Our arrival to Istanbul immediately overwhelmed us. 16 million people in 5000 sq. km spilt over 2 continents makes Istanbul the 5th biggest city in the world. We landed in Asia and took a bus to Taksim Square in the heart of the city, crossing the Bosphorus in the process (the water between Asia and Europe).
After we navigated through the busy streets of Taksim to our hotel it had been about 36 hours since we had a shower (not so bad compared to Nepal but we did walk through Dubai in 30+ degrees...) but there was a Power cut! Not so keen on the cold shower as it was a brisk 7 degrees outside.
After a nap the power was back and we finally got the shower we had wanted for so long (Stacey had politely told me that I smelt quite bad).
Day 2 took us South to the Dolmabahçe Palace where the last few Sultans had ruled the Ottoman Empire from; and the first President Mustafa Atatürk had lived there too. Wow! That place is huge.... The biggest room had a massive carpet rug (bigger than our house in NZ) and 4500kg crystal chandelier. A sultan had up to 4 'favorite woman' living in the harem (a woman that have had a male child to the Sultan). The Sultan also had in some cases up to 1000 woman that were exciexclusively for his entertainment....
After that we walked 5km uphill to the Zulu Center (a very flash mall) to find Superdry (Stacey had found a dress in Dubai and wanted in a different size).. Unfortunately after our hard work and precious time was spent hunting down Superdry, you guessed it.... they didn't have it!!!!
Ohwell a spot of shopping anyway to replace some of our clothes so we look slightly different in the photos...
We zipped home on the Metro and then went to a Turkish bath, which was awesome! Stacey could not stop giggling when they touched her feet, and her turkish bath lady was definitely topless for no apparent reason.
The next day we were off to the Blue Mosque and Old City. Wow.
We dressed up as Sultans and Sultanas, learnt that a sultan would kill all his brothers when he got elected and saw some impressive floral gardens.
We also got a quick introduction to the Islamic religion and went inside the Blue Mosque. If you only ever see one Mosque, that should be it.
Off to the Markets to try some turkish delights and other treats Yum!
In between all this and some Kebaks and Rain, Thunder and Hail we managed to go ten pin Bowling... Sadly I did not win...
On Friday at 10:00 am we were picked up to start the 300ish km journey to Gallipoli for ANZAC day.
By 2:00pm we had finally managed to leave Istanbul (Traffic is nuts 24/7) and we were making good time....
Arriving at the first of many security checkpoint we were greeted by many buses and a 2 hour wait. Apparently there were 500 buses....
After numerous security checkpoints we made it to the sacred ground that is ANZAC cove.
The following hours leading up to the dawn service were filled with information and entertainment, while 10,000 kiwis and auzzies crammed in.
Dawn service was very similar to what you would find back home, but add the place, the build up and the significance, along with Prince Charles and Henry (who knew that Harry's really Henry???), with a fleet of Naval Warships it was overwhelming. Learning the history of the Turks and Mustafa Atatürk (lead the defense for the Ottomans against the ANZACs before becoming President of Turkey), and the feeling of peace that he has provided, the battle of Gallipoli Is so important to them too.
Read this message that Mustafa provided in the 1930's to the mothers of the fallen ANZAC's:
Heroes who 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.
Post the dawn service and a 6km walk to Chunuk Bair for the NZ service at 1.45pm. We encountered many ANZAC and Turkish graveyards.
The NZ service was a somber and sureal experience. The stories of the young soldiers, their bravery and sacrifice was incredible.
The feeling of peace again was strong in this historic land, which made it more difficult to imagine war here.
After the service we only had to wait 4 hours for a bus, lucky because 10 minutes later and it would have cost 100 NZD more to get to the airport.
Off to Rome (72 hours without sleep).