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Gallipoli, By Ruth Murdoch (Edited by Alan Gow)

The name “Gallipoli” to a typical Kiwi, cannot help but invoke strong thoughts and emotions, especially around Anzac Day, 25 April. Television, newspapers and the radio bring us the stories of that time over a hundred years ago when New Zealand’s finest fought and died in their thousands in unknown foreign lands when we went to war as part of the British Empire.

New Zealand was just a young country with barely 1.1 million inhabitants. Over 10% of the entire population (120,000) enlisted to fight and of these, 18,000 were to die and another 40,000 be seriously injured. You can only imagine the talent, skills, energy, and potential that our country lost forever during those few years.

Gallipoli holds a special place in the hearts of New Zealanders because although far more were killed in the battlefields of France, this was the first major action of the war for us. It was in the trenches of Gallipoli that the ANZAC alliance was born and New Zealand started to grow its own sense of nationhood.

Gallipoli has long held intrigue for me. I never had much time for war movies, or history, and learnt little growing up about what it really meant for those soldiers going off to war. That all changed in a short time in Gallipoli.

In November 2017 the New Zealand Government had issued an extreme travel warning for all Kiwis visiting Turkey, saying that only necessary travel is recommended. Having been to Europe twenty years earlier and not visited Turkey, this destination had now become ‘necessary’ for me, as my motto is to live life with no regrets. No amount of warning was going to stop me from seeing Turkey this time around. That’s not to say I wasn’t on high alert and feeling some trepidation. Nevertheless, we decided to go regardless. I made a deliberate point to not tell family or friends of our intentions to disregard the NZ Government travel warnings. We took heed of the specific areas of very high risk and avoided those. As one who usually follows rules, this felt naughty, and almost daring but we looked forward to the experiences and adventures ahead of us.

One lesson we have learned during our travels is that everyone has a different view and experience on everything. One person says that Albania is dangerous, then the next person you meet says that Albania is safe and amazing and Albanians are the friendliest people around. In Thessaloniki, we met Detlef, a German who has lived in Turkey for many years and he gave us great reassurance that the vast majority of Turkey was in fact perfectly safe, and was unmissable. He imparted detailed tips about where to go, and not to go, and the best way to enter Istanbul, which is by ferry thus avoiding the 16-lane one-way parking lot which is the main freeway in.

We eased into Turkey via Greece with a pleasingly welcoming border crossing and cautiously headed towards Gallipoli on the surprisingly good roads.

Arriving at the township of Gelibolu (the Turkish name for Gallipoli) we didn’t know what to expect, having not researched ahead of time. “Was this where we would find the old battlefields and memorials to our fallen soldiers? Would it be obvious where we should be looking?” Nope, we had it wrong on so many counts. This place was a typical seaside township, with narrow roads, and small shop owners trying to make a living selling their wares. We did, however, taste the wares, particularly the Turkish Delight which we later discovered was to be the best we were to ever experience in Turkey.

A little research on Google Maps showed us we had to travel further south, then cut across the peninsula and there we would find Anzac Cove (Anzak Koyu) and the Anzac experience we sought.

Having missed the turnoff to Anzac Cove late in the afternoon, we stumbled upon a small café, called Boomerang Café on the outskirts of the small seaside town of Eceabat. The sun was setting and it was time to look for a safe place to park for the night. We parked outside Boomerang Café, not knowing if we were to be moved on or greeted. Only one way to find out, so we jumped out of Betsy, our Motorhome, and headed into the Café.

It reminded me of the country pubs dotted around New Zealand years ago (and possibly still these days), with an open fireplace, music, the smell of food, and of course cigarette smoke. The patron, Mesut Ercel, welcomed us with open arms. It was like being welcomed home after a long time away, only these were friends we hadn’t yet met.

