Location: Cannakale-Gallipoli, Turkey
Today we went on an organised tour to Gallipol. At 12 o'clock we met up with a small group of about 15 people and began our tour by crossing the Dardenelles in a small private boat. After a bite to eat in a restaurant on the other side we travelled to Gallipoli by mini bus, about 10 kms away.
Our tour of Gallipoli was all that I'd hoped. We were taken around to all the various sites. The cemeteries were really moving, especially seeing the soldier's young ages; the youngest being only 14yrs, who had lied about his age. It was also moving seeing Simpson's grave (Simpson and his donkey). Our soldiers fought the Turks over such a small area. At one point they were fighting each other with only 8 metres in between our trenches and theirs. This is where they traded food and cigarettes. At one stage they had singing concerts, especially by one Turkish soldier. But one night there was silence because the Turkish singer had been shot and our men were saddened at the thought that one of their bullets could have killed the enemy with the magnificent voice. How sad. As our Turkish Guide said, this campagn just shouldn't have happened and was such an enormous waste of life. The experts agree that as a result of this campagn over half a million people died on the battlefield or later from both sides. Our guide was brilliant. He explained everything to us in detail and told us many wonderful stories.
Going to Gallipoli was a wonderful experience and one I shall never forget. I have always wanted to see this special place. It was made even more significant for me knowing that my grandfather fought here (luckily he was wounded and taken away for medical treatment) and also due to the death 2 months ago of our dear Uncle Jim, a Japanese prisoner of war in WWII.
I had a short walk on the beach at ANZAC Cove where I was able to feel the warm water of the Agean Sea and collect a few small smooth rocks to bring home. The sea was the same beautiful turquoise as it is all over Turkey. I hope other members of my family will also be able to visit Gallipoli sometime in the future. It is a very moving place and I feel honoured to have been able to see and feel it for myself.
Location: Istanbul, Turkey
About 10am after arriving in Istanbul, we walked about 2 minutes to the tram station. We were all about to jump on a tram when there was a bit of drama. Maree was in front so she got on the tram first. Suddenly without any warning the tram doors shut before the rest
of us could get on. Woops! Luckily we had time to mime to a concerned Maree to go to the last station, about 4 stops away. Then the tram raced off! Fortunately another tram came only a couple of minutes later and we found Maree waiting for us on a seat. She looked quite relieved! Bradley's flat is at the beginning/end of the tram line.
When we arrived at Brad's flat we had a welcomed cup of tea, showered, packed a small day pack each and headed off again at 2.45pm for Cannakale (Gallipoli). We caught a tram (20mins) and then a train (another 20mins) before arriving at probably the biggest bus station in the world. It was huge with hundreds of buses!
At 4.30pm we left on a big coach for the last leg of our trip. After 5 1/2 hours we crossed the Dardenelles on a big car ferry and finally arrived at our hotel about 11pm. Since leaving Meteora we had been travelling for about 33 hours, including the 4 hour break at Brad's flat.
To be continued...
Location: Overnight train to Turkey, Greece
After our usual packing up routine, we walked to the local railway station and caught the 12 o'clock train for an hour then literally ran with all our bags to catch another train on a different platform for a further 2 hours. We found ourselves in the city of Thessalonika where we had a 4 hour wait until our next train. After buying our tickets which took a while because the next leg of our journey
would take us from Greece back into Turkey, we put all our bags into lockers then set out to explore. We visited a 7th century Bizantine church then walked into the main part of the city. Thessalonika is the second biggest city in Greece and is a port city on the Agean Sea. We ate a quick dinner washed down with a beer down near the water then caught a taxi back to the railway station.
Our overnight sleeper train which cost about $85 (Aust) left at 7.30pm. Each berth slept 2 people so Maree and I were in one cabin and the fellas in the other. Luckily we had dinner because, to our surprise, there was no buffet car! The four of us squashed into one cabin and played cards ("Contract") until about 1am, while we drank very small quantities of Kitron, a liquor from the Greek island of Naxos (tastes similar to Contreau).
Our train journey was very interesting! Firstly, we were all woken about 4am to hand over our passports to the Greek immigration officials who wanted to check our faces against our passport photographs. About 30 minutes later we were woken again when our passports were returned. When the train crossed the Turkish border about an hour later we were again woken but this time it was to hand over our passports to the Turkish immigration officials.
