the hoofindex - rewind to the previous trip (biking in london and man U) - fast forward to the following trip (pisa and cinque terre)
We're starting to see the end of the UK winter, heading into April and you know what that means? ANZAC Day... and when in Europe where do you spend ANZAC Day? Sleeping on the beach before the dawn service at Gallipoli... of course. And with the thousands of other Kiwi's and Aussie's, what is the only way to get there? On an ANZAC tour... of course. Now Team Hoof are not exactly organised tour types, so after much, much, much deliberation we narrowed it down to two options, and using the scientific approach of drawing out of a hat we decided to go with Fez and their 8 day Corporal tour. And boy did we strike it lucky... not only did we have a great guide but we were put in a small group of only 18. And what a great group we had. What is the things which bug you on tours, losing a couple of members of the group and therefore end up waiting around? Queues at the road side toilet stop? Cramming onto a bus, with a few annoying people who just don't know when to shut up? Or alternatively having a boring group who don't talk to anyone else? And I'm sure there is a multitude of other issues which taint the tour bus experience. Well none of these occurred with the legendary Fez Bus 36, with ex-army tour guide Genzis... who with military precision kept our group on the move and leader through each stage of the Tour de Turkey.
We flew Swiss Air to Istanbul and it was great to be back on a real airline and actually have food and drinks served for free and a seat allocated so no bunfight to get on the plane (and even have a seat pocket...ah, the small things that you take for granted!).
Upon arrival in Istanbul we did start to question our decision to go with a group tour. We were greeted by a dude with very, very broken english who instructed us to take a seat and wait until the others arrive before getting transferred to our hotel. But the ''others'' were on flights still to arrive and we ended up sitting at the airport for over an hour before being herded onto a bus with a driver with a deathwish. We stopped at several hotels dropping people off before our greeter came to us to confirm our names and the hotel that we were meant to be heading to. We were the only two on the bus staying at that particular hotel and he had no idea where it was because it was fairly new. He ended up getting off the bus several times and asking for directions... usually at the reception of other hotels. Then suddenly we were then told to jump off the bus and grab our bags from the hold while the bus was parked on very well used tram lines... and the tram was coming! Despite him telling us "it's just round the corner" he still needed to jump into every hotel reception and shop to ask - most of them looking blankly at him. We continue to walk the streets with the greeter to find our hotel for about 30 mins... Not a great start!
It took so long to find the hotel we arrive to check in at 6:15pm... only to be told our tour group was meeting at 6pm... with no other information. We raced around to find about 6 people waiting - we thought that either it was a very small tour group, or we'd missed the party. As it turned out most people had some "issues" getting to the hotel so everyone was running a little late.
Day one of the tour dawned bright and sunny and we boarded our giant bus, parked in the narrow almost pedestrian only street, ready for our Istanbul tour. After a 200 point turn, and some careful maneuvering around the other two tour buses we were out of there! Istanbul is an amazing, romantic city that is full of rich history, stunning architecture and green parks (in the old city anyway!). Its the only city in the world to span two continents - Asia and Europe and was the capital city of the Roman Empire during the time of Constantine, before becoming the capital of the Byzantine empire, and then the Ottomans. This has lead to a very proud history being associated with the city, and the center of the city now being a UNESCO World Heritage site. It's also a city that doesn't deserve its current tourist wary reputation based on current political instability.
The first stop was the Basilica Cistern (it was pretty dark in there so none of our photos turned out), but its a huge underground water storage area that was built in Roman times to store water delivered to the city by a network of aqueducts. In fact it was lost for hundreds of years until rumour had it an old fella used to fish in his backyard and catch carp. They did some investigation and found the cistern which was still receiving water from the old Roman "pipework".
After this is was off for a walking tour around Sultanahmet which is at the center of the world heritage site in Istanbul and contains the Blue Mosque and Hagia Sophia, among other things.
The German Fountain was constructed by the German government in 1900 to mark the German Emperor Wilhelm II's visit to Istanbul in 1898 and now serves as a washing point for worshipers who are preparing to enter the Blue Mosque for prayers..
This tourist surrounded obelisk (Obelisk of Thutmosis III) was brought to Constantinople from the Temple of Karnak by Emperor Constantine in 190BC. He decided to do it because he wanted to raise the image of his city by adoring it with ornaments he ''collected' from around the world. The obelisk was carved in 1490BC....which you would never believe to look at it, in fact it kinda looked like a movie prop! It was also meant to be significantly taller, about twice the height, but the clumsy couriers broke it on route!
