END LEG 5 TURKEY AND START LEG 6 GREECE.
DAY 10 MORNING OF THURSDAY 27TH SEPTEMBER 2012
ISTANBUL TO TURKISH/GREEK BORDER.
This morning we caught a taxi to the big bus station, which is how the locals refer to it. A taxi arrived on the dot of 8-30 and thirty minutes later we were at Metro Coach terminal No121. The attendant took our bags to a secure room for safekeeping and we went off for a glass of tea. Everything was going to plan with no hiccups. I thought if the rest of the day goes like the check-in did the day was going to be a breeze.
The bus was a super beauty, business class airline seats with a TV screen built into the back of the seat in front. We discussed the fact that bus travel for short distances was far superior to flying. Ferruh thought going by plane would be much better, however if you have to be at the airport two hours ahead and go through the hassles of security then at your destination take another hour through customs and immigration as would have been the case today, it would take only one hour longer by bus.
Departure was close enough to the advertised time and we were soon rolling along in luxurious comfort along a smooth six-lane motorway. I thought of it as a modern Silk Road joining a rapidly developing Turkey with the rest of the world. There is a family tree of ways. For example, there are freeways, expressways, roadways, laneways, passageways and ways of virtue that lead to places of worship. The one I like best is a snickleway which is public access under private property. Perhaps I will find one during this odyssey.
Most times with the right camera settings I can take photographs close up on buses and trains with my subject not knowing but this time I was caught out. I’m not sure what she is thinking. Maybe some of the blog readers can suggest a caption. What about you, Mottie? Place your comment in the comment box.
Bev and I were confident we would get to Alexandroupoli safely as the driver was most competent, handling the fifteen or so tonnes of coach through the traffic admirably and at the same time texting on his mobile and smoking!
Later the road was two lane and we recognised sections we travelled in our Beetle in 1973 when we were heading for Anzac cove for the first time. Today’s journey was the third time we had been on the two lane section of road. On one of these occasions (1988) we took the boys to Anzac Cove to visit their great grandfather’s grave at Lone Pine cemetery. In 1973 if you didn’t know the exact location of a grave you had to visit every cemetery and read every headstone until you found the one you were looking for. These days there is an onsite register and museum and therefore it is a matter of being directed.
Today we came in from the northeast (near the date 17-1-73) and joined the dotted road marked at Kesan.
In 1973 Bev and I spent three days in freezing conditions searching for my grandfather’s grave and just as I was about to give up Bev suggested we visit Lone Pine cemetery and, sure enough, we found it. Standing there in front of the grave I realised I knew very little about Arthur, my grandfather, as my father was only seven when his father was killed and he didn’t really know him either. For me it was a frustrating experience not knowing, so I decided there and then to keep accurate records of my daily doings so my descendants will not experience the same frustration. I now have over thirty-five A4 size journals on the shelf. My eldest granddaughter (5) sits with my journals and thumbs through them looking at the photographs, so already there is a spark of interest.
The battle of Lone Pine claimed the lives of over 2000 Australian soldiers, which was an almighty sacrifice in light of the battle being a diversionary tactic.
The only thing I knew about my grandfather was his wife died giving birth to a second son who also died. The reason for the double tragedy was the doctor in attendance was drunk. You can imagine how Arthur felt after such a tragedy and he joined the AIF. When standing at the grave of Arthur it dawned on me where my first and middle names came from. Frederick came from the baby who died and Arthur is from my grandfather.
Bev and I are glad we visited the Gallipoli Peninsula when we did because these days there are many visitors, especially the young seeking an association with the Anzacs. I recently read a story in the Australian newspaper that indicated the Turkish and Australian governments are not happy with the way Anzac Day is commemorated at Gallipoli nowadays. They are worried that the 100-year anniversary in 2015 will turn into a managed event as it has been for the past few years. The pre dawn at Gallipoli is now flooded with light and entertainment to keep visitors happy whilst waiting for the dawn. Many believe that the dawn service should be simple and reverent, not over-managed and all hype. Last year visitors to Anzac Cove were confronted with security gates, searches, massive screens, coffee outlets, buses and vans for as far as the eye could see and entertainment beginning the night before. Groups now dominate the service. It appears like a managed ‘Big Day Out’, overshadowing the solemnity of the occasion and the serenity that should prevail at all times.
