Acropolis, Pergamon

Located within the ancient Greek city Pergamon is the Acropolis literally meaning city on the extremity due to its location on a hill, this provided an amazing backdrop to the ruins.

Arriving at the base of the hill was another feature I hadn’t seen at any other ruins, a chair lift. As we were about to park the car, we were informed we could drive all the way up, so we did.

Walking to towards the ruins we pass through the site of the original castle gate. Original sites of palaces were on the left with the ruined Temple of Athena on the right. Using the nature concave of the hill is a Hellenistic (Greek) Theatre, said to have the steepest seating of all ancient theatres.

Past the theatre perched on the top of the hill is the Sanctuary of Trajan (Trajaneum), with magnificently reconstructed Corinthian fluted columns. On the sides of the Trajaneum were Stoas (covered walkways).

Heading back to the car we saw the overall ruins of the upper Acropolis.

From Pergamon we drove to Selçuk, with plans to visiting the ancient city of Ephesus the next day.

Kestel damChairliftAncient Roman arch
Travis on archOverlooking ruined Stoas and LibraryTree on the ruined Temple of Athena
Looking over the Hellenistic TheatreHellenistic Theatre with Sanctuary of Trajan Trajaneum in backgroundTemple of Dionysus
Hellenistic Theatre from TrajaneumTunnel of Sanctuary of Trajan TrajaneumSanctuary of Trajan Trajaneum
Sanctuary of Trajan TrajaneumSanctuary of Trajan TrajaneumSanctuary of Trajan Trajaneum
Sanctuary of Trajan TrajaneumTravis and Sukey at the  Sanctuary of Trajan Trajaneum StoaLooking up at the Acropolis

Troy, City of Troia, Turkey

The famous city of Troy (or Troia in Turkish) lies an hour or so south of Çanakkale. We had visited the Trojan horse built for the Brad Pit featuring Troy movie that morning in Çanakkale before heading to the ruins.

Clock tower at nightSeaportTravis with the Trojan Horse form Troy movie
Trojan Horse form Troy movieTrojan Horse from Troy movieSonya and Sukey having breakfast

City of Troy (Troia)

As we had heard, the ruins had not been very well preserved. The site was discovered in the late 1800s by an excavation led by a German merchant, Schliemann. Until then, there was very little known about whether Troia, described in Homer’s Illiad, had existed or not. When Schliemann’s first excavation uncovered the ruins which he claimed to be Troia, it was immediately thought that the relics and ruins related to the famous stories and poetry of Troy, however as more archaeologists discovered more about the ruins, they realised the site contained layers of ancient ruins across several generations (over something like 2000 years) of Troia cities which they named Troy I to Troy IX. Schliemann’s discovery was related to the Troy II period. It is now widely accepted that the epic Greek story of the Trojan War would have likely been during Troy VIIa.

Anyway despite it being low season we saw at least three Japanese tour buses. Some of the Turkish guides even spoke fluent Japanese. As we were leaving a young couple approached Travis and asked if they could hitch a ride with us to the main road. They were both in their early twenties and very friendly. We found out the girl was Spanish and the guy was Slovakian (can’t remember their names), and their next destination was Pergamon, same as us. They were travelling Western Turkey via public transport and hitchhiking, and using CouchSurfing as accommodation. Ah, to be students! So we gave them a lift to Pergamon, another three and a half hour drive away.

Walls of Troy VIIView of the Trojan HorseWalls of Troy VII
Travis and the walls of Troy VIIOriginal red brick walls of Troy II and IIISukey in a 2000 year old well
Sonya and Travis with the Troy walls behindLooking over Troy IVWater system form Hittite settlement
Pillar HouseSukey sitting at the OdeonCollection of pillars
Sukey and Sonya inside the Trojan HorseSukey and Sonya inside the Trojan HorseSonya and Sukey exiting the Trojan Horse

Gallipoli – The ANZAC Walk

The Gallipoli Campaign was the first major battle undertaken by the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC) during the First World War. We had all learnt in school how important this event is to Australian history and the Australian identity.  A trip to Turkey would not be complete without Gallipoli.

We left early from Istanbul starting the five hour drive to Gallipoli. We stopped for lunch at Ilhan Restaurant in Gelibolu a seaside town on the east coast of the Gallipoli peninsula. We sampled some mezze and grilled sea bass, which the waiter even kindly de-boned for us.

