A Travellerspoint blog

18: Harem Scarem

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A nice relaxing morning today after my very long day yesterday. I spent the morning reading my book and writing my blog before I decided just before lunch time to head out and see the Topgapki palace. The palace was the home to the Ottoman Sultan and today the complex is one large museum.

The entry to the palace is a pretty jaw dropping entry- huge gates that are covered in mosaics! The first thing I noticed after entering the complex was the amount of green.. The complex is home to many trees and small flowering shrubs.. Really pleasant after the chaos of Istanbul! The palace is constructed of marble and many of the surfaces are covered in mosaics. My first stop was to see the council chambers that was used by the sultan’s government (the Ottoman Empire was a complete autocracy; the government was there to advice the sultan and manage the day to day issues). From here I lined up (today is a Sunday and the day before the start of a Muslim holiday so the palace is really packed!) to see the Ottoman treasury. The interior to the Treasury is chocked full of arms, jewellery and other precious objects (goblets etc). The arms were probably my favourite, esp the jewel encrusted curved swords and the sultan’s bows and arrows. The jewellery was the usual impressive diamond, sapphire, ruby hoard and of course GOLD!

I then spent my remaining time inside the harem palace. This is the area that the Sultan’s wives, concubines and mother lived (and the sultan was only next door). This part of the palace is probably the most beautiful. Most rooms are lavishly decorated with mosaics and many of the rooms have beautiful stained glass windows. The harem was protected by the Sultan’s eunuchs, so in order to enter the harem palace you first pass through the eunuchs’ quarters, which in themselves are pretty impressive! The walkways through the palace are covered in small rocks (black and grey) that have been arranged in patterns and swirls.. really impressive walkway (might need to be something I consider doing one day when I have a house again!)

I then spent my last couple of hours in Turkey back down at the Spice market area looking for a couple of souvenirs that I have had my eye on for the whole trip. My last opportunity to bargain was quite enjoyable because I think for once I actually got a bargain!!! My last dinner was my last shish at the hotel restaurant and then early night for tomorrow’s flight off to Egypt!!

Posted by weary_feet 22:19 Archived in Turkey Comments (0)

17: Lest we forget

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V early start this morning because the bus picked me up at 6.30 for my trip out to Gallipoli (only 3 of us on this largish bus, so not overly efficient!). The bus trip took us just under 5 hours and I spent most of this fast asleep so I can’t really comment on the surrounds! We did stop about 8am for some brekky at a road side stop (more Karsali—cheese—toast for me!) and some snacks before we continued our drive out to Gallipoli.

We finally arrived just after 11.30 and sat down to watch a doco on the Gallipoli campaign before we sat down for some lunch. During lunch we were joined by at least 15 others and drove out to the peninsula. The peninsula itself is one big memorial with at least 20 odd memorials in evidence. Our first stop on our trip was to ‘Brighton’ beach. This was the supposed landing site for the campaign and is relatively flat. Unfortunately on the night of the campaign this beach was missed (the current’s floated the boats further north) dooming the Gallipoli campaign.

As a quick reminder, the campaign was a three pronged approach- the French and British from the south and the ANZAC’s from the west. On the night of the attack the boats floated off course and instead of landing on Brighton beach the ANZACs arrived further north at ANZAC cove. The difference in placement is probably less than a km but the difference in terrain is marked. Brighton beach has a gentle slope that once you have climbed finds you directly on the edge of the ridge line, up towards Chunuk Bair (the highest point on the peninsula). ANZAC cove is quite small, and the terrain rises very quickly and once you have gained one ridge you just find yourselves climbing the next ridge line.

Today the cove is covered in moderately thick dark green shrub like vegetation, the rocky cliffs reflect a yellowy colour and the soil is a sand/ rock mixture. I can only wonder what it would have been like for all of those men in their early twenties who had to jump out of row boats into hip deep water at 4am in the morning carrying in excess of 30kms on their back.. It must have been daunting. I guess even more so as they wouldn’t have been able to see the shore line or the terrain ahead and although on the first morning the Turkish defence was marginal there would have been machine gun fire.

The other side to the Gallipoli story is the Turks. The Gallipoli battle is one of the main turning points in modern Turkish history. The battle was led by Ataturk (the first and very revered president of Turkey) and on that first day there were less than two hundred soldiers who were defending that part of the Gallipoli peninsula. These soldiers virtually threw away their lives to protect the peninsula and managed to only give the ANZACs the first ridge on that first day. Ataturk forced his troops to march day and night on that first day to relieve the soldiers and is famously known to tell his men to die to save Turkey rather than running away. The Turks revere the Gallipoli campaign probably more than the ANZACs do.. for every 1 foreign tourist who visits the battlefield over 40 Turkish tourists make the pilgrimage to honour their dead! It is one of the key defining battles that forged modern day Turkey and is therefore recognised by the millions of Turkish visitors each year.