Before leaving Turkey there is a story I must tell you and it relates to when Bev and I visited Goreme in central Turkey during our Munich to Damascus journey. We’d read of an underground city carved into soft rock formations where Christians lived when fleeing from the Arabs in the 12th century. A young Turkish man offered to take us underground so, with torches, down we went. Today the area in Cappadocia with its unusual rock formations, underground cities and houses carved into the cliffs is a very popular tourist destination. I doubt if you would be allowed to simply go down with a handheld torch. The underground city was remarkable. The inhabitants could hold up for months without coming to the surface. There were wells for water and what fascinated me were the huge circular doors that could be rolled across tunnels to keep invaders out, similar to the roller door in the movie Temple of Doom.
When we came to the surface it was dark and we asked our guide if there was somewhere safe to camp. He suggested we sleep at his ‘Ant’s’ place so off we went. Ant’s house was one room, about 5 x 7 metres and unbeknown to us we were going to sleep in the room with her, her husband and six kids with ages ranging from around two to mid twenties. As I have mentioned before, visitors are sent by Allah and must be made welcome and welcome us they did. Before bedding down we had to eat. We felt guilty about taking their food but the lady of the house insisted. We sat cross-legged at a round tray on the floor with a circular piece of white cloth extended over our laps. On the tray were pickled onions and tomatoes, dried meat, cucumber and flat potato bread. Basically the food was good but the pickled tomatoes left a bit to be desired. The family stood around and watched us eat. I understood that we had to take our fill before they were prepared to sit and eat with us.
After dinner we made signals that we wanted to go to bed and rolled out our sleeping bags in one corner of the room. As we prepared for bed one of the older girls pulled the front of Bev’s jumper out and peered down her front. Having obviously seen Bev’s bra she then pinched her nipple from the outside getting the feel of how firm things are when wearing a bra. When we went outside to clean our teeth they all followed and watched with amusement. That night, like many other nights on the journey, we slept in our clothes.
The girl who was curious about underwear is on the far left and the boy in the blue shirt was our guide.
AFTERNOON OF THURSDAY 27TH SEPTEMBER 2012
TURKISH/GREEK BORDER TO ALEXANDROUPOLI.
Back to the coach trip. The first hiccup was an unexpected bus change. We were assured by a couple of Turkish English speakers that the change was not normal but I think it may have something to do with the present financial situation in Greece. The Greek bus was nowhere as roomy. It was equivalent to Swissair economy class.
Eventually off we went and all was well until we arrived at the Turkish border. The attendant took our passports to the immigration office but returned and gave them back to us. All passengers were required to present their own passports. It didn’t take long for the checking procedure to be completed so back on the bus we thought that the next stop would be Greece. But no, we drove a further 200 metres and pulled up for a loo stop and so Turkish traders at the duty free shops could extract any lira we might have left over.
Back on the bus we were on our way to Greece but the next stop was at the Greek customs and immigration two kilometres away. Once again the attendant went off with our passports and again he came back and requested that we all disembark while bus checks were made. Finally we were off to Alexandroupoli. About fifteen kilometres down the road the passports were given back but to the obvious dismay of the coach attendant he had four passports left over. The bus pulled into the breakdown lane and the attendant and the driver went into discussion. There were two probable scenarios: four of our passengers were left behind or the passport checking officials gave the attendant some other peoples’ passports. Because it was impossible for the coach to turn on the freeway we pressed on to our destination. We will never know the outcome!
Now if we had gone by plane we would have missed out on all this fun!
Arrived at Alexandroupoli around 4-00 and decided to sit in a café, take stock and plan the next move. A German backpacker, Matt, joined us for afternoon tea. Some of the conversation included some hair-raising experiences he had in Istanbul. He majored in music and when travelling he enjoys joining with like-minded musicians, hanging out and making music and socialising. In Istanbul he was playing guitar and singing with some locals near an outdoor cafe and a number of black-clad police sprayed them with pepper spray to disperse them. We assume they may have been cultural police even though we are unaware of their existence. It was certainly a strange episode. Another musical encounter he had was when a local and his girlfriend befriended him. They were sitting by the waterfront, playing guitar and drinking. The girl gave him a smooch and the boyfriend grabbed Matt’s guitar and hit him over the head with it. Both the guitar and Matt’s head caved in. The guitar now has one cardboard side and Matt has stitches in his head.
Following afternoon tea Matt went off looking for a free camp and Bev and I went to a hotel nearby. A bulbous lady encouraged us in and after discussion we agreed on 40 euro for a double room. Other places we looked up on the iPad were of a comparable price. The room was small but bearable: it had an ensuite and air conditioning so that was a plus.
That’s it for Turkey, wonderful country. Readers, don’t forget you can have WordPress send you an email every time we do a posting. This post was sent from Albania. We are running a bit behind but we are slowly catching up. Next posting, the wonderful Greece.