The first surprising thing about Istanbul is that the place works. You would think after all the stories about Afghanistan, Iran, Pakistan ect this place would just be another basket case. It's not. When you fly in you arrive at a modern airport, your baggage arrives, you can pay for a coffee in any one of twenty currencies even AUD, and the place is clean. EG you know straight away this isn't Heathrow. Next surprise. They have a good Metro, and it has a smart card ticketing, which works, as well as tokens that cost about a dollar for a trip. The place ain't Melbourne either. As you ride into town you see the beautiful Bosporus. The place is a bit like Sydney with mosques and friendly people. Half of them are trying to sell you carpets, the other half food, but that's all part of the game. most are quite happy to sit down and have a chat to you. Lashings of hot apple tea to help the conversation along.
Mick and I lobed down to Sultanarmet, which is the tourist central. It's like a Turkish Chaple St. Hostels have names like Sydney, ANZAC and Gida, and so on. Shops sell Tshirts with "Raki is the answer" I can't remember the question. The place has lots of accommodation. Tourists are a bit thin on the ground so we manage to bargain our way into a room for about $50 per night split between the two of us. The place has a roof top restaurant with a sweeping view of the city and ocean. A happy hour that goes for three, where you can buy one liter of beer for the same price as two half liters at non happy hour price. Turk Logic I guess. It also sits in between the Blue and the red mosque's so you get the call to prayer 5 times a day. After a while you get used to it, a bit like traffic noise. The place is quite cosmopolitan with most women walking around in western dress checking out the fashion. Head scarves are only worn by the odd couple of people. Turkish blokes spend most of there time when not working following football and chatting up the western girls. Every restaurant and carpet shop has a spruker trying to get you in, then there are the mobile ones just wandering around trying to start conversations that end up with an offer to visit a carpet shop. They are quite persistent, often following you for a block just chatting or stopping you to say "I have a Question?" I say "The answer is Raki" and keep on walking.
I like carpets so in my spare time I've been to a few shops. Carpets come in lots of varieties. Kilms(basic woven rugs) Rug Rug (kilm with embroidery over top) and carpet( Hand knotted rugs), then there are natural dyes synthetic dyes wool and silk types. Old carpets are worth more than new ones so as you walk along the street there are carpets layed out for you to walk over to give them that antique look. All carpets are a bargain no matter how much you pay for them. Now you know the basics you won't have to visit a carpet shop if you come here.
After a couple of days of carpet shopping we decided to do the Aussie thing and head off to Gallopie. On the metro out to the Outogar to catch a Bus . The bus station is huge with 160 platforms and multiple companies going to each destination, fortunately there are touts to point you in the right direction and whisk you off to their company. Buses tend to cost about $5 per hour of travel no matter where you are going, where going about 5 and a half hours or 300 Km so that about $30. The buses are fantastic, when you get on a conductor offers you a glass of water. then once the trip starts they wheel out the cart to run up the isle with a snack and tea or coffee all included in the ticket price. No beer, but it is a Muslim country after all.
We arrive in Egerbat which is only about 5km from ANZAC Cove but on the other side of the Peninsular. The place is a little fishing village with about 20 sea side restaurants serving good cheap food and beer. The ferries run from here to Chankalle which is the major town where most people stay at. It's a one dollar half an hour ride across the water. We settle in for the night at the Crowed house Hotel which has a real happy hour. The place is full of tourists who race in do the battle field, the take off to Chankalle or beyond. The few who stay here tend to race off early the next morning on there organised trips, so even though we stayed here four nights we never saw the same people twice. Next day after our leisurely rise for breakfast at ten we took a tour out to the cove.
A brief bit of history. The Gallopie campaign was a stuff up. They landed in the wrong place. After nine months of fighting they gained their first days objective for two days, only to lose it again. They never made it more than two Km inland from the beach. After the British general who ran the campaign was relived, the new one decided the position was hopeless, and evacuated the troops. About 500,000 troops where killed or wounded on both sides.
One thing you notice about the battle field is how small it is. Brighton beach the long flat beach they where meant to land on is only 1 km away but they never got there. They climbed up these huge cliffs towards the high ground which is a five minute drive away. On the way you pass through all these names you have heard of Shrapnel Vally, Lone Pine, The Neck till you get to Chunak Blar, the objective which overlooks the Dardanelles straight. Our guide Bullant gave us a very well balanced view of the conflict. The Turks naturally see the Galopie campaign as a great victory even though they lose more men than the allies. The whole thing is a bit depressing but well worth the visit.
Over the next couple of days we went swimming at Brighton beach, over to Chankalie, and just chilled in general. Turkish food is great. Kebabs in twenty different varieties, Pide which is great Turkish pizza, Stuffed tomatoes and peppers called dollmades, and baklava, crepes and ice cream for deserts. Chuck a couple of pints of Effies the local beer on top of this and its no wonder I'm not loosing any weight.
Anyway all good things must come to an end. Back on the bus to Istanbul, and back to the old haunts.Dinner on the roof tops overlooking the Bosporus.Off to the Grand Bazaar for a bit more carpet education at one of the 4000 shops crammed in there, a quick look at a mosque, and a trip to Asia (cross the Bospours on a ferry $3 return.) I loved the old Roman font which is a huge underground water storage. Its a great place to go in the middle of the day when its hot. Its huge with about 150 columns holding ap a stone vaulted roof. Walkways keep you above the water.Fish swim up to greet you as you as you pass over them. Water drips from the roof to keep the place cool, and they pipe classical music into it to give it that serene feel. Before we know it where back on the metro to the airport. Our cousins wedding is calling us to England. Its summer and the weather doesn't look good. What else is new.