To travel is to discover that everyone is wrong about other countries
- Aldous Huxley

Saturday, 31 August 2013

Turkey Tour Day 13 & 14: Canakkule: Troy and Gallipoli & Istanbul

Day 13:

Today we had an early wake up and hit the road for a 6-hour bus ride to Canakkule. As bus rides go, this one was as uneventful as they get.
Which is good.

We were dropped off at the side of the road on the outskirts of Canukkale and jumped into a smaller van with all our luggage and taken to a restaurant just outside of the Ancient City of Troy.
Despite the long drive, there wasn’t much hunger in us, which might have been attributed to the hot weather. It was 37 degrees.

After lunch we drove a short way to the Ancient city of Troy. Yes, the same Troy as the movie.
Ancient Troy is interesting in that there has been about 9 versions of the city built and rebuilt over the years. 

The base of one of the structures at Troy

The first version of Troy is believed to have been built around the 4th millennium BC and was a busy commercial city around 1700BC. A combination of natural disasters and invasions are the reasons as to why Troy has been rebuilt many times, including the most famous being the siege of Troy with the Trojan horse.
They believe that they have only excavated 15% of the city but most of what remains are just the base of walls and entrances.
There is the entrance to the palace that is well preserved, made of marble and can ride two horses abreast which is mentioned in Homer’s Iliad giving truth to some of what he said.

The road to the palace

The story of Helen and Paris is believed to be a myth but it seems that at least part of what Homer said in the Iliad was in truth. They even have a replica Trojan Horse at the site but we couldn't go inside it as they were doing restorations to it.

After Troy we drove about 30 minutes into Canukkale and to our hotel. We checked in and went to a dive shop we saw around the corner to investigate the diving available for when we return next year.
The dive operators did not speak English very well and we are not quite certain but they might have offered us a job. I doubt it, but it was a little weird. I guess it is one of those lost in translation things.

Canukkale is a pretty cool place. The city itself is big and is a university town so it is full of younger people. It is situated along the western part of Turkey and is the main port that heads to Gallipoli.
Along the waterfront is a whole bunch of restaurants and statues, also has the Trojan horse used in the Brad Pitt movie ‘Troy’ which was pretty cool and a lot better than the one we couldn’t approach at the site of Troy.

We had dinner at one of the local restaurants called Hangover, which is probably the closest I will ever get to having a hangover. It was a nice place and the food was good so there is nothing to complain about there.
It didn’t have traditional Turkish food, a welcome relief to be honest. I felt like I needed something a little different in the diet.
I ended up having the tortellini and it was good.

We then went to bed as we have to get up early to get to Gallipoli before heading back to Istanbul.

Day 14:

Another early rise from bed and we were off to Gallipoli, the Australian Mecca and reason we get a public holiday.
We took a boat across the sea to where Gallipoli is and even on the boat you're treated to the importance of Gallipoli, even for the Turkish.
It's funny how I've never really considered it from the "enemies" side, the Turkish were simply defending their own land from what were, essentially, invaders. We would do the same if anyone tried to invade Australia.

Approaching Gallipoli from Canakkule

Once we finished on the boat, we drove to our first stop which was ANZAC cove, the place where the ANZACs, incorrectly, landed in 1915 and were slaughtered. ANZAC Cove is quiet, all you can hear is  the sounds of the waves lapping on the beach, and peaceful. The screams of the dying, the bullets silenced for almost 100 years but you can feel it. You can easily put yourself in their shoes, look from the shore to the hills and wonder, how they hell did they have any chance?
They didn't. The Turkish had the higher ground and even with the inferior numbers, they still had the advantage. 
ANZAC Cove has 10 plagues with tells the history of the ANZACs from beginning to end, interesting to read. After the cove we walked along the shore to one of the ANZAC cemeteries. There are a lot less graves than I thought would be there, but they are only the graves of people whose names are known. 


The site is well maintained, and some of the headstones look brand new.
After the ANZAC cove cemetery, we went to the Lone Pine Cemetery, another site of the ANZACs. Lone Pine was a battle during World War I in which both the ANZACs and the Turks won and lost the site. Later the site was commemorated for the 5000 ANZACs who lost their lives there. Lone Pine gets its name from the site where, initially there were several pine trees on the site but they were cut down, except one and the ANZACs named it Lone Pine.

Lone Pine Memorial

The next site we visited was a cemetery for the Turkish who died at Gallipoli, some of those died were as young as 10 years old. They handed guns to anyone who was able, a lot of whom perished during the war. This site is smaller then any of the ANZAC cemeteries, but no less important.
The final place we went to was the site of the battle of Chunuk Bair, basically the most important part of the Gallipoli battle. Chunuk Bair is the highest point in Gallipoli and whoever would control it would pretty much control the battle. The Turks held the spot for most of battle and today the site of a memorial to the New Zealand ANZACs, as well as a giant statue for Mustafa Kemel Ataturk, the General who was commander of the Turkish Army (also Turkey's first president, founder of the Republic of Turkey and pretty much their hero).

Once we had finished at Gallipoli, we drove 6 hours back to Istanbul where we checked in to our hotel. We met everyone at Aya Sofia at 7 for our final dinner. We went to a place call Palatium Cafe & Bar, which had really nice food but the best part of it is that it is built over an old city from 327BC. It was really cool and a little creepy being down there. The site isn't completely excavated and it looks like there is a lot to go before it is fully uncovered.

It was pretty spooky down there.

After dinner we went to another place for dessert and pomegranate tea. It was also where we pretty much said our final goodbyes to everyone as we were all leaving at different times. Some to go home, some to go to different places.

And us, who are going to another hotel. Istanbul for another 4 days.

Our tour was awesome though. It was great to meet new people from all over the world. They were really a great bunch of people, as was our tour guide who was fantastic and easy going. Her enthusiasm was nothing I've come across in any tour leader before. We were truly grateful to have someone who was so knowledgeable about her country.

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