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Friday, Nov. 30th, 2001
Bus, Gallipoli, Hotel Boss under renovation
Well, of course, at 6am I am standing naked in the shower with ice-cold water raining down next to me.
I walked downstairs in a towel and rapped on the front desk. The napping attendant woke up and told me it would be hot in 10 minutes, but by the time I got back upstairs, I knew there wasn't time, so I got dressed, brushed my teeth and hauled my pack out to the curb, where the attendant realized he had cheated me out of a shower and genuinely apologized for his error.
At around 6:30, a 13-seat Volkswagen tour van comes to pick me up & I meet the tour attendant, Ahmed (who I can call Jake), and the driver, from Fez tours. I threw my pack into the back and we headed out. I soon realized that they weren't going to pick up any other people, and we weren't driving to the main bus station...this was it. Me, alone, on a tour through Turkey. The first destination was Gallipoli, which turns out to be about 6 hours West.
Luckily there was a TV on the bus, so they showed me the Australian production of Gallipoli, starring Mel Gibson. Then they put on a documentary about Gallipoli.
We passed flocks of goats and turkeys in the fields. Yeah, Turkeys in Turkey. I wish there had been someone to share the joke with.
As I type this, I would like to state that I know WAY TOO MUCH about Gallipoli. Here is what I learned:
My personal tour bus stopped at a coastal town outside of the Boss Hotel, in the midst of a re-model of the downstairs dining room. It was a pretty lame hotel, and the bottom was all torn up, but I hiked up to my room and it wasn't too bad. I had my own bathroom. I am pretty sure I was the only one staying there.
During the first world war, England and France were fighting against Turkey and Germany (and somebody else). Winston Churchill figured they could run some battleships up through a water-passage called the
Dardanelles right up to Istanbul & blow the crap out of all the nice, ancient landmarks I had been visiting. This would ignite the wooden kindling-city of 1915 Istanbul. Unfortunately for the British, the Turks mined every inch of the
Dardanelles, and had effective and accurate land-based guns set up at the mouth. So on March 18th, 1915, six Allied ships were lost trying to make it in. The Turks celebrate this day still.|
The Allies changed plans at this point, pulled back the battleships, amassed forces on a nearby island and landed them, determined to swarm the Gallipoli Peninsula and take out those guns.
One giant force was the ANZACs or Australian New Zealand Army Corps. They were a largely untested group of soldiers that joined the army when
Britain called for volunteers. The Aussies and Kiwis died by the truckload, (10,600) fighting against equally valorous Turks (50-200,000) in nasty trench warfare that spanned the better part of a year, fighting back and forth over 600 yards of land, never making any real progress. This was a war where people fought by running towards the guys with machine guns.
At the end of it all, never able to gain the high-ground, the allies pulled back & abandoned this hopeless front.
Australians and New Zealanders were left feeling shafted by their old colonial mother England. Although allies of all nationalities had fallen, Australians and New Zealanders would, from that moment, have earned their place as a courageous force who would fight and die to protect what they believed in...and they would do it independently from the orders or advice of Great Britain or anyone else.
The Turks had successfully protected their land and capitol from a seemingly unstoppable enemy, and had, in the process, flushed out more than a few good old-fashioned war
I had a few minutes to get settled, then I met Bahbu, an older man with a Greek fisherman's hat & a clean shave. He was the guide.
So, we hop into the van, Ahmed, Bahbu, the driver and me. It seemed ridiculous to have 3 people there to watch over me, but I tried to play it cool & see how things went.
The Gallipoli tour started at the museum, covered about 7 cemeteries and 6 memorials. It was pretty interesting, although for some reason I was rooting for the allies throughout. It would have been better if I wasn't alone.
Oh yeah, one more story, in the words of Lieutenant Casey, later to become Australian Governor General, 1967:
This one had a 15' statue and plaque too. Awesome.
At Chunuk Bair on 25th April, 1915 there was heavy trench fighting between the Turks and the Allies. The distance
between the trenches was between eight and ten meters. Cease-fire was called after a bayonet attack and the soldiers returned to their trenches. There were heavy casualties on both sides and each collected their dead and wounded. From between the two trench lines came a call, a cry for help from an English Captain who was very badly wounded in the leg. Unfortunately no one could leave their trenches because the slightest movement resulted in the firing of hundreds of bullets. At that moment, and incredible even
occurred. A piece of white underwear was raised from one of the Turkish trenches and a well-built, unarmed soldier appeared. Everyone was stunned and we stared in amazement. The Turk walked slowly to the wounded British soldier and gently lifted him, took him in his arms and started to walk towards our trenches. He placed him down on the ground near us and then straight-away returned to his trench. We couldn't even thank him. This courageous and beautiful act of the Turkish Soldier has been spoken about many times on battlefields. Our love and deepest respect to this brave and heroic soldier.
