The beautiful country of Turkey, where I can't explain why but the air feels different!
19.04.2009 - 26.04.2009 24 °C
We weren't even in Turkey for an hour when our first bit of drama happened. Driving from the Airport to our hotel in Istanbul there was a lot traffic and there were a couple of police cars, which I thought nothing of. I noticed two run down buses with smashed windows drive past, which I also thought nothing of. Then the police started to stop the traffic up ahead, our bus ended up being at the front of the stopped traffic which is when we realised something was going on. Next thing we knew about 30 men jumped onto the road and started hurling rocks (more liike chunks of concrete) at the buses as the police tried to escort them through! We had no idea what was going on and couldn't believe we had just witnessed two buses get attacked! We were all shocked and confused at what was going on, then our driver said he thought it was to do with the football game that was being played in Istanbul that day!
After making it to the hotel safely, we pleasantly surprised with our 4 start hotel, we had been expecting some dodgy hostels with the tour! We had a very quick looks around then headed out for the group dinner. It was traditional Turkish food, and after this one meal I knew I couldn't survive the week on only Turkish food!
First stop today was the Hippodrome. In Ancient times this used to be where they raced their horses. All the seating is buried underground so there wasn't too much to look at. There were 3 obelisks from Ancient Egypt and it was amazing to think they were thousands of years old!
Next was the Blue Mosque. The mosque was more impressive from the outside than the inside. It was interesting to see a mosque after all the churches we have seen in Europe. All the girls had to cover up and we couldn't wear shoes inside. The Blue Mosque is more for the tourists than prayer these days.
After the Mosque we visited the Topkapi Palace. It was massive and very impressive! It had the most amazing views of Istanbul and the Bosphorus that separates the European from the Asian side of Istanbul. In the room with the royal jewels and valuables there was an 80 carat diamond! It was unbelieveable! Apparently someone found the diamond in a pile of rubbish and thought it was worthless, so they actually traded it for a spoon. The person who traded the spoon for the diamond later discovered just how valuable it was, and got it all for a silver spoon!
After the Palace we had free time for the afternoon. We had lunch at a little cafe and heard the one of five daily prayers for the first time. The muslims pray 5 times a day and the mosques all have loud speakers from which the prayers are played. It was quite a strange feeling to be sitting in a Musim country eating my lunch, with my scarf on to cover up, then to hear this prayer played everywhere, it was quite something! Then it was off to the Grand Bazaar! I was very excited to be going to a bazaar! The Grand Bazaar was definitely for the tourists, a lot of pricey jewellery shops. I was fascinated by all the different flavours of Turkish delight and teas and spices!
We still had some time to kill before our 5pm cruise of the Bosphorus so we had some apple tea in this little cafe and relaxed on the lounges.
Today we went to Gallipoli to visit the area before the crowds of Anzac Day. The Cove wasn't what I had expected. The distance from the land to the cliffs they had to climb was a lot bigger than I had imagined. The cliffs were also taller. It was an eerie place and very pretty. We had just been watching the movie Gallipoli on the bus so the images were fresh in our minds. It was sad to look out from the cove and imagine the boats coming in all those years ago. It was also strange to think that after all those history lesson at school, and all those photo's we were actually here in Turkey walking on the blood and bones of the ANZAC's.
After the cove we went up to Lone Pine and Chunuk Bair. The views from up there were amazing, it was so hard to imagine that such a peaceful, beautiful area was the sight of so many deaths! Walking into the Lone Pine area and seeing all the graves brought tears to everyone's eyes! I only managed to read a few gravestones as it was too sad! Up further at Chunuk Bair there are still some trenches that you could walk through. Obviously they had mostly been filled in over the years of dirt blowing in but you could still get the feel of them.
Day.4 Pergamum & Pamukkale
In the afternoon it was off to the calcium formations at Pamukkale. The calcium formation were really cool, we were told the springs were warm but they definitely were not! From the pools there was also a good view of the country side.
After dinner at the hotel we all headed out to a local bar. We were the only ones in it! We tried the local cherry wine and with 17% alcohol it left a strong after burn! We also tried the shisha pipe, and before you all get the wrong idea they only smoke flavoured tobacco in the shisha pipe. We tried the apple flavoured tobacco, it was actually nice, no smokey taste, just tasted like an apple lolly.
This morning we visited a carpet weaving place. I now completely understand why a handwoven Turkish rug costs so much. These women sit for hours on end weaving these rugs and they are so fast and so good at it! I could have watched them all day. They were so fast you barely see what their fingers were doing, they were very skilled! There was a bit of a carpet show where they explained the different styles of carpets and then they tried to make some sales. We though on a bus of 20-somethings with not too much cash to spare no-one would buy anything but 4 people bought rugs. One girl bought a $3000 one!
After the carpet weavers it was off to one of the best preserved ancient cities in the world, Ephesus! Ephesus was quite amzing, especially looking at the face of a library that is still standing after thousands of years!! We also seen the communal toilet of those ancient times. Yes back then going to the toilet was a social occassion, they all had a chat while they did their business...interesting! Ephesus also has one of the largest ancient theatres, in Ancient time it seated 25,000 people!
After Ephesus came one of the most interesting experiences we had in Turkey... a Turkish bath! Now we had imagined an almost day spa place, with men and women in separate rooms, so you can imagine our surprise when all 30 of us were in the one room with 4 big hairy Turkish men ready to bath us!!! The room was like a sauna so you had to get all sweaty for about half an hour to open your pores up. It actually got a bit much, it was so hot and steamy I was finding it hard to breathe. Then one at a time we laid down to be exfoliated in front of everyone, then moved on to the next Hairy fat man to be soaped, massaged and if you were unlucky get your back and toes cracked! The look on everyone's faces was priceless, it was mix of fear, and confusion, I think everyone was thinking what the hell is going on here! Afterwards you were taken out to dry and have an apple tea. I did feel really good afterwards, and even though it wasn't what we had expected it was a local Turkish bath, I am sure back in Istanbul we could have gone to a fancy day spa one, but we seen how the locals do it!
Tonight we had a BBQ at the hotel. It was so good, after a week of buffet lunches and buffet dinners, where everything tasted the same it was so good to have some Western food!! And it wasn't just the food that was good, the view of the sunset over the ocean was perfect!
Day.6 and Day.7 Anzac Eve and Anzac Day on the blog entry, I thought it was too much writing for one page!