celsus from the Upper Agora in Ephesus

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Stone relief in Curetes street, Ephesus

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Odeion (Small Theatre) taken from Upper Agora, Ephesus

After Ephesus, I visited the Monument of St. John which was on top of a small hill near the site of one of the seven wonders of the ancient world, namely, the Temple of Artemis, built circa 550 BC. In fact from the walls around the monument of St. John, you could get a decent view of the remnants of this ancient wonder. Unfortunately, little more than a single column is still standing... I guess that's better than nothing.

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If you look hard enough in the center of the photo, you can see the last remaining column of Temple of Artemis (one of original Seven Wonders of the Ancient World) - view from Monument of St. John, Selçuk

The Monument of St. John is supposed to be where St. John, Jesus's favourite disciple (or one could say, his main hommie), came on a holiday sometime between 37 and 48 AD (or it was a pilgrimage, it's something like that anyway). It's also the place where he was supposedly buried and also legend has it that when he came here, he was acompanied by the "Virgin" Mary.

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Monument (Basilica) of St. John, Selçuk

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My reflection (I'm such a poser) in glass barrier of tomb in Monument of St. John, Selçuk

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Tomb of St. John, Selçuk

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Basilica of St. John, Selçuk

I was leaving Selçuk the next day on a sleeper bus so I had the entire day to continue exploring, but after all the walking I'd been doing on the previous few days, I could only muster the strength to go to visit the Ephesus museum followed by a trip to a shady park were I lay on the grass, relaxing, watching life go by (right next to a big dried dog turd which I didn't notice until I got up and stepped on it).

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Various statues in Epheus Museum in Selçuk

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Statue of Fertility Goddess Artemis with rows of egg-like breasts in Ephesus Museum, Selçuk

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Model of Temple of Artemis (one of original Seven Wonders of the World) in Ephesus Museum

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Night time view of Aquaduct in Selçuk as I walked to the otogar (bus station)

While I was travelling around Turkey I had noticed that in most otogars (bus stations) there were what seemed like feverish celebrations with music and dancing. I found out later that they were all send-offs to all the new military recruits (it is compulsory for every male from 18 to 41 to serve up to 15 months in the military). There must have been a whole bunch from Selçuk being conscripted because the day I left it was mayhem at the otogar with lots of Turkish flags, drums, trumpets and singing.

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Farewell celebrations to some young military recruits at Selçuk otogar

And so, I myself said farewell to Selçuk also. My next stop would become one of my favourite cities in this little journey of mine.

Posted by joshuag 10:55 Archived in Turkey Tagged turkey ephesus selcuk efes saklikent saklikent_gorge artemis st._john saklıkent_canyon temple_of_artemis Comments (0)

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