And about 30 minutes later our passports were returned! The train stopped at a small town on the Turkish border where the officials got onto the train and at the same time Bradley had to get off with about 20 others to get a new visa as his had run out. What an ordeal!! Lucky Maree is deaf because she slept through the whole thing and woke up quite refreshed in the morning! Actually we told Maree when we first went to bed that the train would arrive back in
Istanbul after 7.30am as this was the information we had. She must have set an alarm because at 7.15am she woke me up. Maree was all ready to alight! I looked out the window and there were fields and no sign of any buildings. I told her to go back to bed as I was exhausted from lack of sleep and I knew that the train staff would wake everyone up before we got to the station. Poor Maree...we forgot to tell her we would be woken!
Finally, we were woken about 8.30am and our train finally arrived at Istanbul just after 9.30am. We had been on the train for 14 hours!!
Location: Meteora (Kalambaka), Greece
Today we explored Meteora (meaning "raised up"),an amazing geographical area consisting of several massive rocky outcrops of unknown origin. Tourists from all over the world flock to this area, not so much to see the natural geographic features, but rather the many 14th century Greek Orthodox Monasteries and Nunneries perched on top of them! There would be nothing like this anywhere in the world! It's incredible to think how these 700 year old religious sanctuaries were constructed! How did the "architects" acquire
the knowledge so many years ago...without a 4 year university degree?! This applies to all the ancient buildings and structures
in Turkey, Syria and Greece we have been so privileged to see. And all over the world for that matter! We have certainly gained respect for the people of ancient civilizations for their imagination, skills and abilities, especially those from BC. We believe our modern society, especially the last 2 hundred years, is way more advanced than any other in history when in fact, considering the lack of
technology, many of these ancient civilizations were considerably advanced for their time.
We visited 2 Monasteries and 1 Nunnery and walked a few kilometres (about 5) in the process. (We always try to walk everywhere we go to save money on taxies. Maree, Ron and I have become quite fit and have hopefully lost some weight!)
Location: Meteora, Greece
The next day we headed off again at 3.30pm after more sight seeing of the ancient ruins at Delphi, including temples, a theatre and the most intact sports stadium of its kind anywhere in the world (over 2500 years old).
We travelled for 30 minutes then had to change buses, then a 3 hour journey up and down and around huge, steep, rugged mountains and another change of buses, then a final 30 minutes, arriving at our destination, Meteora, around 8pm. Then we walked with all our bags (including a very heavy bronze souviner from Delphi!) uphill to our hotel, about 20 minutes away. Luckily there was a Taverna (tavern) next door to our hotel, so after a beer, a quick dinner and showers, we headed to bed.
Location: Delphi, Greece
We arrived in Delphi about 6.30pm just in time to walk around the town in the cool of the late afternoon.
Delphi was an ancient civilization 500-600 BC where the God Apollo was worshipped and it was regarded as the centre of the world in ancient times. At this time in Delphi, the Oracle, a female prophecy, sat on a tripod (stool) above a crack in the earth where some kind of fumes were emitted and told people's fortunes. Apparently, her prophesies were very weird and no-one really understood them...probably because she was "high" on whatever it was she was breathing!! However, she was taken very seriously. In fact, a famous married Emperor who had as his lover an extremely handsome 17year old boy, was told by the Oracle that either he or his lover boy would have to die. The young lad so loved the older man, plus was very aware of his status as Emperor, that he jumped into the river Nile and drowned himself. The Emperor was devastated so he erected statues of the handsome teenager all over Greece and Rome. (We saw a couple of these statues and the young boy was really beautiful.) It's quite a sad story.
Location: Athens, Greece
6th and 7th Sept
Saturday and Sunday
The following two days we had an amazing time. The four of us walked all over the city visiting the Acropolis and Parthenon (500-600BC),
National Museum of Archeology and both the Greek (500-600 BC) and Roman (100 AD) Angora (shopping area). Our sight seeing also included
a steep cable car ride through a tunnel up to the top of a hill, the highest point in the city, to see the sunset over the predominately
white buildings of the city.
After 2 exhausting days and 3 nights we packed up again and after missing the 1pm coach by 10 minutes, mainly because we couldn't find a taxi then the traffic was heavy and to top it off, our taxi got stuck behind a public bus that kept stopping, we left on the 3.30pm coach
for the small village of Delphi, high up in the mountains.
Location: Athens, Greece
So...We found ourselves at the dock at Athens at around 12.30am without a hotel booking.(This was only the second time this had happened!)
After walking a short distance we found the railway station and caught a train right into the middle of the city.
Brad and I left Ron and Maree minding all the bags at a park bench in a big open park next to Parliament House
where there was plenty of light and lots of people still out and about. Bradley had a map and a list of cheap hotels,
so after running around the middle of the city for over an hour, we finally found a clean, cheap hotel. Cheap, that is, by Athen's
standards! It cost us 130 Euros (about $200 Aust) per night for 2 adjoining rooms. It was about 2 1/2 stars but included
air conditioning and breakfast. We finally got settled about 3.30am!!
