Monday, May 12, 2014

Oh What a Turkish Delight-Istanbul/Goreme/Gallipoli, Turkey

Being a young Australian living in England sparks a range of controversial conversations on my day to day encounter with the local Walkabout bar flies. One of my favourite scenarios is the utmost shock when people learn I have left behind the sunshine and pure bliss of Australia to live in how they can only describe it as 'A shit hole'. There are many draw cards for someone like me living and working in England. My favourite is the fact that in an hour I can be in a completely different country with no hassles what so ever. The English tend not to realise how lucky they are to have so many diverse countries on their door step until I remind them that the entire United Kingdom can fit inside the state I live in back home, South Australia, four times and that our neighbouring country New Zealand is still a six hour flight away. So with that being said James and I set out to do as we had always planned whilst being based in England and took a week off work, grabbed our mate Jamie and took the next available (and cheapest of course) flight to Istanbul, Turkey. 

With Jamie's European adventure quickly coming to an end we couldn't give up the opportunity to send him off with a bang to sum up his time over sea's. As usual our plans were very open except this time there was three very equally strong minded adventurous Australian's wants and ideas to be accounted for when it came to making any moves. Our plan was to use Istanbul as a base and from there go on any over night or day trips that took our fancy. 

Istanbul is said to be a country within it self and upon arrival I was immediately in agreement, Muslim ways meets West influence makes for a interesting combination. The city itself is split into two sides Europe and Asia by the Sea of Marmara. The European side Sultanahmet is home to the old city where you can find remnants of the Ancient city that once was. The Asian side Beyoglu which is easily accessible by a connecting bridge adds a modern funky twist to the cities historic side. 

Staying at Cheers Hostel just a five minute walk from The Blue Mosque was the perfect location. Warm and friendly the hostels manager Tarik was more then happy to assist us with where to start exploring in this bustling city and gave us plenty of helpful tips on planning our further travels around Turkey, not to mention the Hostel had its very own cheeky puppy Zaman who soon became our best friend. Geared up with all the local know how we could absorb we made our way to Istanbul's oldest shopping district the Grand Bazzar where we quickly became lost amongst Turkish carpets, colourful lanterns and an array of tea pots. After getting a taste of bartering our way through the Grand Bazzar we decided to try our luck in the Spice Bazzar, where we became lost in the many sweet aromas of hundreds of different spices and teas. Being tipped by the staff from Cheers Hostel on where to buy the cities cheapest and most delicious hand made turkish delight, we were blown away by the flavour combinations available. The Turkish certainly know a thing or too about the sweeter things in life.

I love travelling in Muslim countries wandering through the streets listening to the pray call echoing out of the Mosque's. Dedicating an entire day, we set off to ravish ourselves in the traditional side of Istanbul. Starting at the Topkapi Palace we made our way to the Aya Sophia to finally finish our time with the world famous Blue Mosque. Being bought up attending Catholic churches the differences between the two religions was extremely prominent throughout the entire day. The idea of it being the 'unknown' is what really sparks my drive for wanting to explore the Muslim faith so deeply. 

Not forgetting to twist things up we walked our way over the connecting bridge past all the local fishermen and made our way to Beyoglu. Where we headed straight to Taksim square which is the cities main area for protests and riots. Half of the square was lined with stands selling bright fresh flowers whilst the other half was lined with police men in riot gear standing ready with army trucks. It was the first time that I had really stopped to wonder about my safety, although it seemed that I was almost the only one as I observed countless locals calmly going about there everyday actives. Riot police aside, to me this side of Istanbul was fantastic. Strolling along the main boulevard Istiklal Cad we found an abundance of great little side streets that took us to many hidden away gems. With endless cafes and shops it proved this side of Istanbul was a lot more funky and fresh.

Looking for a different side of Turkey we looked into the Cappadoccia region, which is towards the centre of the country. After talking between ourselves and listening to what Tarik had to say about our plans we decided to board a 12 hour over night bus to Goreme. Our trip began with drums and whistles as many Turkish families were celebrating the farewell of there Sons who were leaving to join the army. I have never seen such passion as people threw each other into the sides of the passing buses in pure excitement. The police guarded with heavy machinery watched on as if it was nothing out of the ordinary, well because for the Turkish it isn't anything out of the ordinary. I soon realised I was in a world where you literally have to fight for your rights, I wasn't sure how I felt about it at the time but I had a long gruelling 12 hours to think about it all along with battling bad wifi, verbal fights with Turkish men, squat toilets, slippery iced over roads and turkish coffee. 