Not sure that we were supposed to take photos inside the mosque, but since it was overrun by tourists it didn't seem inappropriate? The interior was stunning.
The outside of the Blue Mosque was pretty impressive too. It was built in 1609 and is the largest mosque in Turkey - the only Mosque to have six minarets.
Behind the Hoof'ess (aside from the million tourists!) is Hagia Sophia. It is considered to be one of the most beautiful buildings in the world and was also the worlds largest cathedral for nearly a thousand years. It has had a varied past.... first as a church constructed in 532, then it was converted to a mosque in 1453 and finally in 1935 it became a museum.
The Sultanahmet was really, really pretty!
Next stop on the tour was Topkapi Palace. After the fall of the Roman empire it became the primary residence of the Ottoman sultans as well as the administrative center of the Ottoman Empire.
This is us on the balcony of the Palace, overlooking the Bosphorus behind us - the river that divides the city and the two continents.
The Hoof wasn't too fond of the idea of visiting the Grand Bazaar and all that shopping, but the Hoof'ess loved it! Alleyway after alleyway of scarves, shoes, ceramics, watches, jewellery....the list goes on and so does the Grand Bazaar!
At sunset we headed off on our Bosphorus cruise... it was freezing cold! Luckily the Hoof'ess had layered up her clothes and chosen to wear her hoodie...didn't matter how stupid she looked, it meant that she was warm...just no photos allowed!
The cruise headed off with all the Kiwi's and Aussie's in good drinking spirits - probably about 6 bus loads. That lasted about a quarter of the trip when they ran out of booze... had they never had a boat load of Kiwi's and Aussie's before? Apparently they had underestimated the booze drinking potential of this boat, so they had to make a quick stop at a dock to pick up some more. Yet they still underestimated our drinking potential, after drinking the boat dry they came back on board with two cases of beer... which was gone before they even set off as those closest to the bar stocked up before anyone else could get there. So shortly later they stopped again to pick up a couple more cases but this time economics came into play as the ramped up the prices... apparently inflation is high in Turkey as the prices doubled! Needless to say everyone rebelled and refused to buy it so near the end some of our group managed to negotiate a 3 for 1 discount.
In the background, its one of only two bridges to span two continents. The other is down the strait a little further.
Day three and it was 24 April and time to head to Gallipoli. The first stop on the Peninsular was the museum. Behind us is Anzac Cove
Lone Pine - the Australian memorial
A rather imposing statue of Ataturk at the Turkish memorial
Hoofy took to the trenches at Chunak Bair, to get a real feel for what it must have been like.
Behind us is the area where the Anzac troops were meant to land, where they would have had clear passage over the peninsular, rather than face the steep cliffs and unforgiving terrain that they ended up climbing thanks to the English directions.
Gear gathered, food bags allocated, we were off to find our spot for the night at Anzac Cove.
The queues at the security checkpoints to get into Anzac Cove were extensive, but only for the gurls! For some reason there were a million chicks in the queue, but the guys walked straight up to the security table and were let through... good to be a guy. From here the cliffs that the soldiers faced were imposing and the photo doesn't do them justice.....
By the time we got to the memorial site at Anzac Cove there was already quite a crowd there but we found ourselves a great spot just behind where the officials would sit in the morning. Time to spread out our black bin liners as a ground mat, our Kathmandu inflatable pillows and $10 Argos sleeping bags and pursue our dinner/breakfast/lunch box....much more than the soldiers had when they landed on this very beach in 1915.
By the time the sun was setting, the cove was packed full.
The night was freezing and the Hoof'ess' purchase of disposable hand warmers were actually quite sensible (although she did go a bit overboard with her thermals, T-shirt, merino, hoodie, polar fleece and hat on too). We also had an intricate system of sealing the warmth in our sleeping bags with the drawstrings pulled tight about our necks while gripping the hand warmers! It was that cold!
As the sun started to rise behind the cliffs behind us, the very moving dawn service arrived. The feeling was very eeiry, especially as the light stated to show the dominance of the cliffs behind the cove...this was the same view that the troops were greeted with in 1915. It is a sight that the Hoof'ess will never forget.
After the dawn service it was time to make our way up the cliffs to the memorial services at Lone Pine and Chunak Bair. To avoid the jam of people leaving Anzac Cove the quick way via the road, we headed for the beach and walked along where the soldiers first put their feet on Turkish soil.
God, it must be cold....is that the Hoof in a woolie hat?