Looking around we heard English being spoken by a couple of guys and asked to join them. It turned out they were from Australia, based in Beirut with the Australian Consulate. A quick history lesson was to ensue with Chris and Kingsley sharing their knowledge of the wars in Gallipoli and Crete. Particular mention was made of Sir Charles Upham, who received the first of his two Victoria Crosses for his exploits in Crete, of whom Kingsley, being ex Australian Army was immensely proud.

The following morning, we headed off in search of Anzac Cove, just a short twenty-minute drive to the other side of the peninsula from the Boomerang Café. What we encountered was unexpected.

Arriving at Anzac Cove
Apart from the 24/7 Turkish Security detail the whole place was virtually deserted. I am sure that around Anzac Day the whole place would be heaving with visitors but here on a glorious late October morning at site after site we were usually the only ones there.

Alighting from Betsy at Anzac Cove we walked in reverent silence onto the grounds that were perfectly manicured and framed with the glistening ocean and blue skies. It felt like everyone else had left us alone with our thoughts while we visited this almost sacred place. An eerie, empty feeling came over me, and words were not enough to explain what I was feeling. Together Alan and I stood quietly and solemnly reading the plaques (pictured below) in front of us which projected us back into the time when our countrymen fought and bled on that very ground. They obeyed the orders to fight for king, country and our freedom, for what we have now, for something we don’t think about often enough. For this, I for one am truly grateful, and forever humble.

We were able to be alone with our feelings and thoughts and contemplate our good fortune to never have had to go to war, and wonder at the stupidity of man who continues to start new ones.

The sense of loss and the sheer waste of so many lives on both sides is very sobering.

Sometimes in life we have moments that are so deeply meaningful that they reach right to the core of our being. So much so that it’s almost impossible to put down in words how you feel. This was one of those moments. This was one of those places. I doubt there is anywhere else in the world that feels quite like this.
We are so grateful to have been able to experience this place, especially in such beautiful and private circumstances and highly recommend it to all Kiwi’s if the opportunity arises.

One of the most humbling experiences of Anzac Cove was the plaque recently installed with the words of Mustafa Ataturk from 1934. He wrote:

“Those heroes that shed their blood and lost their lives… you are now lying in the soil of a friendly country. Therefore, rest in peace. There is no difference between the Johnnies and Mehmets to us where they lie side by side here in this country of ours… You, the mothers, who sent their sons from far away countries wipe away your tears; your sons are now lying in our bosom and are in peace. After having lost their lives on this land they have become our sons as well.”

We continued to our pilgrimage around the battlefields in this short but significant stretch of the Gallipoli Peninsula and walked around the many war cemeteries. I made a point of reading each headstone I could find of the New Zealand soldiers and paid my respects. We also read each plaque that outlined what had happened at that location. The place names that were distant memories now becoming alive – Chunuk Bair, Lone Pine, The Nek, Shrapnel Valley. Talk about an instant history lesson. This to me was the best way to learn about history, this wasn’t out of some book, or a movie to be watched on TV. This was real, this happened, and here we were in the actual place where these brave young men lost their lives over one hundred years ago. I couldn’t help but think how many families from NZ and Australia who lost relatives here, would never have the opportunity to visit this place. For them Gallipoli must seem so far away and hard to visualise. For those families I want to comfort you by saying that ‘your sons are now lying in a friendly country and are in peace’.  They have been respected and honoured wherever they are lying around Anzac Cove and the surrounding beautiful but rugged landscape.

Shrapnel Valley & Plugge’s Plateau Cemeteries, 56 New Zealanders lay here

Chunuk Bair Cemetery,
852 New Zealander Soldier 

Lone Pine where 316 unidentified soldiers lay

To the Turkish Government, I take my hat off to you for creating this incredible reserve where the bravery of so many Kiwis, Ozzy’s, Poms and Turks could be remembered.  To Mustafa Ataturk, the Turkish General in charge and the founder of modern Turkey, you have our utmost thanks for the respect and words of peace you gave to these young men.

Lest we forget.