Gelibolu boat inletGelibolu boat inletIlhan Restaurant

I planned the Anzac Walk (or drive) for us which was a self guided tour of the sites recommended and detailed by the Australian Government. We arrived at the starting location in the afternoon and having arrived off season it was nice having the whole place to ourselves.

Anzac Commemorative SiteAnzac Commemorative Site facing North BeachAnzac Commemorative Site facing North Beach
Anzac Commemorative Site with Sphinx in the backgroundTravis at the Anzac Commemorative SiteSonya at the Anzac Commemorative Site
Ataturk's touching wordsHell Spit CemeteryHell Spit Cemetery
Shrapnel Valley CemeteryMehmetcige Saygi Aniti (Respect of Soldiers)History of the pine tree seed
Lone Pine Cemetery and MemorialLone Pine Cemetery and MemorialPreserved dugout
Preserved trenchesJohnston’s Jolly CemeteryTurkish Memorial
The Nek CemeteryView of North BeachSonya and Sukey with North Beach in the background

Download the ANZAC Walk in GPX format for your GPS.

1. North Beach – Anzac Commemorative Site

The Anzac Walk begins at the Anzac Commemorative Site on the north beach. Upon reaching the cove it was hard not to notice how serene and beautiful the cove is.  Walking to towards the sea we saw the letters ANZAC on one of the commemorative walls. Facing the rugged landscape was a second commemorative wall detailing the Gallipoli Campaign timeline. It was a sombre story.

2. Ari Burnu Cemetery

Driving south we reached the first cemetery. Ari Burnu is named from the Cape at the North end of Anzac Cove.  Whilst the majority of graves were ANZACs, three Indian soldiers were also buried there.

3. Anzac Cove and Turkish Dedication

The Anzac Cove (Anzak Coyu in Turkish) marks the Anzac Cove named in 1985. The Anzac Cove has a touching Turkish Dedication with words from Atatürk (father of the Turks).

“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.”

4. Hell Spit Cemetery

Further south of Anzac Cove is Hell Split Cemetery, the last cemetery next to the sea.

5. Shrapnel Valley Cemetery

Shrapnel Valley  was the main route for ANZAC troops and supplies between the beach and the front-line.

6. Lone Pine Cemetery and Memorial

Lone Pine Cemetery named after a single Turkish pine tree on the plateau was the location of battles between Australian and Turkish forces. Today the plateau is a cemetery and memorial with magnificent views.

7. Johnston’s Jolly Cemetery

Johnston’s Jolly named after the 2nd Australian Division Artillery AIF, commanded by Brigadier General G. J. Johnston.

To the right and opposite of the cemetery are original preserved trenches.

8. Courtney’s and Steel’s Post Cemetery

Courtney’s Post was named after Lieutenant Colonel Richard Courtney of the 14th Australian Infantry Battalion and Steel’s Post named after Major Thomas Steel also of the 14th Australian Infantry Battalion.

9. Quinn’s Post Cemetery

Quinn Post was named after Major Hugh Quinn of the 15th Battalion of Charters Towers, Queensland.

10. Turkish Memorial

The Turkish Memorial was unfortunately under renovation at the time.

11. The Nek Cemetery

The Nek Cemetery is at the location of the Battle of the Nek, a battle on a narrow stretch of ridge. The cemetery offered amazing views of Anzac Cover.

The Nek Cemetery concluded the walking tour.

We drove to Eceabat on the shore of the Gallipoli peninsula and rode a ferry to Çanakkale on the Asian side of Turkey. Çanakkale is the nearest town to the famous Troy which we planned to explore the next day.

Istanbul, Turkey (Türkiye)

My sister Sukey had decided to come and visit us during her uni break so we thought it would be an opportune time to do some more travelling.  With Sukey travelling all the way from Perth, we planned to do a trip to Turkey before her stop in Qatar and to save some time we decided we would meet her in Istanbul.

Doha to Istanbul is a short four hour trip. We took Turkish Airlines and it was a pleasant trip – being a red eye flight, I pretty much slept the whole flight. There was a cat in the main cabin which persisted on meowing during the entire trip which was a little bizarre (not that he was meowing – that he was on the flight).

We found a tired Sukey (27 hours of travelling from KL) at the Visa office and picked up our car – a big Renault sedan and headed to Sultanahmet – the area we would be staying for the next three days.  As we approached the city area we realised the Renault was probably not the best choice for inner city Istanbul! We managed to find our hostel and settled in just in time for breakfast – the traditional Turkish breakfast of olives, feta cheese, tea (çay), bread, cucumber, tomato and boiled eggs.

