Sunday 27 April 2014

Saturday 26 - Sunday 27 April - post Gallipoli

Tired is not the word - even exhausted is only a mild term for how we felt once we got back to the Grand Eceabat Hotel on the afternoon of the 25th.

People dealt with their exhaustion in different ways. Some went down to the Kapitan Bar to down a few beers (Efes!!!), which may or many not have been a good idea, although they did score some free Anzac Tshirts from their visit. Some fell asleep, and felt either better or worse when they woke up. Most - not all - made it upstairs to dinner at 7pm, but most were in bed pretty early that night.

On Friday night, Graeme asked if we had any funny or memorable moments to share. Marc said that he had stumbled back to the tents for a rest and just as he was trying to drop off to sleep, he was jerked awake by the sound of someone practising the bagpipes under the trees nearby. Who on earth would be playing the bagpipes in the middle of the night?? We had to confess it was a Kiwi who played at the CB service. Someone else had a story about trying to wristband a man who was quite belligerent, and finding out later that the same man had been thrown out for being drunk, and was sobering up in a tent offsite.

On Saturday we had an 8.30am departure from the hotel, to make sure that the keen bargain hunters who wanted to shop at the Grand Bazaar could do so, as it's closed on Sundays. It was a slow trip back, especially once we hit weekend traffic on the outskirts of Istanbul. The traffic was crawling along so slowly that there were vendors selling their good inbetween the lanes on the roads.

Once re-installed at the Ottoman Legacy Hotel, we made plans for the afternoon - the main ones being shopping at the Bazaar or a visit to the Turkish baths. Both involved catching the tram, our first experience of doing so, but with a lot of noise and some shoving, we all managed to buy our 3 lire tokens and jump on board in time.

The baths are 500 years old and very beautiful. We didn't quite know what to expect, and nobody spoke much English so any communication was by pointing, tapping or gesturing. The seven of us who went (of the women - the men had a separate section) quickly decided that this was going to be a very bonding exercise and we had better shed any inhibitions straightaway. Anna's first comment when we walked into the bath room was "this looks like a big soapy orgy!"  (But she coped with the situation very well, given that many of us were old enough to be her mother, and one actually is her mother!) We came out feeling very relaxed, and would happily have made another vist on Sunday, if there had been time.

The Bazaar Shoppers had all had a good time too, and here were a lot of sudden dashes to money machines to replenish stocks of cash for more present-buying.

Later plans included a visit to to see the Whirling Dervishes and dinner out at various places around the city, coming home at various times of the night. I felt pleasantly relaxed after our Turkish bath experience, which was a good state to be in for the Whirling Dervishes as there was a lot of Whirling and not much else. It did feel very peaceful, but you didn't want to be in any kind of hurry.

On Sunday, Baris very kindly offered to guide us around for the day, and most of us took him up on the offer. We have come to appreciate the fact that Baris basically knows everything and everyone and can do anything. First of all he gave us a great tour of Topkapi Palace, where the tulips were still flourishing and the tilework was amazing.

Then he worked magic to get us tickets for Hagia Sophia without having to join the enormous queue, and found a friend inside who is an expert  on the building to guide us round. Hagia Sophia is a stunning building and it was the highlight of the day for many of us. Afterwards he took us to the Pudding Shop for lunch and took anyone shopping who still had purchases to make. The Pudding Shop has been around since the 1960s and used to be a popular meeting place for hippies and later on overland trips to and from Asia.

Several of us skipped the shopping to go and admire the Basilica Cistern instead.

One of my favourite moments came inside Topkapi Palace, as we went into one of the display rooms. The guard on duty asked where we came from and I said "Yeni Zelanda" (having finally found out the Turkish for New Zealand.) The others in the groups said Australia. "Ah, Anzacs!" said the guard, and then he added, "You are all brothers and sisters." That seemed to encapsulate the very special and unique relationship that NZers and Australians share with the Turkish people.

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