Monthly Archives: April 2013

Day 24 – Monday, 29 April 2013 – New York 2

Well we had a very good night’s sleep. We sent out for tea and it was food, but nothing to write home about.

Breakfast this morning we decided to try something from the menu and it was lovely, but it took so long to get to our table that we decided tomorrow to do the American Breakfast (which is whatever you want to eat that it out on the buffet, and you get your own cup of tea or coffee).

Tea here is almost as bad as Paris because you only have the hot water from the coffee carafe sitting on the element and it never gets hot enough for a proper cuppa.

After brekky we returned to our room and rang the chiropractor only to hear a voice message saying they are closed on Mondays. Just our luck! It is overcast today and rain showers have been forecast. So, we decided to gather our things and walk down to 234 W 42nd Street to cash in our coupon for our three day pass on the Hop-on Hop-off Bus. Our tickets include a cruise around the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island as well as the Empire State Building. We wore warmer clothing than in Paris and it paid off.

Also, the bus line we booked our tours with is the City Sights New York and their buses are very different to those we used in Paris. Yes, you are on the top deck of the bus, but the front section of the bus is covered with a clear canopy that keeps you dry if you manage to get a seat in the front half of the deck. There are no seats downstairs at all, and the driver is locked into his cabin area.

We had a wonderful lady as the live guide on our bus and there was no horrible music to listen to when she was assisting people on and off the bus at each drop off point. Suzanne was a retired school teacher who came to visit New York 40 years ago and decided to stay. She says it is a decision she has never regretted.

She also described for us the impact of 9/11 as her teenage son (18) went to the school next to the World Trade Centre Towers. She said he had late classes that day and when her neighbour told her about the planes impacting the buildings she realised that her son would have been on the train that ran beneath the towers about the time they were hit.

She went on to explain that she had no news whatsoever for more than three hours other than that provided by the TV stations and could only imagine the worst in that time. Her son finally arrived home covered in dust from the implosion and he told her he had just left the station when the planes hit. He had been able to assist people from the buildings but had not been able to contact her to let her know he was okay.

She still had many of her school teacher mannerisms and one in particular showed clearly when she insisted that everyone remained seated whilst the bus was in motion. Let me tell you she was not backward in coming forward if someone tried to stand either. In fact, at one point one guy insisted he could do what he wanted and she kicked him off the bus at the next stop. She also loves Australian and there were a few of us on board.

It was a great pity that the weather is not cooperating as the trees are freshly in bloom and the flowers are on display. It is very pretty. However, it would be miserable to try to walk in Central Park for any length of time today so we will hope for better weather tomorrow.

We decided that we could walk a bit further so took a stroll along 7th Avenue and spent some time window shopping. We also found a really good souvenir shop and picked up quite a number of items. Russ loves his new beaut ‘I Heart NY’ mug and had his cuppa in it at lunchtime. We gathered some things to eat for lunch and headed back to the hotel so that Russ could do his meditation. The yoghurt I got was really yummy.

We have decided to wander the neighbourhood of Hell’s Kitchen (which we are in) later on this evening and see if we can find a nice Italian Restaurant – Russ’ choice – and tomorrow we will try a Chinese Restaurant – my choice.

I have now downloaded all the photos taken today and converted then to jpeg, loaded some onto the Facebook page, had a nice chat with Geri, and then wrote all this in the diary.

Lyn and Pete are in charge of printing the blog for Mum and Dad and sending them in the SAEs that Russ provided prior to our trip. As Lyn and Pete head off to Fiji for a week Lyn has promised that she will send any extras as soon as they get home.

Day 23 – Sunday, 28 April 2013 – New York 1

Finally, I have caught up with myself. It is a good feeling.

I woke up about 4:30am and could not go back to sleep so I read while Russ finished his snoring. I also grabbed a couple of photos of New York by night through the window. Once Russ woke up properly we then had our showers and got dressed to go down to breakfast before returning to the room. Russ took medication for his headache and did some meditation, and a lot more snoring. I beavered away at batch conversion of photos and pounding the keyboard to catch up with the Diary.

We had a break at lunch time when we went for a walk and bought supplies from the local grocery shop. The neighbourhood is fairly quiet for what I always imagined New York to be, but today is Sunday so it may change tomorrow.

Russ has found a chiropractor just down the road and we will endeavour to make appointments tomorrow some time before we start our Hop-on Hop-Off bus tours. Much to see and so little time to see it all.

We have the next couple of days to ourselves before we pick up the Canada-US bus tour which leaves New York from this hotel on Thursday for Boston.

We will grab some tea about 6:00pm and I will give my back some rest.

Day 22 – Saturday, 27 April 2013 – Istanbul to New York

We were seated in the lobby at 10:00am with Dave and apparently the driver arrived outside and waited for us. He came into the lobby at 10:25 to see where his passengers were. I’m not at all sure he was very happy.

We arrived at the airport with just the right amount of time to spare. I am not sure what security measures Dave had to undergo but Turkish Airlines has a special check-in counter for those people visiting the US. Russ and I are not sure if the security measures are done to meet US standards, or if Turkish Airlines does this for all its outgoing flights. Whatever the reason we had to go through six – yes, SIX – security counters.

When you enter the terminal and are trying to get to the check-in counters you have to take ALL your luggage through the security monitors. This means you and everything travelling with you. We lugged our cases up onto the conveyor belt and then proceeded to unload our other items into three plastic containers per person. You have to unload your computer from your case, you may be asked to unload your camera as well (we weren’t this time, thank heavens), your coat goes into another, and then your watch, handbag and back pack go into the others. Surprisingly your mobile phone is allowed to stay in your handbag.

We walked through the metal detector without a hitch but then we were held up while Russ’ luggage was checked. Apparently they had picked up the mass that was Dad and Mum’s medals and when they had identified that they discovered they bullets he had bought at Anzac Cove. Once they were satisfied that they were not real bullets he was allowed to repack his bag and we went on our way.

Then we came to the check-in counter. While we are lining up in the conga line with everyone else different officials approach you to make sure you have your passport and entry documents and a sticker is attached to the back of your passport. Then you move into the next line so that you can put your luggage through and get your boarding pass.

Then you move through Passport Control where they make sure that your boarding pass is okay and your original entry into the country was legal. After that you move to the gate where you are questioned to make sure you packed your own bags and they have not left your possession since the packing, and that you have nor accepted any strange package from someone else. Russ asked the girls what happened if anyone said yes to any of those questions and the girls both laughed and said they had no idea.

We were waved on our way and headed to the departure lounge for our flight where we had to go through another security check and get a second sticker on the back of our passports. They also separated our boarding tickets and something else was written on the stub that they kept.

Finally we were called to board the plane and it looked like it was going to be fairly full. Russ was unable to get an Exit row and there was nothing available once we were all seated so he had a fairly uncomfortable time with his knees pressing into the back of the seat in front of him.