Top Attractions of Istanbul

Top Attractions of Istanbul

Being in Istanbul is magical.  The people are wonderful and very friendly and we feel as ease instantly. Expecting a quick one week stay (that morphed into four weeks!) I wanted to make the most of our time so referencing and I set about to discover the top attractions of Istanbul.  Check out my map that shows the attractions we visited.


Our Top Attractions of Istanbul

How To Arrive In Istanbul The Easy Way

Having met a fellow German traveler, who happens to live in Turkey, Detlef gave us an invaluable tip on how to enter this thriving metropolis in order to avoid the 16 lane motorway into the centre.  He suggested we drive across the other side of the Sea of Marmara after our Gallipoli visit, and enter from Yalova by ferry, which worked out perfectly.

Where We Parked In Istanbul

We were lucky with the weather in November, for the entire month we had one day of rain.  The locals said this was most unusual and at this time the previous year they had already seen the early winter snow. We managed to park Betsy in a prime location next to public transport in a Sports Complex that is secured by a surrounding gate.  For just €20 per night we have access to free washing machine, electricity, water, grey and black water dumping, chooks and some very cute cats.  The owner suggested we might like to take one of the cats, who adopted us, with us when we left.  Sadly we couldn’t. Alan made friends (not) with the local roster who was afraid of no-one or nothing.  He would come running after Alan once his back was turned and wanted to protect his brood.

Electric Bikes in Istanbul

The electric bikes made getting around Istanbul heaps of fun.  Bikes, of any description, seem to be a rarity in this part of the world, and when it was realised ours were electric it attracted quite a following.  After three offers to purchase them (before they heard the price) we kept our bikes and just as well because when leaving the country we were questioned about them. Our expected timeframe for Istanbul was one week, but it soon became apparent that wasn’t going to be enough time to fully immerse ourselves into this wonderful, vibrant city, nor to see all it had to offer. We ventured out almost every day, seeing something new.  Our jaws kept dropping with the architecture, basilicas, mosques, museums, palaces, bazaars,  shops, monuments, and tours to undertake.  It was like a city that kept on giving. After four weeks in Istanbul, we felt like locals.  We had our local fishmonger, greengrocer, grocery shop, bread shop and a cheap place to eat where the locals eat – see photo below.

Visiting Mosques & Basilicas

There are lots of mosques and basilicas throughout Istanbul and you shouldn’t think that once you’ve seen one, you’ve seen them all.  They do vary and if you have the time then pop your head into several. Be prepared, however, to dress appropriately.  For women that means taking a shawl to wear over your hair, and cover shoulders and knees.  Some mosques actually provide additional layers of clothing but I would suggest being prepared and take your own.  Men’s dress is not so critical, but from memory, there are no singlets allowed.

* The Blue Mosque (also known as the Sultanahmed Mosque also spelled ‘Sultan Ahmed’) is possibly the most well known of all attractions in Istanbul, it graces the skyline and you cannot help but see it from several spots around Istanbul).  We purchased a three-day city pass which allowed us to enter different attractions at a discount.  I can’t quite remember all the details and they are likely to change regularly anyway.  I suggest you search these out either when you visit your first attraction or beforehand by going online.

* Suleymaniye Mosque

* Hagia Sophia (it’s a basilica)

* Little Hagia Sophia (well worth a visit and quieter than his big sister)

* Chora Church (this was a little way out of the city centre but easy on the bikes to reach).  A fascinating Church that was undergoing restoration while we were there (in November 2017)

* The Basicilia Cistern is well worth a visit – it is the largest of several hundred ancient cisterns that lie beneath the city of Istanbul.  You might want to take a good camera as photographing this in the darkness is difficult.  Alan’s digital SLR camera captured a great shot that is at the beginning of this blog.

Istanbul, Turkey by eBike

Istanbul, Turkey by eBike

Istanbul by Electric Bike
Alan Gow Checked Out in Istanbul, Turkey
11 November 2017

Traversing into and through the busy centre of Istanbul on electric bicycles may not sound like the most cunning of plans for the safety conscious.  However as we found out, it is great fun, super effective and really didn’t seem to risky, especially for a city with almost no cycle lanes.