And the Hoof'ess doing her best Kenny impersonation!
Our tour guide had promised that the bus would take us up the hill, but we felt it was better to walk up as a mark of respect for the troops that did it for their country. The walk was a real challenge and we only had little day packs on our backs, were walking on a cleared path and didn't have the enemy firing on us from above.
Those smiles are because we have reached the top of the first cliffs that we had to come up....about half way!
The Hoof taking in the memorial at The Neck - a narrow stretch of ridge that saw a fierce but unsuccessful battle over a small patch of land that was a bottleneck to the Anzac troops passage across the mountain range and into Turkey. Behind him is the flat plains that the troops were meant to land.
With the Lone Pine memorial site being full by the time we reached it we decided to keep heading up the hill to Chunuk Bair to secure a good site for the NZ memorial later in the afternoon. On our way up we came across masses of Turkish kids walking down to the Turkish ceremony...and they were all plenty keen to practice their english on us. Shame (but entertaining) that all they knew was "Hello, my name is...'', ''what's your name'', ''where are you from'' and ''Anzac''.
Time to play Where's Wally....the Hoof is hiding in this shot taken at Chunuk Bair...can you spot him?
Ahh, time for a bit of a sleep in the sun. Makes a change from the weather that we left behind in the UK and if we are lucky we might even go back with a bit of a tan...and lucky we have those Argos sleeping bags!
Smiling in the sunshine...soak up those rays to take back to the wet old UK.
After the ceremony we had to try and find our bus....very lucky for us our tour guide was an ex-soldier and pulled some strings to get our bus parked just meters from the NZ memorial. He also had this canny trick of appearing out of nowhere and finding you... so it saved the Hoofs from walking around aimlessly looking for the bus (amongst the roads full of big white buses). He did so well in positioning our bus and rounding the group up in fact that we were the first bus off the peninsular and even beat all of the dignitaries (including Winston Peters!!) He won himself a drink from the group since we got to the hotel early....all the other groups had to wait in traffic and queue for the ferry and didn't get to the hotel until over three hours after us!!!! Love our small, bonded group!
Day 5 and its on to a dose of Roman history again....Pergamon first. We were a bit skeptical about visiting Pergamon since we had already seen the best of its remains with the Pergamon Altar at the Pergamon Museum in Berlin, but were pleasantly surprised.
The ''city'' was located at the top of a steep hill. overlooking a major river running through the valley below and only 16 miles from the Aegean Sea. It was a very important city in the Hellenistic period (282 - 129 BC)
The Hoof in front of the Acropolis of Pergamon - it was modeled after the Acropolis in Athens.
The Hoof'ess was dwarfed by the Roman columns.
Genzis gave us a lesson about the Roman survival...apparently they used to find a plant called the Acanthus as they travelled between their cities. When you cut into the stalk you find lots of water and you can also eat the stem. Jason was given the job of preparing it for us to try.
The Hoof tried it and decided it tasted a bit like celery....lets see if he is still alive in the morning?
The remains of the Hellenistic theatre at Pergamon are very, very impressive! How they built such a huge structure into the steep hillside was impressive... just breathtaking!
Time to play Where's Wally again! This time can you spot the Hoof'ess up the top? Someone spotted a snake down on the stage area so the Hoof had to go and investigate, and no surprise the Hoof'ess decided to stay as far away as possible! Too many steps for her to go back up too!
Heading further south, Genzis decided to take us on an excursion up into the grape vines and olive groves to a little village that is famous for its fruit wine. What better way to spend a sunny afternoon than tasting wine with new friends.
Okay, so some of them were dodgy colour's and some of them weren't flash but the alcohol content was plenty high and they tasted better with each glass! The kiwifruit wine was one of the worst but the raspberry version took the Hoof'ess' fancy and after two glasses of it she decided to splash out on a bottle. Shame its still sitting on our bench now... will have to be brave and drink it before we head back to NZ.
After the wine tasting, it was on to the compulsory ''tourist shop visit'' that the tour buses insist on taking you on... this time it was the leather show and shop... apparently a "populer" shop. While we passed on the leather jackets (we hadn't had that much to drink!!), the Hoof'ess was attracted to the handbags. No surprises there since she has about 20 already! She negotiated "hard" and got herself a genuine Dolce & Gabanna (factory second!) and then batted her eyelids for the Hoof to pay. Then it was on to the beachside town of Kusadai for two nights.
Day Six and more history....lucky its fascinating! The main site of the day was Ephesus, which lies just out of Selcuk, near Izmir.
