A Travellerspoint blog

The Aegean coast

Greece for the price of Turkey

sunny 19 °C

After our overnight experience at Gallipoli we were pretty shattered, but it was only 1pm. We got a 15 minute car ferry across the Dardanelles to Canakkale.

We had some lunch and walked along the pretty waterfront, which had the horse they built for the movie Troy.

We then drive to actual Troy, and started with a little nap on the grass to recharge. We then explored the ruins themselves which were interesting but didn't blow us away. Having said that, it was still cool because it was Troy, and some parts were almost 5,000 years old!

Still being tired, we decided not to do any more driving that day and found a local place for the night. I went to bed at around 7 and David followed just after 8. Refreshed, we set off down the Aegean coast the next morning. The drive was beautiful and the roads were very good, although there was a fair amount of crazy driving in the towns.

We crossed a bridge to have lunch on a pretty island which felt very Greek in style, as did much of the Aegean coast.

We also stopped at the 5th century BC acropolis of Pergamon, which had a 360° view. I particularly liked the Roman columns and the amphitheatre, which had seating for 10,000 people. There was one tour group and a few individuals but we almost had the place to ourselves.

After that we drove to Selcuk, where we stayed at a place called ANZ guesthouse, partly because we liked the name. The owner was friendly, and managed to narrowly beat David at table tennis.
We found an amazing restaurant nearby where we finally tried pide, Turkish pizza. It was so good we came back the next night. We got a free salad, Turkish tea, and dessert pizza with a sesame paste topping, and the bill was NZ $18 even with a tip.

I has also decided to try a Turkish drink which sounded interesting, and tasted even worse than the description sounds!! Imagine unsweetened juice from pickled gherkins, with lots chili added.

The next day we took a break from ruins and went to a national park. It was really nice to be somewhere where we didn't have to cover up in the heat of the day for a change. The beaches were more rocky than sandy, but the water was so clear that it more than made up for it. We swam in the cool water and sunbathed to warm up.

We also visited the "cave of Zeus", where legend says that Zeus used to hide from his brother Poseidon. It was ok, but nothing special and we only stayed 5 minutes.

On our last day we visited the main attractions of Selcuk, the ruins of Ephesus. We started with a visit to the ruins of the 4th century church built in honour of St John, who allegedly spent the last years of his life there. It was impressive, and would be the seventh largest church in the world today if reconstructed. We also found a turtle in among the ruins!

There was also an old castle on top of the hill which had a great view and looked amazing with the vibrant colours of the poppies which were everywhere.

We also visited the local museum where most of the important historical pieces from Ephesus are kept so we would know some of the background. We had an amazing lunch in a nice plaza in the centre of town, again for less than $20 for both of us.

We then visited the ruins of Ephesus, which was originally a Greek settlement from around 1,000 BC and one of the largest cities in the world during Roman times. It was ultimately abandoned in the 3rd-4th century AD following a number of earthquakes. These ruins were way better than any we had seen before and we really enjoyed them. David took the opportunity to do another beer ad, with an Efes beer from the area. The ruins had an amphitheatre with seating for 25,000 people where allegedly St Paul delivered his gospel, and a nice main street where Cleopatra and Marc Antony had a famous procession.

Outside the main ruins there was one attraction left - the ancient temple of Artemis, one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. Today there is very little left so it was a pretty quick stop.

After that we did a quick trip to a nearby town famous for its delicious fruits and fruit wine. We did a tasting and bought a bottle of pomegranate wine which I really liked but was too sweet for David.

The next day we headed to yet another beautiful beach, Cesme, which fitted exactly into our mental picture of the Greek coast. We saw a beautiful pier in the water and asked the adjacent resort if we could buy a drink and use the pier. The place actually hadn't opened yet and the guys were really glad for us to use their deck chairs for free, which will cost $40 per day from Monday. They took selfies with us and a we fed the fish with them. Once it was just us we lay back and enjoyed the stunning views.

We dropped off the car and flew inland to Cappadocia.

Posted by nzdora 07:40 Archived in Turkey Comments (0)

ANZAC Day at Gallipoli

A special and moving experience

all seasons in one day 10 °C

We were lucky enough to book tickets to Turkey which had us there for 25 April. When we realised this, we couldn’t miss the chance to attend the ANZAC Day ceremony at Gallipoli.