The goal of the allies was to take the Gallipoli peninsula and knock out the defences on the small sea passage on the eastern side of the peninsula known as the Dardanelles. This passage is the gateway from the Mediterranean to the Black Sea in Russia. Keeping this sea passage clear to ally supply ships was key to keeping munitions and food supplies flowing into Russia (as the other ports were either controlled by Germany or locked in ice). The allies falsely thought that the Turkish army would capitulate if a strong force was sent to attack. However, The Turks were fighting for their sovereignty. Once the peninsula fell to the allies, the allies would be able to sweep up the Dardanelles and attack Istanbul and knock out the heart of the Ottoman Empire.

Obviously the battle goes down in Australian history and we know the rest of the story, the allies ground out this battle for more than nine months before they finally decided that taking the peninsula would be impossible and the troops were withdrawn for the Western Front. For me it was quite sobering to actually have the story of Gallipoli recounted to me whilst wandering around the many memorials. My memory of the battle is now much richer, because in walking the field you can actually see the trials our soldiers would have endured and how absolutely pathetic it was to try and take this part of Turkey with a land army that fights by digging trenches and then ‘going over the top’ to attack troops that always hold the higher ground!

From ANZAC cove we drove upwards through the ridges to the Australian memorial at Lone Pine. All of the memorial’s here on the Peninsula are built on exactly the spot where a major offensive for that country occurred. So the Lone Pine memorial is built on the actual no man’s land ground that the Aussies time and time again ran across to try and grab the Turkish trenches. Thousands died on this small patch of ground trying to knock out the Turkish trenches.

From Lone Pine we drove up the road that leads to Chunuk Bair. This road is symbolic because it exactly follows the no man’s land between the Turks and the ANZACs. At one point we stopped to actually see the trenches, the two front lines are less than twenty meters apart! On the way up to the summit we stopped off at the war memorial for the Nekk. This is the location of the famous light horse charge over the top and towards the Turkish lines. This charge occurred towards the end of the campaign after the British commanders decided to launch another offensive to Chunuk Bair. The idea was that another fresh group of British soldiers would land at Suvla Bay and would then charge at the front from the north west and hopefully break the line. In order to distract the Turkish troops (so that they wouldn’t see the force land) it was decided that all of the troops at all of the battle lines would charge together from the Ally trenches over to the Turkish lines. This ended in thousands of troops dying and unfortunately the British forces did not move fast enough from Suvla Bay and so the whole offensive again collapsed.

The NZ offensive was actually very successful and for two days the NZ troops held the summit of Chunuk Bair but without the fresh British troops they were unable to hold the summit and had to back track to their old trenches. All in all the ‘final push’ to end the Gallipoli campaign was a complete disaster and just cost the ANZACs more troops! After this disaster the British chiefs decided to pull out all of the troops and the peninsula was successfully evacuated.

On our way back to Istanbul I had some time to reflect and all in all my trip out to Gallipoli was a great way to end my trip here in Turkey. I’ve still got a day tomorrow up my sleeve to go and see Topgapki Palace but I’m happy that my last real day in Turkey was out seeing the peninsula and getting some sort of idea what the terrain was like almost 100 years ago.

Posted by weary_feet 22:05 Archived in Turkey Comments (0)

16: Final Goodbyes

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Awoke to find ourselves in downtown Istanbul. We left the train station and boarded a ferry to go from the Asian side of Istanbul to the European side. The ferry trip took us passed the Blue Mosque, Aya Sofia and Topgapki so I managed to get some shots of these monuments from the Bosporus side! We left Sue at the dock (taxi for the airport) and continued downtown.

We checked in to the hotel and hurried out to grab some brekky before we all broke up and headed our separate ways! I spent the day with Jacqui and Malea and we started the morning by shopping in the Grand Bazaar and the Spice Market. I didn’t buy anything but enjoyed just people watching and watching Malea and Jacqui try to not buy too much!! Jacqui bought herself a beautiful Anatolian carpet from one of the carpet merchants in the bazaar. The only thing I did buy this morning was to book myself in for a day trip to Gallipoli tomorrow to see the WWI site!

We grabbed ourselves a light lunch and then had a break (nap for the girls, blogging for me) before we headed back to where it all started for dinner overlooking the Blue Mosque! Shish and rice was the main choice for dinner before we all said our final farewells and headed our separate ways.. Me to Gallipoli tomorrow, the girls to a plane back to the States!

Posted by weary_feet 20:31 Archived in Turkey Comments (0)

15: ABFGs again!!

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Sue and I decided not to get up at dawn again to see the hot air balloons and instead slept in til just before brekky. The temp today has risen quite a bit so sitting for brekky was quite pleasant (no need for every morsel of clothing to be worn!!). Today we had free time til 1pm when we needed to catch a bus to Ankara to enable us to catch an overnight sleeper to get us to Istanbul… To make the most of our free time we took a walk out of town to see the Goreme open air museum. On the way to the museum we had to ‘run the gauntlet’ of shops and hucksters selling crap and found camel rides at the end of the gauntlet. Stupid me decided to stop and take a photo of the camel and then had to part with a TL for the effort.. You would think by now I would have worked out that you just can’t look, touch or even seem remotely interested in anything going on if you don’t want to part with your hard earned $$$$!!!

