Merhaba. Arriving in Turkey was love at first sight. And I'm not even talking about the spunky guy at the port, I'll get to him later! Hahaha. Nope, I'm talking about this fabulous country. Where do I start… Well, got the ferry across from Chios, I love the sea, it's so soothing, I could lay on a yacht in the sun for days (if only I knew someone who had a yacht…) Drawing closer to the Turkish coast, I was so excited I had goosebumps!!! The start of my latest adventure wasn't so smooth though… Now, I know as well as anybody who's ever travelled, that when you get to a country that requires a visa, you need cash to pay for the said visa.
Simple, yeah? Well, guess which dumbass turned up to Turkey with no Euro or Turkish Liri… Yep, you got it, it was me! I can't believe I was so dumb. As soon as we got there, I realised, and it was far too late… So, we go to the little visa booth to see if there's some way to pay with credit card, or if we can get to an ATM. And in true foreign style, the nearest ATM is 2km away. Now, in any other place this could have been disastrous. But not in fabulous Turkey. After a few minutes, one of the customs guys offers to take me to the nearest ATM as soon as he has a free minute. Only 15 mins or so later, I've left Ma at the port with the luggage, and I'm in a stranger's car in a strange country. But it didn't for a second feel unsafe. Got some cash, got our visas, and bounced out of the port to find the nearest bus.
I wanted to go to Canakkale
, near Gallipoli, which is about 7 or 8 hours away by bus, and I figured being an international port, there would be buses close by. Wrong! I asked the customs guy where we could get a bus from, and he looked shocked, and told me that it was a few km away. Now, I quite like walking, but with 30 kilos to carry, a few kilometres is a bloody long way! Next thing you know, he speaks to another customs officer guy, and they offer to take us to the bus station in Cesme… Again, very random getting in cars with strange men, I know, sorry dad… But, I trust my gut instinct, and it felt safe. So, this lovely boy drives us, maybe 20 minutes or so to the bus terminal, and we were on our way.
And, to top it all off, man, he was gorgeous! So, despite what could have been a terrible start, it seemed like the people were really nice and helpful. Found the bus we needed, I don't know how I managed it, since the guy at the bus terminal didn't speak English, and I don't speak a word of Turkish! 2 Hours later we were in Izmir
, the 3rd
biggest city in the country. It was almost overwhelming how incredibly huge it was. We then had to get another bus to get to Canakkale, and we literally had to run from the ticket office to the bus station, and made it just as they were about to drive away. The next bus would've been 5 hours later, and that would have sucked! The bus ride was 6 hours, what would I do without my nintendo?!?!?! We had tried to ask half of the bus if they knew where the hostel was, but as I said, I don't speak Turkish, so as much as they tried to help, it was near impossible for me to explain to them.
The buses here are random! They serve you tea and coffee, water, soft drink, cake, all free. Aside from the driver, there's also a guy on the bus that takes your luggage, shows you to your seat, and brings the drinks and also brings around this cleanser for your hands… The guy on the trip from Izmir took a liking to us, and make a huge effort to try to speak to us in English which was really nice. So, in turn I had the language guide out and tried to talk to him in Turkish. Needless to say it was a disaster, but I'll get the hang of it. When I was drinking my coffee and didn't have a free hand, he poured the cleansing stuff all over my head, and giggled before going back into work mode. It was completely random, he's an average middle aged guy, and it wasn't creepy, it was funny!
Arriving in Canakkale, again with no map, we had absolutely no idea where we were going to find our hostel that we hadn't actually booked… So, we found the area that it was in, and tried to find someone who could speak English to point us in the right direction, because even with the guidebook, my Turkish is terrible! 4 or 6 people sent us in different directions, all wrong, but eventually we found someone who knew where we were going, and he actually walked us all the way there.
When we arrived, we were absolutely exhausted, and I guess that this was obvious cos the boy at the desk offered to take our bags up the stairs. Woohoo! Yay for chivalry. The boy who took mine up, bless him, he was just a kid, and could barely lift my pack. I was gonna offer to take it back, but I didn't want to insult him (or maybe I was just being lazy… Hmmm…) Grabbed some dinner (loving Turkish food, although I really need to learn to read the menu, cos I feel really rude and ignorant trying to ask for vegetarian food in English, when clearly the waiters have no idea what I'm talking about…) Then went out for a beer to see a live band. Next day, after a little confusion about the time (daylight savings kicked in that day, as if we would know that!) we went on a tour to Gallipoli. Now, let me tell you, I think that this is something that every Aussie (and Kiwi…) should do in their life.
I know the stories just like everyone else. I've seen the movies. I've been to the ANZAC marches. But to actually step foot on the beach at ANZAC cove where they accidentally landed, to see the thousands of graves in the countless memorials, to see that the boys that died were mostly in their early 20's if they were lucky, it's something that you cannot imagine or explain. The overwhelming sadness of seeing that so many young boys gave their lives doing what they felt that they had to so for their country, I don't think that there was a dry eye in the group. It gives you a mixed sense of pride and melancholy to hear the stories, and to hear the Turkish point of view as well, they lost over 86,000 lives in the field (about 250,000 is the unofficial total for Turkey, and half a million including the Allies) when they were only defending their country from our attack.
There is so much I could say, but it won't help to explain or understand. So, yeah, go and see it. Do it!
Next day was a public holiday for Republic Day, so we didn't plan anything figured we'd see what would happen… Spent the day wandering away from the city, checking out the surrounding areas. Went to an amazing area, clearly a lot poorer than the city, and the people there were so nice… There was a man offering us fish and wine, turns out he used to play soccer for one of the Italian teams, and there were kids and little old ladies everywhere talking to us, the kids were following us in the streets, and all spoke English really well, which I found quite strange. At night, everyone gathered in the city, and there were fireworks and they all came down the streets in droves, singing what I assume was the national anthem at the top of their lungs.
There was music in the streets, and red and white balloons as far as you could see! Have been spending our evenings eating fabulous Turkish food, drinking cheap pints of beer at happy hour round the corner… Life is good! The last night in Canakkale, I sat on the balcony drinking raki with Osman who works at the hostel (yeah, a bit of a spunk… Turkish boys are hot!), Ma had an early night ready for another big day. It was cool, you can see straight out over the bay one way, and the other way looks over the main road, but it was pouring rain, and we got in trouble from some grumpy school teachers that were staying on our floor for being too loud! Can't remember the last time I was scolded by a teacher…
Last day we went to see the ancient site of Troy, you know, Brad Pitt movie, big wooden horse… It was cool interesting to hear a little more fact than the somewhat fictional story that we normally hear… Then, another long bus ride, about 6 hours to Istanbul.
Stay tuned for more Turkish adventures, and after that who knows… Time will tell. Love you all, miss you so much…