Published: May 7th 2012May 1st 2012
With our UK visas coming to an end in a matter of weeks, we coincided our trip to Turkey so we would be in Gallipoli for ANZAC day. We booked yet another Travel Talk tour for this trip and went with a few friends. Arriving at Istanbul airport was an exciting time for me as being a New Zealand passport holder I didn't have to buy a Turkish visa so I got to wave goodbye to the Aussies in the visa cue and go straight through customs. Turkey lies on both the European and Asian continental plates, with 95% of the Country lying on the Asian plates (Istanbul is the only city on the European side). Istanbul has just two bridges separating Europe from Asia, and with a population of 13 million it makes for a slow journey across them!
Upon arrival at our hotel we set out to have our first Kebab of the trip and then searched for a Turkish delight (our rule was one Turkish delight a day), but sadly we failed our goal on the first day as we had to leave for a Bosporus river cruise before we could locate one!
The next day
we headed on a ten hour bus trip to the heart of the Country. Once we arrived at our destination of Cappadocia we headed out for a traditional Turkish massages. This was a crazy experience- the guys and girls got separated and we got facials and saunas before being taken into the massage room. None of us girls knew what was happening- the big Turkish women grabbed a few of us and made us lie down around the outside of a marble slab, and the women then started dancing around in their see-through underwear. Was quite scary as we still didn’t know what was happening and we had heard stories about girls bikini tops getting ripped of them. The massage was amazing though complete with bubbles. I was lucky enough not to get my top ripped off. The boys had a similar experience except they had men with moustaches and hairy chests. I think Michael still has some scratches on his chest. A great memorable experience!
Today was a day I had been excited about for a couple of years, since I had heard about Cappadocia- also known as the fairy chimney rock formations. The fairy chimneys were formed
by the wind, climate and rivers forming erosion of volcanic materials that were deposited thousands of years ago. We basically spent the day driving around and exploring different areas of this amazing geological area. We also went to a pottery demonstration and then a rug factory to see how they make the famous double-knotted Turkish rugs. That night we went to a traditional Turkish party, which included Turkish dancing and a fake Turkish wedding.
The next day we went to the Derinkuyu underground city, which goes about 85m underground so was neat to explore the networks of tunnels and passages. Our hotel for the night in Pumukkale was in a geothermal area so our hotel had its own hot spring pool, and even the baths in the rooms were linked to the spring. Pumukkale translates to 'Cotton Castle', and is an area made up of 17 hot water springs spread out over terraces. Was nice to walk around the springs with bare feet and feel the carbonate minerals. Ephesus was our next stop, which is the best-preserved ancient city in Turkey. We spent a few hours exploring these ruins before reaching our first Turkish coastal town.
cities were visited the next day but as it was day 6 and we still had not had the chance to buy any Turkish delights we were all eagerly anticipating the afternoon visit to the Turkish Delight factory. Many different delights and other sweets were sampled and yes there were some purchases as well! We all made sure we had an early night, as we knew we would be camping outside the next night for the Gallipoli dawn service.
After a stop at the ruins of Troy we headed to a supermarket to stock up on supplies for our night outside then we headed to the ferry to cross the Dardanelles over to Gallipoli. Luckily for us we had a really great tour guide who had done ANZAC day 8 times before so he knew exactly what he was doing. Our bus went round the back entrance of ANZAC cove where there were fewer buses and we ended up being about the 10th bus out of 400 in the cue. We had to wait in the sun until we got let into the commemorative area at around 5pm. It was worth waiting as since we were one of the
first groups in we managed to secure the camp out position that our guide usually tries to get. We were very lucky as we had heaps of room to sleep while others were stuck on plastic chairs all night. We were also fortunate enough to have the warmest ANZAC night in years. They played documentaries on the big screens all night but I managed to sleep surprisingly well.
We all got up for the Dawn service the next morning, which was very emotional and very well done. ANZAC cove has a very beautiful/surreal seascape and it was moving just to watch the floodlit bay as the mist thickened throughout the early morning, with just the pulsing navigation light of the loan Turkish coastguard vessel offshore. Difficult to comprehend what it must have been like for the ANZACs 97 years ago. After the dawn service everyone started the 1.5k trek up Artillery Road to Lone Pine- the Australian Commemorative area. One of the reasons our guide wanted us to have our specific camp out spot is that it was next to the hill that we were going to trek up so we ended up among the first people at Lone
Pine and secured good seats. After the Australian service finished we had about 30mins to trek a further 3.5k up hill in the heat to make it to Chunuk Bair for the New Zealand service, which we managed to get to just as it started. After all the services we had to wait for the buses to come and get each group, and once again our guide managed to make sure we were one of the first groups picked up. The overall ANZAC day was a great experience and it definitely made a huge difference having a great guide who knew what he was doing!
After a good nights sleep in a hotel we headed back to Gallipoli to see all the sights without the crowds. We drove around and stopped off at all the memorials, which was great, as we didn’t really get to see anything properly on ANZAC day with all the crowds. We then sadly headed back to Istanbul, which meant it was nearly time to end our trip.
With three nights in Istanbul we managed to see a lot including the famous Blue Mosque and the Hagia Sophia museum. Both were amazing feats of
engineering with incredible history, with the religions changing through different rulings. We also checked out the Basilica Cistern which is an underwater reservoir built in the 6th century. The Grand Bazaar and Spice markets were cool but not as crazy as I was hoping they would be- they were more like shopping centers. We also managed to make sure we made the most of the wonderful Turkish cuisine by eating more kebabs and Turkish Delights!
Turkey was an amazing place and lived up to expectations since everyone had talked it up so much. We were very sad to be heading back to London as we only had 11 more days until our visas ended. We both agreed that the ANZAC experience was a major highlight from our travels so far.
There are more photos below