We had a little princess across the aisle from us. I reckon she was probably about 2 and a half and what she wanted she expected to get. She had Daddy dearest wrapped around her little finger and was a noisy and demanding little so and so for most of the flight while she was awake.

You also get handed more paperwork that must be filled out to hand into the Passport Control officer at JFK in order to be accepted into the US.

The plane left at 1:15pm on time but as we would chase the sun all the way it was ten long hours in the air. We arrived at JFK Airport in New York at 4:15pm local time and it took us another 2 hours to clear customs, collect luggage, register for our transfer, get collected and wait for other arrivals before being transported to our hotel.

To clear customs you are herded towards the debarkation zone and groups are allowed through one by one. Then you have the Conga line once again and you snake your way from row to row. Then you get into a short line in front of a desk area and wait your turn to speak with the Passport Control officer. Once you get to his desk then you have to be fingerprinted and pass the eye identification monitor before he stamps your arrival into the passport and you can go and collect your luggage.

We then went to the Welcome Counter and identified ourselves, showed our transfer paperwork and the lady registered us for pick up. Then we waited for the guy to arrive and then went out to the vehicle/van. There were another two ladies (mother and daughter on a buying trip for their business in Malawi) and we had plenty of room. Unfortunately we then picked up a party of four and another of one and we were all squashed like sardines in a can for the lengthy journey into New York proper.

Thank heavens Russ and I were the first to be dropped off as I was not sure how much longer he was going to last in the claustrophobic conditions with not air flow. We registered at the Reception counter and were told how to find our room. By this time we were into about 18 hours on the go, and after the mammoth undertaking of Anzac Day it was all finally catching up with us. I had a touch of the dizzies and Russ had the start of a headache.

We had been fed on board the flight so were not feeling hungry, and decided to go straight to bed and have a quiet day tomorrow.

Day 21 – Friday, 26 April 2013 – Canakkale to Istanbul

We met the rest of the group in the breakfast room and ate our last meal before returning to our rooms to complete our packing. Ian informed us that the young guy working the Reception desk was studying English and was very interested in the Anzac Day and its meaning to Australians so he and Judy took one of their Gallipoli 2013 Anzac Day Commemorative Booklets and addressed it to him and signed it from all of us before he presented it to him. He was really thrilled.

We were all gathered in the Lobby and had settled out laundry accounts (15 lira a bag of laundry – not bad at half the cost) and were waiting for Guler and Ridjip to arrive. As we had no wish to participate in another Turkish meal organised by Guler on the way back to Istanbul we had advised Guler that we would prefer to go straight back to Istanbul and get our own lunch once we arrived. It suited Guler who had smashed the glass on her iPhone yesterday and needed to have it mended before she collected her next tour group tomorrow, and Ridjip was in trouble with his wife so wanted to get back to her as quickly as possible.

Russ sat in the front seat, Ian and Dave got the second seat and the three girls, Judy, Guler and myself sat in the back seat. The front seat of the back was taken up with most of our luggage as very little fitted into the boot space.

We had a brief pit stop while Ridjip filled up with petrol and we all bought ice-creams before we were once again on the way. Drivers in Turkey are worse than those in France and that is really saying something!

Part of our tour package was an evening in Istanbul where we would see an authentic belly dancer while we had our meal. (God love a duck!) Guler then proceeded to tell us that as displaying themselves was not something that good Islam girls did these dances were being performed by Russian girls. It was due to start at 9:00pm and we would be picked up from our hotel, the Central Palace in Taksim Square in the Old Part, at 8:30pm. The Tour operator would visit with us before the collection so that he could confirm our transfers to the airport tomorrow.

Ian and Judy were flying to another part of Turkey where they would pick up a car and drive themselves around. (I don’t think Ian was particularly looking forward to the madness that is driving in Turkey.) Dave on the other hand, was to fly to London and stay with his cousin for a few days before gadding off to France and doing the Battlefield Tours in the north at Brittany and Flanders. Russ and I were heading to New York.

Russ did some meditation and I started to convert the photos taking over the past few days from RAW to jpeg. I also got in a bit of time on the diary so that Russ was able to upload to the web.

Ridjip arrived and we were off. The building we were going to was not very far from the hotel but it was uphill all the way so they decided to drive us there. What hadn’t been taken into account was the construction that was taking place nearby and therefore we had to go way out of our way to get up the hill. It took us 35 minutes to wend our way there and only 7 minutes to get back to the hotel at the end of the evening.

The dinner was every bit as bad as I thought it would be, but the main meal was better than expected. We watched while a Turkish music group provided us with Turkish music, then watched as national dances were performed by a group – they weren’t half bad but the music was very loud.

Then the belly dancer came out. We all agreed that she had been enhanced and that the music had been adapted for some bumps and grinds. The second belly dancer wasn’t half bad. She had no enhancements and was probably the better dancer in technique of the two of them. The first girl was probably more athletic of the two.

Finally I was put out of my misery and we got back to the hotel. Dave is to join Russ and me in the transfer to the airport tomorrow morning at 10:30am as both our planes leave at 1:15pm. Judy and Ian have to leave at 7:30am.

Day 20 – Thursday, 25 April 2013 – Gallipoli

I had had my small nap and was not terribly refreshed but found I had to sit up as one side was going to sleep on me.

At midnight we had the Prime Minister’s messages from Australia, New Zealand and Turkey scintillating stuff!

After that we were shown a documentary about the role of the Australian Navy in the Dardanelles. The senior Naval Historical Officer, John Perryman, talked about the submarine AE2, which was sank during a skirmish in the Dardanelles, and also spoke about the Royal Australian Navy’s highly decorated bridging team, which won no less than twenty awards for bravery and good service.

This was followed by a dramatized documentary about the role of the AE2 and its gallant crew in penetrating the passage through to the Sea of Marmara.

At 1:00am we had the military band strike up some more tunes – that was enough to awaken a few people more – and a few more items from the Gregory Terrace All Hallow’s Choir. These kids were well worth listening to.

At 2:00am we were shown a repeat of the safety video, and an explanation about how and where we would be picked up in the afternoon by our buses.

After that we were forced to listen to clips of the first seven segments from The Gallipoli Symphony, which is to be a unique musical commemoration of ten movements played at the centenary in 2015, and is a mixture of segments from different composers.

We had another segment on the cemeteries around the Gallipoli peninsula, and then we listened to the English translation of a letter from a young Turkish Captain, Mehmet Tevik, who wrote a letter to his wife from Turkey. This letter was written in Arabic and is the longest letter to survive the battle.

At 3:00am we watched Gallipoli – The New Zealand Story, which is regarded as one of NZ’s most compelling and authentic documentaries about Gallipoli.

