The Basilica Cistern, an old water supply for Istanbul/Constantinople, is such a beautiful place (probably helped by the lighting that has been installed). At the rear of the cavern are two ‘Medusa heads’, one placed upside down and one placed on its side. They seem to believe that by turning the head, it removed her ability to turn people to stone. The detail in some of the pillars, and those Medusa heads, was incredible. I took a LOT of photos haha.
I also went to the Grand Bazaar, and learned that my haggling skills leave a lot to be desired. It did, at a very basic level, remind me of an older and fully enclosed Queen Vic Market, but I enjoyed my time there and bought a few things.
And yesterday I went to Gallipoli, which really was an adventure. It is a 5 hr bus ride from Istanbul, so I was prepared for a long day of driving. I got picked up at 7am by a non English speaking Turk, and was terrified that this would be my guide for the day and I wouldn’t understand a word. Thankfully he was just the driver.
So I got on the bus and met my fellow travellers. Kim (a kiwi), plus James and Jenny, a Canadian/Japanese couple who had no idea what Gallipoli was and thought they were just being transferred to a nearby town. They became really interested in the stories though, and I think that in the end they were glad they came.
The actual Gallipoli peninsula, with Anzac Cove, Lone Pine, Johnston’s Jolly (with the trenches still dug out beside it) and other sites was incredible. We had a gorgeous day and an amazing guide, who really helped me appreciate the battle from both sides. While I think its important to know that the Anzacs were fighting for our country, the stories of their companionship and respect for the Turks is what made it so amazing. Having shooting competitions across the trenches, helping clear the wounded from the battle field and applauding each others singing (even though the Anzacs were actually applauding the Turks prayer).
Seeing the terrain first hand was also remarkable, and seeing how little ground they actually gained in the time they were there was a bit sad to be honest, as it showed how futile the loss of life was. The sunlight when we were at Lone Pine was absolutely perfect and something I won’t forget.
The trip there and back was where all the real ‘fun’ happened though. On the way there we took a ‘shortcut’ through small, dilapidated Turkish towns with terrible roads (which I actually enjoyed as it meant I got to see a different side of things), and stopped by a small ‘animal park’ (aka torture centre) which had camels, deer, dogs, sheep and ponies locked up in tiny cages. It was very strange and we were all a bit disgusted, but I guess that its normal for them.
And the trip home. Oh boy. Thankfully Kiwi Kim was staying in the same area as me, so I wasn’t alone. We got loaded onto a bus in Eceabat, and were told that we would be taken to Istanbul bus terminal, and then there would be a shuttle bus to take us to our hostels in Sultanahmet. WELL. We got on our bus, with no English speaking people, and made it to Istanbul. Once there, nobody would speak to us and there were buses everywhere, but no direction or signage as to which one we needed. Finally someone said they would take us, so we hopped in their bus. And then were left to wait 20 min while he went inside and drank coffee!! Then he finally comes back, and we double check that we are going to Sultanahmet. Yes, he says, before speeding off into traffic with no care for speed limits or lane divisions. You haven’t truly stared death in the face until you have been sped through the narrow one-way (supposedly) streets in a minibus. He then proceeded to drop us a 30min walk from our hostels and told us to get a tram. After much angry discussion, we realised there was no point arguing and got off his bus and onto the tram. We did get safely back to the hostel eventually, but I certainly won’t remember the experience with fondness!
I’m at Munich airport at the moment, waiting for a plane to Budapest where I’ll spend the next few days.
Absolutely loving it!