Arriving into Goreme as the sun rose was like entering a new world. It was a landscape like no other I had witnessed in my life. The entire land was filled with honey comb cliffs, deep valleys and fairy chimney houses. Arriving at our hostel we were greeted by an old rock-cut church that would be our home for the next couple of days. With so much to see and do we decided to join a two day jam packed tour which would give us the most out of our short time in Goreme. After making our way through the towns Open Air Museum we soon learnt that the Capadoccia region was settled by the Romans which meant Christianity rained deep. There were countless rock churches spread in mountain sides and deep in the valleys that we had the pleasure to visit, which through a great spin on the fact that I thought I had come to travel in a country that was purely Muslim. 

The magic of Goreme was around every corner as we were taken seven stories underground to explore hidden cities. We experienced rock pillars that were known as iconic mushrooms and found ones that were shaped like camels. The fairy chimney houses where the locals lived were my absolute favourite because before the world had a reason for needing a scientific explanation for everything and anything the towns people believed that the land was once inhabited by fairies who created this mystical landscape, not erosion.

On our tour we were also given an amazing opportunity to visit a pottery demonstration where a Turkish master showed us how they made and painted plates and cups handmade the true turkish way. We also had the opportunity to visit a carpet factory which was actually an old marble palace fit for a king. We were shown how the Turkish ladies make the famous Turkish carpets all by hand and were then whizzed away to a show room where we sat back and drank Turkish wine and tea whilst being presented with carpets worth tens of thousands of dollars. Some how I ended up walking away with a one off piece, a handbag handmade from fine Turkish carpet that I found hanging on a wall alone in one of the halls. Being the first ever person to ask how much? It was a barter like no other, but I just had to have it. 

We had seen and explored every aspect of Goreme ever so intently. We had felt like we had accomplished more then we ever could have wanted from the Cappodocia region. The only thing that was left to sum up our time was to have the experience to witness Goreme from the sky. Soaring up 100's of meters on a hot air balloon as the sun rose was definitely the best way you could ever imagine starting a day and the utmost perfect ending to our time in this part of Turkey. Seeing Goreme from up above felt like floating over a wanderer's utopia. I felt like a soaring fairy as we soaked in the last of the pure beauty of this extraordinary landscape before we would hop on another 12 hour bus back to Istanbul. 

Having a day back in Istanbul to relax and soak in all things Turkish which included abundance amounts of apple tea, shisha and kebab store after kebab store. We began planning a day trip where this time we would head towards the coast to the town of Gallipoli a place that has the utmost significance to Australian history. 

On April 25th 1915 English, New Zealand, Australian and French troops landed on the Gallipoli peninsula in attempt to ambush Turkish soldiers and make there way through to infiltrate Germany during World War I. Records show that approximately 8500 Australian lives where lost during the 8 month battle, making it a significant commemoration still to today. As we made our way to ANZAC cove and stood on the shore over looking the area of where the blood bath all those years ago took place was spine chilling. As we observed the rather mountainous landscape covered with heavy vegetation we began to grasp a feel of the courage and strength it would have taken these soldiers to fight in this land. As we were taken to remaining trenches we had the opportunity to see how close the two sides fought from each other and it was no surprise to hear that there was a somewhat bond of respect between both the ANZAC's and the Turkish. Walking through the countless memorials reading countless names and epitaphs of all who had died far to young was heart wrenching. One of the most important things that I got out of my experience in Gallipoli was the effect that this war also had on the Turkish with un known numbers lost on there behalf. I am extremely glad we made the effort to head  down the peninsula to actually see with my own two eyes and have a feel for what happened all those years ago. Less We Forget. 

Our week in Turkey was an experience like no other. Although if you talk to any traveller I am sure they will say the same about any new destination they have visited. No matter how many places I go I seem to always come out of them feeling like it was the best time of my life. To be fair thats because it is, the world keeps on doing nothing but impressing me. Turkey you have awaken the travel bug inside of me once more. 

The Wanderer's Daughter xx  `

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