At 3:53am we had an announcement telling us about the Dawn Service, and this was followed by a repeat of the coach loading to take place at the end of the day’s ceremonies.

At 4:00am we listened to three short readings by Simpson Prize winning Australian students, and at 4:20am we watched Dawn of a Legend, which is a documentary by the Australian War Memorial, and tells the story of the Gallipoli campaign from the Australian perspective.

We then watched a compilation of the Dawn Services conducted in Australia and New Zealand earlier at several cities, including Townsville where Russ and I had attended dawn services when we lived there. We didn’t see anyone we knew however (sorry, Sonia and Robyn).

At 4:45am we watched The Telegraph Man – a short film feature starring Jack Thompson, Gary Sweet and Sigrid Thornton, which was very interesting and described how often the only way relatives learned of the fate of their loved ones.

At 5:00am the official party began to arrive and fill all the empty seats sitting right in front of the stage area. We then watched a reflective on the big screen where the names and epitaphs of some of those who lost their lives at Gallipoli was displayed, accompanied by the Gregory Terrace All Hallow’s Gallipoli Choir, and enhanced by discreet mood lighting of the water and the terrain.

The Maori Call to Gathering commenced at 5:26am and was performed by the Kuia, a member of the Kaikaranga of the NZ Defence Force. At 5:30am the Dawn Service began.

It may be that I was more tired than I thought, but at the time I thought that the memorial itself was spoilt by the representatives of the countries involved, most of whom were political members of one party or another – Hon Dr Jonathon Coleman, Minister of Defence, NZ; Hon Warren Snowden MP, Minister for Veteran’s Affairs, and Minister Assisting the Prime Minister on the Centenary of Anzac. It just seemed that after a night spent reminding people about the men who fought here that it was being used as a means to get noticed. It also might be that I am getting cynical, but the feeling was there, and a lot of the atmosphere went missing.

The introduction was made by Major General Mark Kelly, who is thee Repatriation Commissioner with the Department of Veterans’ Affairs.

Then the Catafalque Party was mounted – which doesn’t mean they rode horses! This party was made up of members of the Australian Federation Guard and the NZ Defence Force.

The Call to Remembrance was made by Vice admiral Ray Griggs, Chief of Navy, Australia. He used material from Bill Gammage’s “The Broken Years”, and concluded his speech by saying that “The voices of those who served here are now silent. We are the caretakers of their memories. Today we walk their battlefield and carry their stories in our hearts.”

This was followed by an address from the Honourable Dr Jonathon Coleman, Minister of Defence, New Zealand. Then a Turkish Army Officer spoke the words of Mustafa Kemal Attaturk from 1934 that I wrote earlier in this diary.

A hymn was then sung before the Honourable Warren Snowden MP, Minister for Veterans’ Affairs etc. etc. etc. gave us a reading based on the brief history of Alfred Shout who described himself as a New Zealander by birth and an Australian by choice. He has gone down in history as an exceptional leader of men. His mate, Alex McQueen recalled that when wounded and evacuated Alfred Shout was still insisting that “we’ll make a name for ourselves tonight”. Mac survived and recalled of Shout – “He made a name for himself alright. He was Lieutenant when going into the charge, made a Captain next day (after the death of other officers in the battle), gained the VC the next day (for his bayonet led charge at a critical moment in the battle), and the following day he met eternity.”

The Principal Chaplain of the Royal Australian Navy, Stuart Hall, then spoke a Prayer of Remembrance. The Lord’s Prayer was said by Chaplain Class Three, Rewai Te Kahu, NZ Defence Force, before the long wreath laying ceremony took place. It seemed like every man and his dog wanted to get in on the act and some single wreaths were laid by four people.

The Ode of Remembrance was recited by Air Vice-Marshall Peter Stockwell, Chief of Air Force NZ, followed by the Last Post, the minute of silence and Reveille. Then we stood for the National Anthems – all three of them – Turkey, Australia, and NZ.

The Final Blessing was given by Stuart Hall and then the Catafalque party dismounted and the official party left. It was 6:30am.

The Lone Pine Service was to begin at 10:00am. However, before then we had to walk along the coast road and on up to Lone Pine, carrying all our gear plus our sleeping bags. It is a 3.1 kilometre walk which takes visitors past Ari Burnu, Shrapnel Valley and Beach Cemeteries. The route then follows Artillery Road inland and slopes steeply (STEEPLY, I say) uphill past Shell Green Cemetery to Lone Pine.

It was noticeable that many started out fast and quickly slowed down as the going got tough. We had briefly stopped at Beach Cemetery so that the three men could gather sand for their bullets. Ian and Dave had re-joined Judy and myself and we couldn’t figure out where Russ had got to. He wandered out about ten minutes later to much chiacking from the guys and cheerfully informs us he was being interviewed by Russian TV personnel on his experiences at Gallipoli. Go figure!

So once again we headed off. We had removed out coats and were carrying them with everything else. As e slowly climbed higher and higher Russ and I slowed down even further. We then took time out to remove gloves, hats and scarves. However, we were stuck with our thermals so decided not to get too hot. The announcers had been reminding everyone to make sure you had plenty of water to drink as the day would get progressively hotter.

If you were going onto the NZ ceremony at Chanuk Bair you needed to walk a further 3.2 kilometres and all of it is sharply uphill. The elderly could register to be driven there if they were at Anzac Cove early enough this morning. The rest of us just slogged along.

When we were getting closer to Lone Pine we met with the Australian volunteer seated atop a large construction of scaffolding so he was clearly seen above the heads of walkers. He gave plenty of encouragement to all walkers and told them they were getting near. He also advised that those going to Lone Pine should move to the right of the roadway (being very generously calling it anything other than a badly eroded track) so that those going onto Chanuk Bair could move past them and keep going.

When we got to the top we were held back on groups so that we didn’t crowd the magnometer booths. Once again we had to strip off all that we carried and put them into the plastic boxes so that we could walk through security under the very watchful eyes of the Turkish authorities.

Needless to say, when Russ and I cleared the booths we found Ian waiting to take us to the stand where Dave and Judy were minding our seats. It had started to get hotter and we were not finished yet.

We took the opportunity to go and buy something to eat as it had been several hours since we had finished our biscuits for breakfast. The vendors were selling lamb, chicken and beef souvlaki for 10 lira each. (Dave found out later that they generally sell for 3 lira each but I guess the vendors had to cover expenses to get generators etc. to the top of the hills). It hit the spot and we also grabbed some more water. By now we had cooled down from the long walk and it was time to get rid of woollen jumpers.

The Gallipoli campaign lasted for eight and a half months. It is a sobering thought to reflect on the numbers involved in this war. To this day 11,699 men remain unidentified. About 500,000 Turkish soldiers are believed to have served on Gallipoli and their casualties are estimated at between 250,000 and 300,000, of whom almost 87,000 died.