Day 1 – Hagia Sophia, Blue Mosque and Grand Bazaar

The morning was spent wandering around Sultanahmet. Right next to the picturesque Sultan Ahmed Mosque (Blue Mosque as it’s commonly known) we decided to walk there first.  Being Friday, morning prayers were taking place so we took a few photos and decided to head across to the basilica Hagia Sophia (Aya Sofia in Turkish) only just across from the Mosque.  The Hagia Sophia, smaller in size than the Blue Mosque, was completed in 357AD during the Byzantine period and served as a church but since then has been used as a mosque and is now a museum. Interestingly, during the Ottoman period the Hagia Sophia served as a basis for the design of mosques including the Blue Mosque.

Architecturally the Aya Sofiya was amazing – the interior grand with its massive domes and Christian depictions. Inside are also a number of mosaics my favourite being one of the Virgin Mary and her Child, Jesus, flanked by Justinian I who is handing her a model of Hagia Sophia and Constantine I, offering a model of the city, Constantinople.

Hagia SophiaTravis and Sonya outside Hagia SophiaHagia Sophia Dome
Arabic writingColourful tilesApse mosaic of the Theotokos
Sukey inside Hagia SophiaChrist on the Deesis mosaicSukey and a red door
Sukey and Sonya with Hagia Sophia in the backgroundHagia SophiaTravis, Sukey and Sonya with Hagia Sophia in background
Red walls of Hagia SophiaRed walls of Hagia SophiaHagia Sophia at night

On our way to the Blue Mosque we sampled the first of our street food. A colourfully dressed street vendor and his stall at Sultanahmet Square were surrounded by men, women, children. Naturally this caught our eye and we wondered what all the fuss was about. Fifteen minutes later Sukey had herself a gooey lollipop on a stick which I thought was a little overrated – but almost every Istanbuli in the area seemed to have one! Outside the mosque we also tried simit (bread) a popular Turkish breakfast.  At this point, a Turkish family also asked Sukey and I to take a photo with them!

The Blue Mosque – inside was very, well – mosque like. It is still used as a mosque and there is a women’s area inside as well. Impressive Islamic mosaics – however I much preferred it’s grandness from the outside.

Vaulted arcade (revak)Sonya and TravisSukey and Sonya
Sukey and Sonya at the hexagonal fountainMany doors under the vaulted arcade (revak)Blue Mosque viewed from inside
Sonya and Sukey eating Simit breadTravis with the Blue MosqueSukey and Sonya inside the Blue Mosque
Blue Mosque from Sultanahmet ParkBlue Mosque from Sultanahmet ParkTravis, Sonya and Sukey with the Blue Mosque in background
Sonya and the Blue MosqueColourful man selling honey salab teaBlue Mosque at night

After the mosque we headed towards the Grand Bazaar. What a place! The biggest bazaar/souq I’ve seen – we actually got lost in the place! Hundreds of alleys of jewellery, artwork, ceramic tiles, leather, bags, shoes, it was a shopper’s paradise.  My sister and I started making lists in our heads of what we would pick up on the way back…

Entrance to Grand BazaarVarious Arabic trinketsEvil Eye Nazars
Inside the Grand BazaarColourful ceramicsColourful scarfs
Inside the Grand BazaarWooden gamesSukey at Faros restaurant
Column of ConstantineTravis at Cennet restaurantPreparing Gozleme

In the evening we stopped at restaurant (Faros) for some Turkish mezze and dishes – we shared a musakka (eggplant and lamb), cokertme (potatoes, veal and yoghurt) and an eggplant and goats cheese mezze. It was absolutely delicious and we also had a friendly waiter who taught us some of our first Turkish words.  On our way back we stopped to admire the splendour of the Hagia Sophia and Blue Mosque at night before heading back to our hostel.  Our hostel was right above a quaint restaurant (by the same name) and that night Sukey and I caught up on sisterly gossip over some local Raki (aniseed spirit, similar to Lebanese Arak).

Day 2 – Basilica Cisterns, Topkapi Palace and Spice Markets

We awoke to a beautiful sunny day. Our hostel, Metropolis, was comfortable and we all slept relatively well (except for the noisy Americans next door who left at 5am for a day trip).  We walked past the Blue Mosque and Hagia Sophia towards the Basilica Cisterns.  After watching From Russia with Love we were keen to see what the ancient underground cistern’s looked like.   The cisterns were built in the 6th century under Emperor Justinian’s rule – an ingenious way to store water the city’s water. Quite an eerie place, the water still and deep orange lighting across the 10,000 square metre area.  Two pillars stood at the end the very edge of the cistern areas – each with carvings of Medusa’s head (one upside down).

