Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Glorified Gallipoli and Terrific Troy

Monday was an early start to catch a bus to Gallipoli. I got there about 12:30 and the tour started at one. Our guide Hasan took us to the Gallipoli museum which had a number of artifacts found in the area, including a collection of bullets that had hit each other in mid air and letters from soldiers, to ANZAC cove, which the Turkish government has officially renamed as such, John Simpson's grave (the guy with the donkey), Aru Buran cemetery, the site of the dawn service where they were already erecting the stands for ANZAC day, Lone Pine cemetery, one of the Turkish memorials, Chanuk Bair, a big New Zealand memorial site, the site of some of the trenches and a large memorial with a quite from Ataturk regarding the soldiers buried on the peninsula:

"Those heroes that shed their
blood and lost their are now lying of the soil
of a friendly country, therefore rest in peace. There is
no difference between the Johnies and the 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."

- Kemal Ataturk

A few things really stuck home on the tour. First is that it felt like home. I'm not a sentimental type, but it did not feel like I was on foreign soil. The next was how beautiful the area is. Also present was the respect the Turks have for the ANZACs and the respect the soldiers on both sides had for each other even while killing each other. Stories of gallantry and nobility are common on both sides.

On Tuesday morning I took a tour of the ruins of Troy, the city of legend written of by Homer. Pretty interesting, but a lot of imagination is required. Pretty cool were the spots where you could see pieces from the nine different periods of Troy's history covering 3000 years. Then it was back to Istanbul and crashing in a hostel.

It was another early start today to catch the 8:30 train to Athens which will take 24 hours or so.

A few thoughts on Turkey. Russia keeps it prize for the best chess sets, but Turkey gets the prize for best chess boards, and best backgammon sets, although I'm not sure how much competition there is for that one. It was also a lot more expensive than I expected. My hostel was good, although the weekday staff were a lot friendlier than the weekend staff. Finally, Istanbul is a cat city.

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