Between 50,000 and 60,000 Australians served on Gallipoli and 8,709 were killed in action or died of wounds or disease. In addition, 19,441 were wounded, and 70 Australians were captured. 63,969 cases of sickness were reported in the Gallipoli campaign.

Approximately 469,000 British Empire troops served in the campaign of which 328,000 were combatants and 141,000 were non-combatants. About 120,000 became casualties, and more than 34,000 died.

The Lone Pine ceremony ran fairly similarly to the Dawn Service at Anzac Cove. However, this time we also welcomed His Excellency, Mr Ian Biggs, Australian Ambassador to the Republic of Turkey, before the Catafalque Party mounted.

We had a Reflection, and a Bible Reading before singing one of my Mum’s favourite hymns – Make Me a Channel of your Peace. This was led by the All Hallow’s Choir and Mum would have loved every minute. They do sing beautifully.

After that came another reading and an Address by Honourable Warren Snowdon etc. etc. etc.

This was followed by a reading by Rachael Hay who was a Simpson Prize Winner and she recited “In Memory of Our Son”. The Prayer for the Australian Defence Force was read by Stuart Hall etc. and then the long official wreath laying took place before the Ode of Remembrance, the Last Post, the One Minute Silence, Rouse and the Turkish and Australian National Anthems (both verses once again).

The Final Blessing was read by Stuart Hall etc. before the Catafalque party dismounted and the public were allowed to lay their wreaths at the wall. There were a surprisingly large number of these.

We began to collect all our gear so that we could get out of the hot stand and find some shade. Although we had applied sunscreen we did not have anything of a shady nature to cover out heads with and the beanie would have been too hot.

When we got to the bottom we lost Russell and discovered that we had also lost a sleeping bag. Ian went to have a look under the stand while Dave stayed with Judy and myself and we guarded our belongings. Ian found Russ along the way and they were not allowed under the stand at all. However, when they went back to our seats they found another sleeping bag which they purloined instead. We started with five sleeping bags and we would return with five sleeping bags.

We lugged everything and found a bit of shade between the memorial stones under the Lone Pine tree. I need to mention here that the buses, once they dropped off their passengers, were sent to wait for recall along a lonely back road several kilometres from the actual ceremonies. They were each provided with a number and needed to wait until their number was called before they could start out.

We had quite some time to wait around. The Chanuk Bair ceremony was being screened to us at Lone Pine as it would have been impossible to attend both ceremonies unless you were members of the official party and were being bussed to site by the authorities.

By this time the volunteer groups were passing around cold bottles of water. There had apparently been one incident where a young lady had become dehydrated and had to be bussed to hospital and put on a drip overnight. We all grabbed several bottles which should be enough to keep us going until we got back to the hotel at Canakkale.

By this time we had been awake almost eighteen hours and it was not a pretty sight. By luck, and general scull doggery by our tour guide and driver, they had managed to get further up front in the bus line. It sometimes pays to be in a small van instead of a mammoth coach. And because we were such a small group we managed to stick together and there was no need to wait for late passengers, which was the case in several instances. (They would have got a lovely reception from their fellow travellers when they finally made it back to their buses,)

We were picked up at Lone Pine and, as we didn’t have to hang around, we made it out of the National Park in the first wave of traffic. Of course, the Turkish are like people everywhere and when officials are in the region they try to make use of their time. So, some of the roads were blocked because they had arranged for the officials to be present at the opening of a new mosque on the same day as the Anzac service. Traffic was everywhere, and it was probably more chaotic than usual.

When we finally made it back to the hotel Kervansery at Canakkale at 3:30pm (about 22 hours after we had left it) we were all totally stuffed and ambling around like zombies with loads of items hanging off our persons. They were just finishing the final pick-ups back at Lone Pine at this time.

We all collected our keys and headed to our rooms. Russ and I hit the shower and then sank into bed. I woke briefly at 10:20pm and got a drink of water. Russ surfaced briefly at 1:30am and got a drink of water, but we didn’t actually wake up until 7:30am.

Ian and Judy had managed to stay awake and knocked on our door at 6:30pm to see if we wanted to join them for tea. Neither Dave nor Russ and I even heard the knocking. Judy and Ian had a quick tea and collapsed into bed themselves.

Day 19 – Wednesday, 24 April 2013 – Canakkale to Dardanelles

We needed to get up at 4:15am and be ready for pickup in the lobby at 4:30am. We were well rugged up as it was cold. We went to the smaller of the ferries to get across to Echeabat and pick up the cruise.

It was a great surprise to find that we were the only ones aboard for this cruise. It had been planned for our small group only. The Captain had requested permission several weeks ago and had been granted it, but no other boats had been given permission to get so close to the coast where security was already tight.

We slowly headed out into the Dardanelles and cruised until we came to Anzac Cove where the captain held the boat until we had witnessed the sun rising over the steep hills and valleys. We could even see the Sphinx from our position. This was a large outcropping visible directly above the Cove and was christened by the Anzacs who had completed their basic training in Egypt before being transported to Gallipoli. We then proceeded slowly to view the landing beaches at Cape Helles and Suvla.

We were given a cup of tea (no milk) and several varieties of snacks to feast upon while we travelled along the coast.

This was the day that we should have visited Troy but I am very glad of the change to the schedule for this one. We returned to the hotel and picked up a late breakfast just before it was due to close, and then went for a long nap. We grabbed a late light lunch and bought unopened water for the trip to the dawn service.

We met Guler and Ridjip at the ferry gate at 5:00pm and were ferried across to Echeabat along with all our supplies. We had a BBQ at the restaurant along with many others who were doing the tour with TravelShop Turkey (the company that organised our tour for Battle Tours), and picked up our sleeping bags.

The pasta had no dressing. There was no tomato sauce which Ian wanted, and our selection was squashed small sausage (spicy), meatballs, and chicken kebabs with rice – (same old,) all cooked on the BBQ instead of in the kitchen like usually. You have to admire enterprise, but needless to say none of us were particularly impressed. Once again, we had to pay for our drinks.

Once that little foray was completed we headed up to Anzac Cove. They do not let the buses enter the drop-off points before 6:00pm, although you could walk up and through the monitors throughout the day.

There is a group that comes each year and they call themselves the Fanatics. There are hundreds of them and they were the ones dressed in yellow. As no alcohol is allowed they are remarkably well behaved. They always arrive as soon as they are allowed entrance on the day and they go straight to the lawn area and put out their sleeping bags.

We were some of the first through at 6:00pm as we have a little van and not a big coach. We were greeted by the Australian volunteers who provided us with a brief pep talk about the National Park and to treat everything with respect before we were waved on our way to the monitors. We were also issued with our identification number and tags. We were expected to attach the numbered tag to any of our possessions. This would be our call number for the coach when it was time to come and pick us up, and if anything got lost it would be traced to our party and would be returned to us.