The open air museum is more buildings built into the side of the chimneys. This community was an early Christian community so many of the insides of the rooms have painted frescos. We arrived to discover about 40 or so buses all parked in the parking lot… inside was just awful.. people everywhere!!! I guess we’ve managed to go the whole trip without running into too many ABFGs (for those who don’t know Another Bloody Flag Group) but to find them here was disappointing. It really makes it unpleasant when you have to wait to see anything and even when you get in, know that you have a queue a mile long waiting behind you to see whatever it is you have waited for!!

My tolerance levels of ABFGs is now about nil so I have to admit that we didn’t spend long enough in the community to get a great view of their life and times. After snapping a few photos of the exterior of some of the buildings we headed back into town for a coffee and some lunch before we boarded the bus for Ankara.

The bus trip itself was not overly exciting except for sun set. As we were driving along we came alongside some large inland lake just as the sun was setting.. The view was gorgeous! The sky turned mauve, pink, orange all with reflections in the water before the sun (by this time a ball of red—due to air quality) slowly sunk into the lake.. Beautiful!

Overnight train was the usual affair.. I kept to tradition and baggsed the top bunk and got a reasonable night’s sleep.

Posted by weary_feet 20:15 Archived in Turkey Comments (0)

14: Fairy Chimneys

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V early start this morning as Sue and I got up before sunrise to climb the hill behind the town to see the sun rise over Cappadocia and to see all of the hot air balloons take off! Goreme is a famous place to take a hot air balloon owing it to its favourable conditions and of course an incredible view over Cappadocia! There must have been at least 50 balloons in the air.. the sky was just dotted with them. As the sun rose the colours in the valley changed from strong pinks into bright oranges and finally to a yellowy/ brown colour.. Really a beautiful site.. one that won’t be forgotten in a hurry!

We headed back down to the town hunting a cup of coffee…… Well we weren’t so successful at this! None of the shops had opened when we finally gave up at 8am! After brekky up on the terrace (shivering unless you sat in the beautiful sunshine!!) we all headed out for a walk through one of the surrounding valleys of Goreme. The walk took us through this undulating valley that was covered in fairy chimneys. Basically, we were walking amongst the beautiful formations. Luckily for us the temp gradually rose so we were able to shed most our layers as we walked. The most impressive thing about the chimneys is these pigeon holes that are cut through many of the rocks. The holes were cut by people who wanted to encourage the pigeons to roost in the area. Some of them are even painted red to encourage the birds! Pigeon droppings were integral to making the local wine so the birds were encouraged to roost and live in the chimneys! I felt amazement for the poor people who then had to climb up to these roosts to collect the droppings.. Some of the heights are sickening!

We concluded our walk at an old Christian monastery (I think 3rd or 4th century) that is now a ruin. By now the temp had risen to the point where I had shed all of my layers and the climb up to the monastery was one heck of a climb… I got half way and decided that the photos I could take at this height were going to be as good as the top so gave up and returned back down to the road! The monastery must have been impressive back in the day.. I can only imagine how many monks it must have housed.. Unfortunately the ruins are crumbling away and I guess in another hundred years or so it could become quite unstable.

From the monastery we went for a drive out to see an abandoned underground city. This city is UNESCO listed and once sheltered hundreds of different peoples who were all being persecuted/ on the run. Some early Christian’s must have sheltered in these cave’s because you can see some religious symbols adorning the walls. The city has at least 8 layers, 4 of which are open to tourists. Most of the ceilings are very low to the ground and the rooms circular in shape. The incredible thing is that all of these rooms were hewn out of the rock by hand.. there are so many rooms it must have taken years to build. It is thought that this underground city is only one of maybe two hundred (most of which haven’t been discovered!) so imagine how many people must have used this area as a refuge!!

We returned back to Goreme to a late but incredibly tasty lunch of soup, pide (Turkish pizza/ toasted sandwich type thing) and bread. Sitting on the deck in the sun eating some great food… awesome!! We lazed away most of the rest of the afternoon out on the deck before we hit the shops to souvenir shop. I succumbed and purchased a cheap carpet bag to take some of my junk that I’m not needing all of the time. We then all adjourned to the terrace of the hotel to drink a glass of wine before dinner.

Our last dinner together was a great affair where we had Turkish clay pots! Meat and veges are stewed in a clay pot, which is cooked in coals, for at least 4 hrs. The clay pot is then brought in for dinner sealed. First job is for us to break our clay pots to get out our dinner! To break the pots we hit a scored part of the pot with a large knife type thing which pops the top off the clay pot! Our dinner was served with rice, and of course the usual over abundance of Turkish bread!!! Dinner was a pretty amusing affair (esp because of the wine we had consumed before hand).. a couple of us ladies had grabbed chairs that were actually camel saddles so we had some fun pretending to ride camels! In all, we had a really awesome last dinner together, good food, ok wine but really great company!!

Last full day on the tour tomorrow with a very long journey from Cappadocia back to Istanbul.

Posted by weary_feet 20:13 Archived in Turkey Comments (0)

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