Our journey today was taking us about 6km from our camper parking spot by the Yenkapi Sports Ground to the fantastic Dolmabahce Palace and involved crossing the Galata Kolpruo Bridge over the arm of the Bosphorus that divides the vibrant centre of Istanbul.

After several forays into Istanbul, we reckon we are getting pretty good at this and already have our favourite routes and short cuts to save time and avoid congestion.  With the aid of Google Maps displayed on a phone holder on the handle bars, we are happily finding all of the points of interest we have loaded in from our MyMap of Istanbul.

There is always the mix of emotions as we bypass the queues of taxi drivers at the Yenkapi Ferry Terminal then brave the busy Kennedy Cd with the high-speed morning commuter traffic zipping past us.  The cars are OK but its a little disconcerting when the road narrows to two lanes at the same time as some heavy trucks crowd us right over to the kerb.

Over the pedestrian crossing and up Aksakal Sokagi then thread our way through the wrong way up the one way Nakilbent against the traffic and pedestrians.  The car park is a welcome opportunity to gain some ground and incidentally has a great fresh fruit and vege market on a Wednesday morning.

The road opens onto the Hippodrome where Roman charioteers once raced and gladiators fought to the death.  We are luckily only jousting with early morning pedestrian today as we dash past the  Museum of Islamic Art on the left, and the magnificent Blue Mosque on the right.

The majestic Blue Mosque
Photograph by Alan Gow
The Hippodrome also encompasses other impressive monuments such as the Obelisk of Theodosius and German fountain.
“After the headlong rush down the tram lines, the pace slows”

After a brief pause to catch our breath, it’s time for the fun to begin as we position ourselves between the tram tracks running down Alemdar Cd, watching out for the oblivious pedestrians, who saunter in front of us, while keeping an eagle eye out to make sure a tram isn’t screaming up behind.  This is easily the most exhilarating way to move around Istanbul and the trip from the Hippodrome past the Archaeological Museum and down to the vibrant docks at Eminonu is over all too soon, leaving us wondering how we managed to traverse such a distance in one of the world’s biggest and busiest cities in such a short time.

After the rush of the headlong trip down the tram tracks, the pace slows as we wind our way along the docks, through the pedestrians and street hawkers selling a smorgasbord of tasty morsels, such as the round bread ‘simic’ that is as cheap as chips and is sold on nearly every corner, and the seasonal ‘kestane'(roasted chestnuts) which are artistically stacked on the vendors cart after being roasted to perfection.

A Kestane Vendor – Service with a Cigarette
Photograph by Alan Gow

The sight of hundreds of fishermen lined up on the docks, and smell of dead fish and bait are an assault on the senses as we check out their catch of buckets full of tiny mackerel and bluefish from the rich waters of the Bosporus and wonder what sort of dishes they would be cooking up with such tiny morsels. Maybe we should break out the fishing rod and join the locals?

Picking our way around a cosmopolitan mix of families, tourists, the woman in burkas of various levels of severity, armed police, and wall to wall fisherman etc we wind our way over the Galata Kolpruo Bridge and again centre ourselves on the north running tram lines which go most of the way to our destination.  There is a strong feeling of ‘should we be doing this?’ as us and the occasional trams are the only travellers on this prime real estate.  The cars are virtually bumper to bumper in the adjacent lanes as our electric bikes eat up the remaining distance in next to no time.  We get a hint that maybe we shouldn’t be there from the wild gesticulations of a tram driver coming the other way and think that maybe we shouldn’t push our luck on the way back and just take the road or footpath – a shame really as it feels very safe being out of the way of traffic and pedestrians.

Arriving at the Dolmabahce Palace, we double lock our bikes and head in to experience the magnificence of one of Istanbul’s finest palaces.  That though, is a story for another day.

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