The Turkish Jendarma are in charge of all roadways and entrances. They had set up the metal detectors like in airports which they call magnometers. It pays to keep in mind that all the equipment used at the three places – Anzac Cove, Lone Pine and Chanuk Bair – has to be transported in. This includes the hundreds of porta potties (some of which are the squat variety), the construction for all the stands, the metal detection stalls, sound equipment and TV monitors as big as those used at the MCG, of which there were two at each site. It is a massive undertaking.

That does not include the Turkish people who have licences to sell food and souvenirs at each of the sites. Russ, Ian and Dave all purchased the bullet key tags on sale, the bullet ends of which are then unscrewed and sand from Lone Pine is placed inside to bring home.

We were able to make our way into the stands and get a really good viewing spot. We were in the second row of the stand and not too far from the stage where all the officials would be sitting early in the morning. They don’t spend the night there in vigil.

On one of the ferry crossing yesterday we met up with the official group from Veteran Affairs. This also included Warren Brown from the ABC (also was a presenter on Australia Top Gear in the first series, and is a cartoonist in his own right) who was very friendly and is extremely interested in all people. He asked us to approach him if we had time once we were at the service. He is the MC for the night show, and again at the Lone Pine Ceremony.

The evening began at 8:00pm with a Welcome to everyone and a Safety Video. Four guys were evicted from the Park for taking a swim in the cove earlier on in the afternoon. They hadn’t read their warnings. The Turkish authorities demand respect and honour for fallen comrades, be they Turkish, British, Australian or any other soldier, and the entire place is declared a battlefield, including the sea surrounding the peninsula.

At 8:08 we were treated to music from the First World War era performed by the Australian and New Zealand Military Bands, and then a short video of the kids from Gregory Terrace – All Hallows’ Gallipoli Choir as they prepared for their time in the spotlight. Many of the old boys from Gregory Terrace St Joseph’s School were lost in the Gallipoli campaign. Each person in the choir was provided with a name of a soldier who battled at Gallipoli, and they had to research them in detail so it became very meaningful to them as individuals, along with garnering how much of an honour it was for them to be performing during the Memorial services.

This was followed by the viewing of a video by a Turkish underwater cameraman Savas Karakas. It featured footage of the wrecks lying under the waters of the Dardanelles and the beaches around the peninsula. The Turkish authorities view these waters as military gravesites also.

AT 9:00pm we were shown extracts from a documentary by Turkish filmmaker Tolga Ornek, titled Gelibolu, and regarded as the definitive documentary about the Gallipoli campaign, especially as it reports both the Turkish and Anzac perspectives. It was made with a great deal of input from Australian War Historians and with the full support of the Australian Government and Armed Forces.

As we had seen the full documentary on our first night in Canakkale I decided it was time to doss into the sleeping bag and try to get some sleep on the floor. Russ insisted that he was wide awake and would continue his vigil. By this time many of the people who had arrived first thing in the morning were also asleep on the lawn area. It had started to get very cold.

We were all rugged out in thermal underwear, covered by trousers and jumpers, with coats on tops. We had purchased some garbage bags on the way to Canakkale and we slipped these on over our shoes and two pairs of socks before we immersed all inside the sleeping bags. We were also equipped with beannies and scarves. Judy and I had lucked out and got bags that were big enough to come up and over the back of our heads. Needless to say it was not a night spent in comfort. We had also had to carry in our water and any snacks we thought were necessary as we were not likely to be able to buy food until we had trekked up the very steep winding road to Lone Pine later in the morning.

However, by the time I had prepared myself for the sleeping bag Warren Brown was back on stage and was accompanied by New Zealand historian, Dr Ian McGibbon. They used spotlights on the terrain surrounding Anzac Cove to point out the key Gallioli landmarks visible from where we were all sitting/lying. He was able to explain the origins of place names in the nearby area, such as Plugge’s Platau, the Sphinx and Walker’s Ridge to name a few.

Then I lay down and had a nap on the floor while Russ continued his vigil and was watching a feature about the Cemeteries surrounding the peninsula, along with interviews of descendants of those who are buried or fought in Gallipoli.

The evening detailed other items of history from the site including the 17 December 1915 cricket match played on Shell Green which was used as a diversionary tactic during preparations for the evacuation. In 2001 the Australian Cricket Team, under the captaincy of Steve Waugh, travelled to the peninsula whilst en-route to England for the Ashes Tests after a conversation with Lt General Peter Cosgrave (then Chief of the Australian Army). The team was struck by the similarities of cricket and the war that was raged on the peninsula – camaraderie, discipline, commitment and the importance of following a plan.

This was followed by a documentary by Chris Masters of the ABC, and reported on the ill-fated Gallipoli campaign, and included interviews with Anzac and Turkish veterans, with archival footage and reconstruction of some events.

We then were shown a DVD about the true story of how a team of Australian officers used aerial intelligence, emerging technology and innovative tactics to plan the landing at Anzac Cove. To obtain the aerial photographs they used an aircraft carrier, a tethered balloon and a squadron of biplanes to gather information on the disposition of the Turkish defenders. Although the battle was fierce this information avoided significant casualties during the landing itself.

Then we were shown a documentary of stories of New Zealand soldiers who were part of the identity-defining Gallipoli campaign. As many as 2721 NZers died and 4752 were wounded from a total of 11,000 soldiers. Some of these men were wounded more than once, as was the same for the Australian troops.

The flower emblems used in Gallipoli are the Gallipoli Rose (white kind of poppy) and Rosemary, which grows wild all around the peninsula.

Day 18 – Tuesday, 23 April 2013 – Canakkle to Gallipoli

This morning we had a bit of a lie in as the Fortress did not open until 9:00am. It is run by the Turkish Army. This country conscripts every male at eighteen and they must do two years’ service before they can begin their civilian life. Because Turkey has frontiers with many other nations they also have border outposts. Many of the conscripts serve their time here. Some borders still pay danger money and one out of every solder is killed at these outposts during a twelve month period.

The armed services insist that they provide the commentary as you pass through the various sections of the Cimenlik Fortress, and then your tour guide translates for you. Once you enter the Fortress itself you are not allowed to take photos. The walls are 8 metres thick. In one section a shell rom the Queen Elizabeth (March 18 battle) hit the inside wall of this fortress but did not explode. However, it tunnelled about 14 feet into the wall proper and left a savage hole. The shell is on display in the yard of the fortress.

The young conscripts provide a living history by dressing in uniform from that era, and the inside is set up to represent the tunnels and trenches with soldiers placed in position throughout. When you least expect it the living soldier jumps up from his stool and scares the living daylights out of you before he starts a monologue with each featured soldier. Even having to wait for an abbreviated explanation from the guide it is a very moving experience.