It got colder and as it got dark the tour ended.
I was brought back to my hotel and my keepers said they were going to go down the road to another hotel and that I should join them.
There was something on the news about George Harrison passing away.
At "Jake's place", I found a tour group full of fun, young Aussies and New Zealanders, departing for the one decent bar in town, "The Boomerang". I joined them in a crowded VW bus.
It was fun! They were all 24 or so together on a long tour through the Mideast and Turkey, friendly and happy to meet someone not on the tour. They made me feel right at home, and with $1 beers, how can you miss?
We stayed eating, drinking and dancing at this club from around 7 till after midnight, I met most of them and got a taste of the food they were surviving on. God, they were friendly. I had a blast.
Ahmed was there too, and I asked him what time we were going to leave in the morning. 7:30am.
There was a power-outage and I took that as my cue to head home.
from a display at Gallipoli Museum
What? Green camoflague? Oooooh.
In the trenches with the rest of the internet-types
This rock, nicknamed "the Sphinx"
was host to a Turkish sniper.
Australian graves. Most were 19-23 years old.
Bahbu and Ahmed survey the lowlands
The ANZs at the boomerang
the most entertaining evening so far.
Saturday, Dec. 1st, 2001
Troy, Busses to Efes.
The next day at about 7am there was a knock at my door, waking me up. At the time I didn't know if it was a wake-up call or a "we are all waiting for your ass" knock, so I
hurriedly got ready and went downstairs with my backpack. We had breakfast and I threw my pack into the back of the van again. We were on our way to Troy. My three keepers were chatting away in Turkish as we crossed the
Dardanelles into Asia. I typed on the laptop, fighting the bumps in the road.
Troy was pretty weak as far as exhibits go. They had one big horse out front that you could climb up inside, a little museum with photos of the treasures of Troy, and an extended set of ruins, from some of the 9 different iterations of the city of Troy. With Troy "One" dating back to 3600 BC. That is really old.
Bahbu slowly asked for my consideration, "if every generation is 25 years, how many generations of people lived here in the last 5000 years?" I don't think he expected an answer, but when I returned "200", he and Ahmed seemed a little disappointed and perplexed. Heh heh.
Troy was really windy and almost deserted. Ahmed was covering his ears with his sleeves so they wouldn't freeze. This tour was over before long, and we retired to a little cafe to have some coffee and talk about my exit to the next town, Selçuk, where ancient Efes was.
I kinda got the feeling that they were supposed to drive me to Selçuk, where Efes was, but since I was alone, they decided to put me on a bus instead...or rather a series of busses.
They gave me a bus ticket to Izmir, and gave me instructions & cash to buy a ticket to Selçuk from there. I said goodbye to my crew, and tipped out 20 million Turkish Lira ($13.20).
After a brief stay in Çanakkale I got onto the first bus at about 1:30 in the afternoon. I hate being on the first bus of a two-bus journey. When the sun went down, we stopped at a little cafe so that all the fasting Muslims could get some food. I took photos.
We arrived at Izmir a little before 8, and the timing was great to catch the bus to Selçuk. I had a series of problems with this bus: I hit my head on the TV, then I sat in the wrong seat, then I sat in ANOTHER wrong seat, THEN I almost missed my stop, jumped out, grabbed my backpack from under the bus, and nearly left my LAPTOP and jacket above the seat. I made a big scene and said all kinds of stuff in english to the blank stares of everyone. I got everything straight and the bus drove off.
It was about 10:30pm, and my hotel was right across from the bus let-off point. This hotel, named "Villa" was quite a bit nicer than the last one, but my late-night check for hot water came up cold. The place looked deserted.
I checked in, got word that the tour left at 10, and went for a walk. Selçuk was a bit warmer than Troy had been, but it looked like dullsville. I went home and went to bed.
Some ruins at Troy
It was very, very cold and windy
Çanakkale street and tower
posing with Ataturk, war hero & leader
wood & concrete construction in Selçuk
a sculpture in Selçuk, Turkey