We picked up a rental car in Istanbul and got a free upgrade to a Nissan Qashqai with only 1,000 kms on the clock. We spent almost a whole day driving to the Gallipoli peninsula, including on some pretty questionable roads!!!

On the way we saw poppies in the fields and stopped at a Turkish memorial which was packed with Turkish tourists. The Gallipoli campaign holds equal or more significance to the Turkish as it does to us, and there are memorial ceremonies at the same time for the Turks. The dead soldiers are considered martyrs who died defending their homeland, and this was a defining part of the creation of modern Turkey.

The vast majority of people attend the service as part of an organised tour and we weren't sure how it would work out arriving in a private vehicle. Security was tight as there were concerns that either the ANZAC ceremony or the concurrent Turkish ceremony may be a target for a terrorist attack. We had to park our vehicle about 10kms away and were provided with a free shuttle to ANZAC cove, where the dawn ceremony would be held.

Inside, the staff were all incredibly friendly volunteers from NZ and Australia, and we were presented with free water and a goody bag with ponchos, beanies, pencils and information about the Gallipoli campaign. We found a spot on the grass for the night, but it soon started to pour with rain.

They moved us all into the entrance tent (fortunately there were around 1,200 people attending, about 1/10th of last year's numbers) and we waited until the rain passed.

We went out again and were entertained by a variety of music and short documentaries. After a while, we decided to try to get some sleep and took half a sleeping pill each. Just as the pills kicked in it started to drizzle again. We decided to wait/sleep it out (I'm not sure we really has much of a choice at that point!!!) and woke up at around 1 with the area around us quite wet but the Gallipoli ponchos we were in had protected us well. The overnight low was around 7 degrees, I wore a singlet, woollen dress, icebreaker jersey AND puffer jacket and was still cold, I can't imagine how the ANZAC soldiers managed in winter!!! We woke up just before 4, when the morning performances started.We also got to see highlights from the ceremonies in New Zealand and Australia which was a nice way to feel connected.

The words spoken, the music, and the short films were really well presented and made for an extremely moving memorial ceremony, we were both very moved and definitely shed a few tears.

After the ceremony we walked the 6.5km up to Chunuk Bair. Using an app we had downloaded we listened to the stories of the battles which took place along our route. It was amazing to be there and see the cliffs and ridges which shaped the battles. We visited a number of cemeteries, memorials, and trenches, and the walk was a fair climb which took us a solid 2 hours, even on a reasonably good road.

It was sad to think that in the 9 months the ANZAC soldiers were on Gallipoli this was the furthest they ever got, and even this was only briefly held. The scenery on the walk was picturesque and peaceful.

The New Zealand ceremony was packed, we had taken our time with the climb and almost missed out on seats.
The temperature had changed drastically from the night before and it was now sweltering. This ceremony was also really well done, but the lack of sleep, hot conditions, and walk up the hill meant that a lot of people were falling asleep in their seats.
Luckily we met an Aussie who had managed to park his car nearby who gave us a ride back to our car. We headed off straight after the ceremony, absolutely exhausted but extremely pleased that we had attended such a special event and even more proud of our New Zealand heritage.

Attending the ANZAC ceremonies at Gallipoli was a very special experience, which I would highly recommend to any New Zealander.

We were actuary surprised at how few New Zealanders there were, most of the attendees at both ceremonies seemed to be Australian.

My only disappointment was that I didn't see any poppies on the Gallipoli peninsula. We saw a lot on the next day of our trip - more about that coming soon.... Spoiler alert, we visited Troy!!!

Posted by nzdora 00:19 Archived in Turkey Comments (0)

Istanbul, not Constantinople


We had managed to find super cheap flights to London which gave us 2 weeks in Turkey on the way for a honeymoon (of course our trip before the wedding doesn't count, why do you ask?!?!?). Since booking our flights, two bombs had gone off in Turkey and the New Zealand government had issued a travel warning, but as we had booked the cheapest possible flights we didn't have any option to change, plus we both really wanted to see Turkey!!!