They even have one section where they talk about the fact that the trenches were sometimes only 5 meters from each other and how the Australian soldiers would throw cans of bully beef to the Turks who would throw them cigarettes in return. It was a time when they acknowledged that although you had to fight your enemy you could do so with honour in your actions.

On several occasions the fighting in parts was so fierce, and the loss of life was so horrendous, that a brief cease fire was called so they could clear their injured and dead. One Young Turk crawled to where an Australian soldier lay wounded and carried him back to the Australian trench before returning, unharmed, to his own.

Once we had completed our tour of the fortress we went aboard a replica of the Turkish minelayer whose actions on 18 March 1915 under the cover of darkness in laying the last 27 sea mines in the straits caused the loss of the three British and French battleships, and led to the British decision to commit to a landing with troops.

Again we were shown around by the Turkish armed forces with Guler providing a translation along the way. They were very friendly people and both happy and proud to share their history with us.

We then caught the ferry across to Eceabat and had an early lunch before heading to visit the fortress of Kilitbahir as part of our scheduled program. Unfortunately we were unable to do this as the fortress is closed for renovation so that it will be available for viewing on the Centenary tour in 2015. Lots of programs taking place ready for an influx of visitors then.

Both Kilitbahir and Cimenlik fortresses were built in the 15th century to control the passage of ships through the straits that connect the Sea of Marmara and the Aegean.

We were able to wander about the redoubts (a word that Guler can never remember and has to look up on the internet) of Fort Dardanos in Kumkale. This fort dates back to the 17th century and bombarded the British and French forces at Helles. The redoubts are the remains of amazing earthworks and gun emplacements that were a part of the fortress during the battle but have now been robbed out in parts, with only some sections still remaining.

We also visited the southern tip of the peninsula and saw the landing beaches of the British and French forces at Cape Helles, and the Turkish Martyrs Memorial overlooking Morto Bay (mort meaning death).

We returned early to Canakkale across the straits on the ferry so that we could have an early night as we are expected to take a very early morning cruise of the Dardanelles to view the landing sites from the sea as would have been seen by our forces before they came ashore.

When we got to the hotel it as to find that our room was just being finished. We got inside to find that our sheets and Doona Cover had been washed but were still very damp to the touch. Needless to say Russ needed to do his meditation so we placed the trusty woollen blanket on top so as not to make our lurgy worse than it already had been. Russ was starting to feel heaps better by now and was only needing to blow the nose occasionally during the day. Both still coughing upon occasion, especially around smokers. This is as big an ashtray as France!

We met Dave, Ian and Judy in the lobby. Ian and Dave reckoned they had found a new beaut restaurant for us to try and they took us to McDonalds! We about turned and went where we knew the food was good at our restaurant.

Day 17 – Monday, 22 April 2013 – Canakkale to Gallipoli

We met in the lobby at 8:30am after breakfast in the Breakfast Annexe. To get there you leave the lobby, which is a fairly narrow area, and go out into the courtyard which has a water foundation in the middle, and garden beds along the walls. It is actually very pretty. After you cross the first courtyard you turn into the next one which has lawn in the centre and the clothes line is along the fence on the rhs. The path on the lhs side takes you to the Annexe and you climb a few steps to get there.

Russ had toast with honey, and tea. Yep – their variety of muesli…… The trick to the tea is to only fill the bottom of the cup with the black ta and then top up with hot water. Milk is available at breakfast time.

Guler was to take us to see the Cimenlik Fortress as she had changed the schedule and we were supposed to have seen it yesterday when we arrived. What she did not take into consideration is that the Fortress was closed on Mondays for school groups and maintenance, which is not an indication of a guide on the ball!

Instead we went to the ferry and crossed to Eceabat and then proceeded to go to the Eceabat National Park which was the whole peninsula area that was the battleground during the First World War. We visited the Lone Pine Australian Memorial and Cemetary, the original tunnels and trenches at Johnston’s Jolly – both Turkish and Australian – Quinn’s post, the Turkish 57th Infantry Regiment Memorial, the Nek – the site of the Light Horse charge depicted in the movie Gallipoli (Gelibolu in Turkish) Walker’s Ridge and Chanuk Bair which is the site of the New Zealand Memorial and Cemetery. We saw Ari Burnu, Anzac Cove and North Beach where the Australian and New Zealand troops first landed.

Interesting here to note that the New Zealand forces were held in reserve on the first morning and did not join the fighting until later, but died just as easily.

We also visited Mustafa Kemal’s house in the township of Bigali. It was the astoundingly canny leadership shown by this man (who by-passed the German command) that turned this campaign in Turkey’s favour. He was given the task of organising and commanding the 19th Division attached to the Fifth Army during the Battle of Gallipoli. He anticipated where the Allies would attack and held his position until they retreated at great cost, without waiting for orders from the Germans.

He is now known as Mustafa Kemal Attaturk (which means Father of the Nation) who founded the Turkish Republic and was its first president. He put an end to the antiquated Ottoman dynasty whose tale had lasted more than six centuries, and created the Republic of Turkey in 1923. By the by he was blonde with green eyes and charismatic. Green eyed blondes are quite common in Turkey although most people think of dark hair and skin when Turks are mentioned. Our guide is also green eyed and blonde.

He is most remembered for his speech after the war, and it is well worth repeating here as it gives you a really good idea of how much respect was generated between enemies, particularly the ANZAC corps:

Those heroes that 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 (foreigners) and the Mehmets (Ottoman Troops) 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.

It is very important to remember that like most wars, this particular battle was fought for political reasons – Britain and its allies needed to reach the Russians and get supplies to them, so needed to capture Constantinople as Istanbul was then. The best and shortest route was through the Dardanelles. The Allies attacked Turkey – Turkey defended itself. Their casualties far outweighed the losses combined of the ally troops. The situation for them was so dire that Mustafa Kemal said to his men, “I do not order you to fight, I order you to die” and die they did in their thousands.

Haven’t even got to the dawn service yet and I already have goose bumps repeating his speech.

I remember learning about Simpson and his donkey in school but I didn’t remember that he was killed at Gallipoli and buried here.

It is impressive that the Turkish Republic treats the entire National Park as a battleground and so there is no camping, no swimming in the waters. If you find any stone with marks on it you must notify your guide and it will be mapped but not moved. If you find bones you must notify your guide and they will be mapped and buried. There are still hundreds of bodies unaccounted for throughout the entire National Park, soldiers from both sides of the battle.

There is also a memorial to all the British and French soldiers and sailors who lost their lives during the battle. It is not a big battle in either countries history, but as Australia and New Zealand have made a big do of it, and it continues to grow bigger each year, these countries have started to hold memorial services for their soldiers in the Park on Anzac Day eve. This is also the day the Turkish soldiers are remembered.