It was an Ionian Greek city founded in the 10th century BC!!! The ruins are some of the best preserved ruins in the world.
The population of Ephesus has been estimated to be in the range of 400,000 to 500,000 inhabitants in the year 100 AD, making it the largest city in Roman Asia and of the day. Ephesus also had several major bath complexes, built at various points while the city was under Roman rule. The city had one of the most advanced aqueduct systems in the ancient world, with multiple aqueducts of various sizes to supply different areas of the city, including 4 major aqueducts. It also had that necessity of all major cities, a brothel.
It's hard to believe that the archway behind the Hoof'ess has been here like this since around the 10th century BC!!! How many people have walked where we were now walking. Because of the state of the site you could get such a great feel for what the ancient site would have been like back in the days of when it was a grand city.
The Hoof and Genzis (the legendary tour guide).
The Hoof and Hoof'ess, overlooking the main street in Ephesus....
The Hoof and Nike....
How is it that the Hoof'ess always, always find a cat to pat, no matter where we go????
The remains of the Roman mosaic houses were impressive...to think that they had survived wars, weather and earthquakes over the thousands of years they have been standing here.
The most famous part of Ephesus is the Library of Celsus. In its day it held over 12,000 scrolls but even just the appearance of the building is impressive... how exactly did they build it without all the modern machinery we have today?
Ephesus is also famous for its massive Roman theatre. It was capable of holding 25,000 spectators. It was used initially for drama, but during later for gladiatorial combats too.
Poppies were out everywhere in Turkey....
This has to be one of the best signs we have seen on our whole trip...the Magic Atmosphere, in a public toilet???? Really???
Love their adverising....genuine fakes....better keep the Hoof'ess away from these!
Another compulsory stop on our tour...the Flying Carpet show, closely followed by the hard sell on carpets afterwards. The carpets were beautiful and yes, it was very handy that they could ship them home so they would be there for us when we finished our OE, but did they really think that we had a spare $1000 when we were on a backpackers tour?
After a hard day touring the ruins Genzis sold us on the idea of a relaxing Turkish Bath. He negotiated us a cheap deal and left us to enjoy. Without receiving a 'briefing' of what to expect we were very surprised when we were all ushered into a large steaming room together. We were very, very pleased that all but one of us had chosen to put togs on, even if its not traditional to do so it is the modest thing to do in front of people you barely know. The one who had just a towel on decided to go back and chuck his boxers on.
After the guy scrubbed us all down and lathered us up we were off one by one to have a massage before cooling down with a lovely glass of Turkish Apple Tea.
Day seven and its back to Istanbul, via Bursa for its famous mosque and the silk bazaar.
Towards the end of the long trip back to Istanbul, Genzis dialed up an order of Efes beer for the bus as we boarded the ferry. It was too cold and windy to get out so we cranked up the Ipod and used the buses microphone for some karaoke. The Aussie's got right into this number although for the life of us we can't remember what it was!
Day 8 and back in Istanbul for a final morning of free time. Our plan was to head back to the Grand Bazaar but it was closed (the Hoof was very pleased that at last someone was on his side and he didn't have to get dragged around the shops again!). So instead we wandered around the sights again and did our shopping elsewhere. The Hoof'ess still managed to accumulate a lot of ''souvenirs'' without the trip to the bazaar.
The Hoof'ess spotted these kittens and couldn't help but stop....I just don't know how she always finds random cats to stop and pat?
Our last meal in Istanbul and nothing seemed more appropriate than kebabs again... think we had them for at least six meals over our eight days but these last ones were definitely the best. Shame that the Hoof'ess felt compelled to share hers with a random cat (possible the kittens mum). The cat was so full after its kebab meal that it had to lay down and have a sleep...the Hoof'ess was only too happy to share her seat!
Last supper in Istanbul with two other couples from our tour group - all kiwis of course, but Hoofy felt a bit like the spare wheel, being the only single lad.
Why is the Hoof smiling....must because he is really, really enjoying his Coke. And so he should because it is quite possibly the most we have paid for a Coke anywhere in the world. This single can from a cafe at Istanbul airport cost the equivalent of NZ$7!!!!!! Can you believe it?
We loved our time in Turkey and felt completely safe during the whole trip. It's a destination that we would recommend to anyone, especially for Anzac Day... it just seemed right to go and pay our respects at Gallipoli.
Next - after just five days back in the UK we are off to Italy to visit the Leaning Tower and walk Cinque Terre