We arrived in Istanbul at 4:45am and were through immigration and customs within half an hour, which meant we had to wait for 20 minutes until the first metro of the day. We checked in to our accommodation (Art City Hotel) in the centre of the old city at 7am, dropped our stuff off and had a little nap. After our nap we had an amazing breakfast courtesy of our hotel.

We walked through the intricate old streets of Istanbul, enjoying the different architecture of the old structures at every turn, and jumped on a cruise up the Bosphorus straight. We hired an audio guide and learnt about the historic buildings along the straight which connects the Black Sea to the Aegean and separates the European and Asian sides of Istanbul. The cruise dropped us off on the Asian side and we went for a walk up to an old castle which overlooks the Black Sea. The views were fantastic, and we enjoyed a fresh seafood lunch by the water. The cruise took us back to Istanbul around 5 and we were so tired we didn't leave again!!!

We were woken during the night by the call to prayer, which happens in Islamic countries 5 times a day, the first being before sunrise. The calls are melodic and haunting and are broadcast from speakers on towers by mosques (minarets) - we had minarets from about 6 mosques close enough to wake us!!!

When it was finally daylight, we set off for a full day of exploring. Having seen the amazing buildings from the water the day before we were looking forward to seeing them up close. We started at the blue mosque, a 15th century building which is one of the most famous mosques in the world. I was given a headscarf (I had thought a hoodie covering my hair would be enough but apparently not) and we had to off our shoes to enter. There were absolutely no queues and hardly any tourists.

Just across the road and next on our itinerary was the Hagia Sofia, a 6th century building that was originally a Christian church, then a mosque, and is now a museum. The building was amazing, absolutely huge and very intricately decorated, especially given its age. It was strange to see images of Jesus and Mary all through a building which looked so much like a mosque.

We then crossed the tram tracks and visited the Basilica Cistern, an underground reservoir from the Roman times. It was an amazing feat of engineering, with water brought from 19km away via aqueducts and over 100,000 cubic metres of storage capacity.

At this point it was only lunchtime, we had got in and around each attraction so easily, and they really are ridiculously close. We had a nice lunch, of fresh salad drenched in olive oil, Turkish bread, and kebab meat which is standard fare in Istanbul.

After lunch we visited the Turkish art and cultural centre. The art isn't really our thing, but there were some cool religious relics. These included dozens of ancient (and giant) handwritten copies of the Koran, and stands of Mohammed’s hair.

After that we went to the Topkapi palace, where the sultans lived. The buildings were ridiculously lavish, and the tulips were in full bloom and looked stunning. We also looked through the royal harem, where around 300 women lived!!!! The palace’s treasury and relics were also amazing, with a 80 carat diamond, and allegedly the staff of Moses and the sword of David.

The next day we had a look through the grand bazaar, a giant market which surprised us as the building was nice and the products were much higher quality than we had seen in Latin America.

We then caught a tram to the old city walls which were an unexpected highlight, giving us great views.

We also visited a couple of old churches which were great, but not as good as the ones we had seen the day before. David got a Turkish haircut, and we caught a ferry to the northern part of the city. We had a light lunch at the top floor of a restaurant beside the Galata tower and enjoyed a nice view.
Afterwards, we went to a Turkish cooking class which was great fun. Our teacher, Oguz, took us through a market where he bought local produce, and then we cooked 5 dishes from different regions of Turkey - hummus, roasted eggplant, stuffed vegetables, filo pasty rolls, and a semolina pudding.
On our last day in Istanbul we spent the morning at the archaeology museum. It was full of Roman, Egyptian and Anatolian items which were thousands of years old. That afternoon we got a ferry to the Asian side and then tried to get another ferry to the Princes islands south of Istanbul, but it was packed and we didn't make it on. Instead, we explored the Asian side and had a successful afternoon shopping.

We had a busy four days, but really enjoyed our time in Istanbul. Most of the tourist attractions are really close together which made it easy to see a lot in a short time. We really enjoyed the freshness of the food, and we never felt unsafe as the people were very helpful. There were a lot of stray cats, which were a pleasant change from the dogs in Latin America. It is sad to see how much the tourism industry is struggling at the moment due to the perceived threat of a terrorism attack, although this worked in our favour as there were no queues and our accommodation was about half its usual price.


Posted by nzdora 23:54 Archived in Turkey Comments (0)

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