Sukey and Sonya at the entrance to the Basilica CisternSonya inside the Basilica CisternMedusa Gorgoneion

After the cisterns we headed to the Topkapi Palace, located near the Hagia Sophia. A huge Palace, it was the primary residence of the Ottoman Sultans for over four hundred years.  Since the end of the Ottoman Empire it is now a museum. The Palace is enormous – with something like four courtyards. It’s set on a hill and has amazing views of the Bosphorus.  Highlights for me included the Spoonmaker’s diamond – 86 carat diamond and the fifth largest in the world.  The diamond was actually discovered in the 17th century in a city dump by a local peddler who sold it to a jeweller for a few spoons.  Incredibly sparkly, I couldn’t stop staring at it.  And of course the famous Topkapi Dagger (from the 1964 film Topkapi) weighted down by a row of three big emeralds and diamonds in the hilt and on the cover.   I was expecting to see it on the mannequin of a Sultan, as in the movie but it was not. We also couldn’t take photographs which was a shame.

Turkish guardTravis and Sukey reading the Lonely PlanetThe Gate of Salutation
Travis at the Gate of SalutationFountain of Suleiman ISukey with the Third Courtyard and Privy or Imperial Treasury in background
Colourful tilesSonya and SukeyBaghdad Kiosk
Grand Kiosk in the fourth courtyardSonya with Asian Turkey in the backgroundTravis and Sonya with Asian Turkey in the background
Outside Imperial Council HallColourful tilesFountain in the Harem

After Topkapi, we headed for lunch – kebabs on Divan Yolu road, before looking for a Whirling Dervishes ceremony show. We managed to get tickets for the following evening so headed back to the hostel for a rest before heading to the Spice Markets. The Spice Markets were extremely crowded. I have never seen so much Turkish delight, spices and tea in my life.  The store vendors here also seemed to be able to say hello in every Asian language so we were Japanese along one aisle and Korean the next. Travis stocked up on Turkish delights and Sukey bought a variety of cheeses, prosciutto and olives. We headed to a small tea stand for Turkish coffee and teas before heading back home.

Turkish DelightSpicesTurkish Delight
Fish MarketFamous Tarihi Sultanahmet Koftecisi restaurantCollage of media clippings

That evening we caught a taxi to Beyoğlu which is located on the European side of Turkey, but on the north part of the Golden Horn.  Beyoğlu is famous for its restaurants and mayhenes (local Turkish pubs and bars).  As it was Saturday night the streets were packed with locals. We had dinner – a selection of mezze and some red wine before heading to a local bar for some music and dancing.

Day 3 – Chora Church, Yedikule Fortress and Whirling Dervishes

The following day we decided to check out some sites in Western Istanbul. First the Chora Church – a church from the Byzantine period (which was also converted in to a mosque during the 16th century Ottoman rule).  Most of the Christian mosaics are still relatively intact and tell stories of the lives of Mary and Jesus.

Chora Church outside red brickSonya outside the Chora ChurchJesus healing the sick
The Virgin And ChildHarrowing of HadesThe Virgin And Child
The Virgin and JesusMosaic of the Virgin Mother with childClose-up of mosaics

After this, we went to the Golden Gate and the Yedikule Fortress, part of the Walls of Constantinople which are made of stone.

Looking at Tower of Ahmet IIISonya climbing a TowerNorth and South Pylons flanking the Golden Gate
Sukey climbing Tower of Ahmet IIILooking over the Yedikule Fortress the Mosque ruins in the centreSonya and Travis at the Golden Gate

We headed back to the hostel and rested before heading to the Whirling Dervishes ceremony. The Whirling Ceremony is a religious one of the Mevlevi order (Sufi) and traditionally from Konya in central Turkey.  However it has spread to Istanbul and a few places allow visitors to attend and watch the ceremony.  The first part of the ceremony was a traditional musical concert and the second, the Whirling Ceremony. Five semazens entered the round stage and for a good hour, whirled in their white costumes – their faces in a trance-like state and their arms in the air. It was quite amazing to watch.  I think Travis was disappointed we weren’t allowed to take photos, despite the tour booking guide clarifying that we could.

We headed back and rested for our early morning wake up the following day – next stop, Gallipoli.