The idea for part of the change to the schedule was that all the sites were very shortly to be closed to the public so the construction and set up could take place for the ceremonies on Anzac Day. IN this Guler was very thoughtful, and it worked. Because we were a small coach (van) we were not blocked from entering the sites and were able to walk amongst the memorial stones at all the places, and almost had then to ourselves.


The security measurements for these events are enormous. As you enter each site you have to go through the magnometers just like in the airport. You can only bring in water in bottles that have not been opened, no alcohol, no weapons, and you have to carry everything you need. More about that later…..


We had a late lunch at the dinky little café from yesterday before we caught the ferry back to Canakkale. Russ had a rest and meditation while I tried to catch up on some of the diary entries and then we joined Dave, Ian and Judy for tea. The guys left it up to Judy and I to find a suitable place to eat down on the waterfront. The weather has been frisky early in the morning, sunny all day with a light breeze, returning to brisk in the evening.


The hot chocolate was to die for….and I am not usually a hot chocolate drinker. The meals were good and there was a good variety to choose from. We had a most convivial evening before heading back to our hotel.

Day 16 – Sunday, 21 April 2013 – Istanbul to Chanakkale

We had a good night’s sleep although Russ is still using tissues a lot – I haven’t run out yet, but soon. The alarm was set for the disgustingly early hour of 6:00am as we had to be ready for travel by 7:30am and breakfast does not start until 7:00am.

I don’t know that I am going to enjoy breakfast much while in Turkey. Their idea of something good to eat is corn flakes, coco pops or muesli (which is nearly all a combination of corn flakes and rice pops with a bit of oatmeal included). Their tea is so strong that you can stand a spoon up in it and still grow hairs on your chest, and their coffee is syrup.

All things being equal we entered the lobby at 8:20am to find that our tour guide was ready for us to get in the vehicle. There was only one problem. The vehicle they had chosen, while lovely for day travel, could not accommodate the luggage for five people – yes, we are a small group. So we returned to the hotel lobby to await the arrival of a new vehicle, which took approximately 30 minutes.

We decided to get extra travel supplies before we entered the coach so all went together for biscuits, fruit and water. There are one couple, Judy and Ian Browning from St Leonards near Geelong, and Dave Blair, originally from Scotland until he was two, then Victoria, and for the past four years he has been working in Perth.

Our tour guide is Gulyer Aslan (female) and our driver is Radjip (not sure that is how he spells is but is how it is pronounced.

Our new wheels finally arrived, which was supposed to be a seven seater where the back seat folded down to take more luggage, but no – we had a five seven seater where the back seat did not lay down. We persevered and the front two seats were taken up with the luggage that did not fit in the boot, and we had to squash into the remaining area.

This is the first time that Russ has had a panic attack. The roof of the vehicle was very low and they did not have air conditioning so he began to be very claustrophobic. We opened the window which was of some assistance, but as soon as the driver could do so he pulled over and Russ moved into the front seat beside Radjip, and Guler moved to the back seat with Judy and myself.

The vehicle worked out well for the actual touring part of our days but the long journey (5 hours) from Istanbul to Canakkale was very intimate. We stopped along the way for a toilet break, and the toilet was very clean and had a seat. This becomes a big deal when you are our ages. It is reasonably easy to get down and squat, but getting up is sometimes problematical as there is nothing to hang onto and you are balanced over a hole……

When we arrived at Eceabat (have no idea how it is pronounced) we stopped for lunch at the TravelShop Turkey restaurant (café, to us) and were given our first meal. We were also informed that this is the place we would be taking our meals over the next five days – glory be!

There is chicken kebab, beef balls, fish one or fish two to choose from. This is accompanied by a salad, chips (they make great chips all over Turkey), and roll like the chinese one with veges only the Turkish version has feta cheese and spinach, rice and a fried pancake made with zucchini. The menu does not change! Plentiful but different. You then pay for whatever you want to drink. Water comes in bottles.

Actually, all things considered the price of food and water is very reasonable and a lot cheaper than in Australia for the same things. Magnums (almond variety) are only 2.75 lira (you can half that to almost get the Aussie equivalent). Water in the large bottles are only 3 lira.

Once we had left the restaurant we got back in the coach and went to catch the ferry across to Canakkale. We would get very used to this program as we had to do it twice a day for the rest of the trip. Eceabat is only a small place and does not have what is considered adequate hotel facilities for moneyed Europeans.

The ferries run every half hour and leave from three places. One works on the hour and half hour and the others work on the quarter to and quarter past time frame. It is not a long trip across the Dardanelles but is very enjoyable.

Once we had arrived in Canakkale we left our suitcases at the hotel (interesting place – will come back to that – and headed off for Troy. Our tour guide had decided to change the schedule as she thought she could work it better (which in fact it did) but also to her advantage.

Instead of visiting the museums as we supposed to do we headed off for Troy. It turned out to be an amazing place. When it was first discovered it was ripped apart in many places as they were looking for treasure, and they did not expect to have any interest shown in the place itself. They are slowly restoring the pieces that were left scattered about the site but it is a gigantic work to undertake. They have to find what pieces of a column fit together for instance before it can be re-built.

There are sections of sewerage pipe and aqueduct pipe laying around. These have been numbered and as other sections are discovered they can be added to the next number if it fits. Once they have enough of a piece to put together it can be reconstructed. It really was an amazing city, and each layer of its existence can be seen in various places, dating back before the Roman Empire.

After the filming of Troy with Brad Pitt and Eric Bana the film people gifted Turkey with the horse constructed for the film. It has been placed in the village square in Canakkale for all to see and admire, along with a reproduction in scale of the city of Troy as it was. I hope the photos come out.

We arrived back at our hotel and identified our luggage and were shown to our rooms. We are all on the ground floor of the Kervansary Hotel near the main square in Canakkale. The roads are narrow and covered in bluestone blocks which is a trifle noisy when driven along, and very difficult to walk on. Although the traffic is two way we would not be able to pass each other. I am damned if I know how the drivers here do it. Must admit that pedestrians have to get out of the way, and that is sometimes on the pavement as well. Life is interesting.

The hotel, although advertised as four star, would be hard pressed to rate two stars in Australia. It was very clean and tidy with high roofs, very tiny bathrooms, no tissues but a hairdryer, and not much room to put any toiletries and that includes in the pokey shower on a much mended (and badly) shower base. The water was hot!

It had a small fridge but if you wanted tea or coffee you had to go to the lobby – just outside our room door and opposite Judy and Ian’s room) and ask for the electric kettle to be filled with bottled water. The tea and coffee were supplied and there was coffee mate if you wanted white coffee, but nothing if you wanted white tea. Judy actually managed to get the attendants to go and get her some from the kitchen. The staff were very helpful and friendly. Turkey is actually a very friendly country to Australians and New Zealanders.