Location: Santorini to Athens, Greece
THERE ARE UPDATED ENTRIES AT THE END OF AUGUST!!!!
We left Santorini after 3 nights on a large "Blue Star" ferry. As this was our last ferry trip we decided to upgrage to first class for an extra $20 Euro per person (about $30 Aust). it was a great trip as we had comfortable chairs,a couple of small round tables, a large TV screen (with a British movie showing!) and our own first class bar!
As we made our way from the port I took many photos looking back at the island. Santorini is certainly an amazing place! I doubt there would be any other place in the world like it. The soaring cliffs, volcanic rock and small white houses balancing on the
cliff edges make the whole place spectacular.
Anyway, after farewelling Santorini, we settled in for the night.
We bought some takeaway spaghetti for dinner, had a beer and played cards ("Contract"!).
After a very smooth 8 hour trip our ferry finally docked at Athens at midnight. All the passengers on foot (like us) queue up to get to the bottom of the ferry to grab bags, backpacks and suitcases stored on racks right next to all the vehicles. It's quite chaotic as the cars, motorbikes and trucks of all sizes are also driving off the ferry right next to all the pedestrians who are wrestling with their bags etc...and each other! At the same time the ferry staff are yelling and directing the whole show and in spite of the commotion,
nobody is injured and everyone disembarks, I was going to say,'safely'...but rather in one piece!! There was even a black hearse on our ferry complete with black-suited driver and coffin!
To be continued...
Location: Santorini, Greece
3rd and 4th September
After 3 nights in Naxos we caught another huge ferry to the island of Santorini. This island is amazing! It is built on the rim of an ancient volcano that erupted over 2000 thousand years ago. The eruption was the biggest ever recorded and it blew out the middle of the island causing a massive tsunami. The crater then filled up with the Agean Sea.
As we came into the port we could see the massive cliffs at the water's edge. There are about 5 small villages with white painted houses dotting the tops of the cliffs. We got a lift to our hotel in a minibus. It took about 15minutes for the bus to wind its way up the almost sheer cliff to the top.
The island is so picturesque. Another photographer's dream! The houses are almost all white washed with blue trim. The numerous churches are typical of the photos we all see in magazines with white walls and blue domes.
We walked around a couple of the villages and on the first day we had a swim at a beach with black sand from the volcano. Maree and I wore our bikinis! You wouldn't be seen dead in a one piece with boardshorts in a fit in Greece! We would be so conspicuous! Everyone...I mean everyone, of all shapes and sizes...and age, wear bikinis. Not the blokes of courses! The water was magnificent.
At dusk we sat on the edge of the cliff and watched the famous Santorini sunset with hundreds of other tourists. It was beautiful.
On the second day we caught a cable car from the top of the cliff to join a large sailing boat for a sunset cruise including dinner. It was great! We were sailing in the middle of an active volcano! The sun is so orange just before it sets. When we docked we got back up to the top of the cliff on mules. Maree loved it as it was the first time she'd been on a horse/donkey since a child. It was fun! There hasn't been a dull moment since we left on this amazing adventure!
Location: Naxos, Greece
Wow! It's the first day of Spring in the southern hemisphere...so "a pinch and a punch..."!
But here it is the first day of Autumn and being the 1st eptember it is the beginning of the month of Ramadan for all Muslims in the world.
So, before entering our next adventure in Greece I will tell you briefly what this means.
During the month of Ramadan (September this year but can be at other times as it is based on the phases of the moon) practising Muslims do not allow any food or drink to pass their lips between dawn (at the first 'call to prayer') and dusk (the second last 'call to prayer').
By the way' there are 5 'calls to prayer' per day when Muzzien, highly skilled/trained prayer singers, sing out over loud speakers, reminding practising Muslims to pray. It is quite a beautiful wailing sound.
Anyway, Ramadan is practised so that Muslims can understand the plight of the poor. They are not even allowed to drink water. Children, the elderly and the sick are exempt.
When the sun sets there is great merriment and feasting! In some places men beat great drums about an hour before dawn so they wake people incase they want to eat breakfast or drink before the first 'call to prayer'! Luckily 'foreiners' are exempt too and in Turkey, food is readily available!! Apparently though, in Arabic countries, Ramadan is taken way more seriously and it is difficult to find food during daylight hours!!
One final aspect I have learnt about being Muslim is following the 5 pillars of Islam. These are (in order):
1. Believing that there is only one God
2. Praying 5 times a day
3. Practising Ramadan
4. Giving 2.5% profit from your income or business to the poor
5. Going to Mecca, in Saudi Arabia, the place where Mahammed, (who Muslims revere like Jesus, to Christians) began to preach.