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Photo: Travetines of Pammukale
"Travetines of Pammukale"

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Past Tours

Vietnam and Cambodia 2011
Kenya and Tanzania 2010
Egypt and Jordan 2010
UK and Northern France 2010
Turkey and Greece 2010
Italy and Sicily 2010
Egypt 09
Canada 09
Egypt 08
Italy 08
Vietnam 08
Egypt 07














Turkey and Greece 2010

Our first tour of 2010 was to Turkey and Greece with one of the highlights being attending the 95th Anniversary Anzac Day commemorative ceremonies at Gallipoli.

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With all the volcanic ash in the air in April it was touch and go for a while as to if we would be able to go but fortunately for us Istanbul airport was one of the few still open so there was no stopping us. We arrived in Istanbul and as we made our way to our hotel were very surprised to see the streets lined with beautiful tulips. Our guide, Bitsy told us that we had just missed the Tulip Festival which is held annually. She pointed out that the difference between Turkish tulips and others is that Turkish tulips have pointed petals. Turkey in itself was not what I had expected. I had visions of it being quite dry and desolate when in actual fact it was quite the opposite. We spent a couple of days in Istanbul and visited many beautiful and interesting sites including Aya Sophia, The Blue Mosque, Yerebatan Cistern, Topkapi Palace and both the Grand and Spice Bazaars which are all within walking distance around the old city known as Sultanahmet. Aya Sophia (Hagia Sophia) means “Holy Wisdom” and is over 1,500 years old.

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It was originally a church but is now a museum and is considered one of the world’s great mega structures and houses some beautiful gold mosaics that are over 1,000 years old. The girls and I enjoyed a cruise on the Bosphorus Strait which separates the continents of Europe and Asia. Along the way we passed fortresses, Ottoman palaces, beautiful homes and the locals fishing for their dinner. Istanbul has much to offer in the way of culture and history and I am sure we will visit Turkey again. A trip to Istanbul would not be complete without a visit to either the Grand Bazaar or the Spice Bazaar. I preferred the Spice Bazaar as it was more a locals place than a tourist place. Both are very colourful and lively and with plenty of beautiful ceramics, fabrics and of course Turkish Delight! On 24th April we left Istanbul and drove to Cannakale (Chan-ak-alay) on the Gallipoli Peninsular. Just after midnight we drove to Anzac Cove for the ceremonies.

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Historically the weather is freezing with a howling wind and over 15,000 people at the site. This year however, due to the ash situation, crowd numbers were down and there were only around 6,000 people there so it was not as crowded as usual. Although it was quite cool, it was not freezing and we were told later it was the mildest weather experienced in the past 10 years. Being there for the ceremonies was something I will never forget and I agree with most people who say that every Australian and New Zealander should do it once in their lifetime but for me it was the next day on the landing beaches and in the cemeteries away from the pomp and pageantry that was most meaningful. Being able to stand where they stood and realise that for many that was where they fell and to read their names and ages on the head stones was quite overwhelming. To see how beautifully kept the Australian and New Zealand cemeteries are by the Turkish locals and to visit the Turkish sites and realise that they too lost fathers, sons, uncles and husbands was a very humbling experience and a reminder that there are no winners in war.

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After leaving the Peninsular we visited Troy and the replica of the Trojan horse. It was a very interesting site which has been excavated many times since its discovery in 1871. It is now a UNESCO World Heritage site and many teams of international archaeologists are working there at any given time. From here we travelled to Pergamum a city that was a powerful force in Hellenistic times but which was given to the Romans in 133BC by way of bequeath by King Attalus III as he had no heirs.

We stopped at a local restaurant to taste a local dish called Gozlemé which is a thin pastry layered and filled with spinach and feta. Our next stop was Kusadasi (Kush-a-dasee) from where we visited the House of the Virgin Mary on Mt Koressos and one of the 7 Wonders of the Ancient World, the Temple of Artemis. Not much remains of the site and only a few artifacts remain in the Selcuk (Sell-chuck) museum such as a statue of Artemis from 1st century AD. Another of the highlights of Turkey was a visit to the magnificently restored city of Ephesus. Dating back to 7th century AD, the city enjoyed an affluent existence during the time of Alexander the Great for 50 years, from its capture in 334BC until his death. The Celsus Library once housed 12,000 roll books which were all destroyed during the invasion of the Goths in 265AD. We were able to go inside some of the houses of the rich that are being restored by Turkish and Austrian archaeologists and it was wonderful to walk around their houses and get some idea of the size and grandeur of their dwellings. Beautiful mosaics and frescos are still visible. The Grand Theatre at Ephesus could seat 24,500 and was started by Emperor Claudius in 41-54AD. Even today it has amazing acoustics and orchestral and theatrical performances are still held there from time to time.

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There is so much to see in Turkey and our next stop was Aphrodisias which houses the Temple of Aphrodite and the world’s best-preserved stadium, The Stadium of Aphrodisias, which is 263m long and could hold 30,000 spectators. Next we travelled to Pamukkale (Pam-oo-kalay) with its cotton candy cliffs. These cliffs are formed by a build up of calcium and have natural hot springs flowing through them. Much of the area is closed to allow it to regenerate but we were able to take our shoes off and walk over one area and wade in the hot springs. The rock is very sharp and quite slippery so you must be very careful not to slip.

At the hotel we stayed in there was a Beauty Spa which offered the famous Turkish Bath so one of the girls, Nola and I decided we would check out what it was like. Shall I just say that it was quite an experience and that Nola and I certainly have a story to tell J Our last stop in Turkey was the coastal town of Bodrum where we stayed overnight before boarding the ferry to Greece. We wandered down to the waterfront through the quaint little shops and alleys and enjoyed a lovely meal while overlooking the bay highlighted by a beautiful sunset and said farewell to Turkey.

On our way to Greece we stopped at the small island of Kos for a few hours before going on to Rhodes. Rhodes is best known as being the location of another of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, the Colossus of Rhodes and for being the headquarters of the Knights Hospitallers (Order of St John). The old town which starts at the D’Amboise Gate was created in the mid 14th century and in 1988 was listed as a World Heritage City by UNESCO. It is one of the few working walled cities in the world and only those people who live in the city are able to take vehicles inside the city walls. It is a fascinating city to wander through and is steeped in history. A must is to wander down the “Avenue of the Knights”. It is a long and steep road, lined with palaces of the Ottoman period and the inns of the Knights’ Order, known as "Hotels of languages" as the order was divided by languages and not by nation. These inns also served as accommodation for pilgrims who stopped in Rhodes on their way to Jerusalem. Our next stop was the beautiful volcanic island of Santorini. We spent 3 nights here and enjoyed exploring the island on the local bus and watching the beautiful sunsets over the Caldera. Next we travelled to Mykonos by hydrofoil for only 1 night before flying to Athens for the final leg of our trip. We stayed near Parliament House so we saw the aftermath of the riots that had taken place earlier that week however we didn’t experience any of the unrest during our stay. We visited the Acropolis, the Olympic Stadium and the new Acropolis Museum and enjoyed wandering through the old town area of Plaka with its wonderful shops and tavernas.

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Photo: Pergamon

"Pergamon"


Photo: Santorini

"Santorini"

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