The hotel as a house was originally owned by the high justice for Islam and his family lived in it for three generations before it was sold to become a hotel. The bed was queen size but only had a double bed doona on it. The doonas here are flat heavy cotton wads – there is nothing puffy about them. By the time Russ got into bed here was nothing left to cover me. I ended up getting the blanket out of the wardrobe and using it. The blankets here are very dense material and much warmer than our woollen ones.

Tea was included in the price of the tour and we were to meet in the lobby just before 7:00pm. Guler took us around the corner and across the street to the Anzac Hotel Corporation (who also run our hotel) and we had rice, chips, spaghetti (I swear it came from a tin, and it was only half warm) and a squashed meatball in the shape of a small spicy sausage. We all agreed after the meal that we would not go anywhere that Guler recommended unless we absolutely had no other choice.

After tea we went to an Anzac Café (also part of the Anzac chain) where we were shown a DVD on the Gallipoli campaigns. It was actually very interesting as it also portrayed things from the Turkish side of the coin, something that is not taught in our schools. This was supposed to give us a good grounding and understanding in how the sites we would see were all connected and what happened when.

It is a little voiced fact in Australia that a combined English and French fleet attacked the batteries along the Dardanelles on 18 March 1915. The capture of Constantinople (Istanbul) was dependent on gaining control of the Dardanelles. It was intended as a purely naval operation. They were soundly defeated with the loss of three battleships to mines and another which ran aground and was bombarded by the Ottoman batteries that rim both sides of the Strait. It is even less well known that an Australian submarine, the AE2, was sunk in the straits around the same time and that the men were rescued and spent time in prison in Turkey – the Ottomans as it was then. It was after this defeat that it was decided to send land troops to capture the forts that controlled the passage.

Turkey celebrate their Foundation Day on 18 March each year as this was the date when they consider they came of age as a nation, and not just one place of many in the Ottoman Empire. It is also one of the reasons why they feel so simpatico with Australian and New Zealanders as it was our first foray into battle as our own companies and battalions, even if we were commanded overall by the British. Winston Churchill was part of the English Cabinet at the time of this World War as a very young man.

It was about 10:00pm when we made it back to the hotel and went to sleep to the sound of cars along the road and voices on the street – our room looked on the street itself and was on the same level as the roadway. All things considered we both slept well. We picked up tissues in Istanbul and Russ is still blowing away.

Day 15 – Saturday, 20 April 2013 – Paris to Istanbul

We made it to the lobby and approached the Hospitality desk only to see a driver parading with his iPad and COX boldly marked on the screen so we introduced ourselves and the luggage was whisked outside. This has to be the best use of an iPad I have ever seen.

The car we were driven to the airport in was a brand new Citroen SUV Hybrid and it was exceptionally roomy in side. Russ sat in the back seat with me and he had at least four inches between his knees and the front seat. It ran very quietly and smoothly although Russ noticed a distinct lag between the time the accelerator was pushed and the car’s response time.

It was amazing to see the change in housing the further we moved from Paris, and not always good. At least there are houses in the countryside, but the quality of the establishments are comparable with Housing Commission high rise in Victoria.

It was also more evident than ever before that Paris does not have many hills. It is almost as flat as Holland. There is much more graffiti visible the further out you go, and a sort of bleakness that is not so apparent within the inner city.

Charles de Gaulle is the largest airport in France but it doesn’t compete to Dubai’s expanse. It was not difficult to find our way into the building and to the Turkish Airlines counters. The attendants spoke excellent English (always helpful for those of us who can only manage the basics) and we found our way to Passport Control.

Once you pass through Passport Control we were herded into lines and shuffled forward to put ourselves and our cabin gear through the scanners. We forgot that you can’t carry water containers on board and Russ was not allowed to keep his pop top. It had to be disposed of in the bin provided. It took Russ longer to pass through as there was a query about his camera equipment, but finally we got to our gate where we could sit comfortably and wait for boarding.

The plane was fairly full, but the hostess informed Russ there was a spare seat in the Exit row so, once again, we parted company for the journey. I spent a quiet time reading my ereader and Russ apparently put on his ear phones and listened to his talking book.

We were fed lunch along the way and it was very nice, considering it was airline food. They very kindly heated the rolls for a change. We left Charles de Gaulle at 11:25am and arrived in Istanbul at 3:00pm. However, as we crossed a time zone during the flight, the actual time in the air was shorter by an hour.

We needed to queue up (once again) to get through Passport Control which took at least 40 minutes, but had to visit the Visa Section before we could get there. We were charged $60 each (US Dollars) to buy our visa as Australian citizens, but the Canadians and Americans only have to pay $20 US. We have no explanation as to why we are charged so much more.

Once we were waved through we were able to locate our luggage carousel and grab our suitcases. As we figured we had nothing to declare we pass straight through the gates and found our very friendly chauffeur’s guide who took us out to be picked up for the transfer to our hotel.

I have to keep in mind that they travel on the right (wrong) side of the road and not try and go to the side of the van that has no door other than the drivers.

It was an interesting ride through the countryside of Turkey, but the driving style has not improved at all. The ride was very comfortable and we drove through many different styles of architecture to get to the older part of the city.

Our hotel is called the Central Palace and although it is smaller than we are used to, it is beautiful. It has only 11 floors and there are not many rooms on each floor. However, the rooms that are there are very opulent in the old ottoman style. This hotel should have been rated six stars, although it only gets a four star rating, I believe.

The rooms were quite large, the furnishings were of good quality, and the actual structure was marble, gold vein glass and wood. It is a shame we only stay here the one night at either end of our tour. The staff (although more inclined to deal with the male – huh….) were still polite and attentive.

We did get a bit of a giggle though as many of them take the first name as the last etc., and so, Mr Carlo had the reservation which proved to be comical when they had to keep saying Mr Russell once they realised the mistake. They assured us that the area was very safe for Europeans and that we could walk the neighbourhood without fear of being accosted.

After Russ did his meditation we ventured downstairs where they have a buffet available at 19 Euro per person – about $25 each. You have to be careful in this country as the Euro has supposedly been accepted as the currency, but many of the items are charged as lira. You need to determine which currency they are talking about before you make any decision with money. The lira is worth about $1.85 against our dollar, the Euro about 81 cents.

After the meal, which was really yummy, (it’s all those sweets – baklava, profiteroles, honey and almond squares ……you get the picture) we took a short walk around the neighbourhood and followed instructions to get to the hole in the wall.

We were actively encouraged to have a second meal at other spots along the way, but decided it would be a good idea to stock up on water and get some milk for a decent cup of tea. The hotel has mugs and an electric jug too.