Just to recap…………..
After travelling through several parts of the globe with the intent of sleeping in as many ancient sites as possible we find ourselves sleeping in the Hippodrome at the amazing ancient complex of Ephesus in Western Turkey.
We awoke the next morning all silently taking in our surroundings. We all wondered “How does it get any better than this?” We eyed the cold remains of our makeshift fireplace then all made the decision that breakfast was our next goal.
We packed and quietly headed out towards the road, we managed to talk our way past gun wielding Jandarma who thought we were just lost walking to the entrance gate. They shrugged their shoulders as we insisted on walking in the opposite direction. Now breakfast for most Aussies especially at that time usually consisted of cornflakes, toast and jam and tea. You can imagine our surprise sitting down to fresh tomatoes, cucumbers, boiled eggs, white cheese and OLIVES! Oh and of course the most amazing fresh crunchy bread in the world! My family always enjoyed Mediterranean goodies from the deli but olives for breakfast takes a bit of getting used to. I look back and laugh now when I sit down with my Turkish family and gladly consume at least 12 good sized olives every day.
We spent a couple of days wandering nearby Selcuk and even caught a Dolmus to nearby Pamukkale. We never used guide books and even Lonely Planet was in it’s infancy. We’d heard about this place with pristine white bubbling pools cascading down the hill and the incredible necropolis and ruins of Hierapolis. Unfortunately though at that time the presence of two large sprawling hotels built on the heights had polluted the travertines to such an extent that the water in most parts was green and the effect on the so called ‘white’ pools was evident. I’m very happy to report that these days much has been done to preserve and protect this unique area.
That night we waited at the Selcuk otogar for our bus back toward Istanbul. Those days in Turkey were so brand new and glorious not only for us but also for the locals. We were met by interested locals in every direction. Local boys and men would grapple for our attention, not to get us to carpet shops or hotels but just because they were genuinely interested in talking to you. The feeling was so refreshing after dealing with the endless touts throughout the Greek Islands. One thing that caught our interest was the ever present service taxis, these were magnificent old American cars dating back to the 50’s. Amazing relics from the western approach that turkey had taken since independence. One driver offered to take our $10 bus fare and drive us all the way to Istanbul, for another 50 bucks he offered to let us keep the Buick!
We stuck with the overnight bus which as any traveller in Turkey knows is the best way of getting around this great country. First stop during the night journey was at a roadside bus stop, we were handed a token and told to go to the cafeteria, they handed us a metal cup with what we thought was a refreshing glass of milk……WRONG! Our next dip into Turkish culture was a cup of Ayran, the immediate shock and reaction was to spit it out but as the shock receded we gulped the salty yoghurt drink down with glee. Still think it’s the best thing on a hot summer’s day.
Arriving in the old bus station at Topkapi was simply amazing! A dust bowl surrounded by ancient walls. We made our way by public bus to Sultanahmet. Can you imagine Divan Yolu with no trams? My love affair of all things Turkish had just begun.
We will now skip a couple of years. Actually this story begins as a teenager in Melbourne. I went through a phase of recurring dreams with one common detail. I awoke after these dreams frustrated by what meaning they could have. I hadn’t thought that much about Turkey before and at 15 years of age your mind is certainly on a plethora of other things far removed from future travels. The dream went like this……………..
The air was cold and damp, it was dark and dusty, I was in a confined space and the roots of plants were in my eyes as I pressed further down the dirt tunnel, I was surrounded by voices and confusion, yelling and the smell of gunpowder invaded my nostrils. Shoulders and voices surrounded me everywhere, some voices in English and others in a strange guttural language I had never heard. I felt incredibly sick to my stomach but felt the urge to keep moving. The ground shook with constant explosions from above. Then all of a sudden time stood still, I was all of a sudden alone. Ahead of me I could hear crying and a call for help. I slowly made my way forward in the dappled light and there in front of me sitting against the side of the tunnel was a young soldier, an Australian, covered in dust but glistening with sweat. I approached the young soldier, knelt down beside him, he was in agony. He looked up at me and asked me to help him, he said “please don’t leave me in this place” I looked at his face and realised…………It was me!
I awoke in the safety of my bedroom in suburban Melbourne, the room was dark, my breathing was heavy and my pillow wet with sweat. I never understood what it all meant but remember telling my brother about this dream and if he could help me reconcile it. The dream occurred several times for how long I can’t recall but as life moves on so do we. I never thought any more about it and the dream wasn’t to present it’s meaning until many years later.
All Australians are taught about the futility and sacrifices of war and no story more so than the infamous failed invasion of Turkey in 1915. As this was now my third journey to the land of the Turks I had by now explored the surface of the Gallipoli/ANZAC area. The Commonwealth forces landed here in an attempt to force Turkey out of WW1. In those years information was very scarce and the industry of taking people around the battlefield was still in it’s infancy. Years later 20,000+ pilgrims will await the dawn hour to commemorate the battle, the loss of young lives and the birth of a national spirit of three separate countries. Turkey, New Zealand and of course Australia. It was after this battle that Australians finally fought under an Australian entity with Australian military leaders. All that aside I to this very day see ANZAC as much a beautiful place as it is a tragic place.
This trip saw David my close friend and I at a loss for two weeks before meeting another mate from Melbourne in Istanbul. We decided to dig deeper into this tragic history. We hitched our way out to the battlefield area and found a small copse of trees close to the local Jandarma station at Gabatepe. We set up our tent, rolled out our sleeping bags, played some backgammon, took a swim off the nearby jetty and settled into quiet solitude. It was at the height of summer so no fires were allowed. Each night the soldiers would come for a visit and check our names and details. They’d stay for a quick raki and take us on at backgammon. We spent every day walking the supply tracks, cemeteries and beaches. We chatted with the locals, with other travellers who passed by, all the time trying to get a more detailed grasp of what happened here for 9 months in 1915.
One day we were walking north of Lone Pine along the road formerly known as No Man’s Land. We noticed a dark depression within the bushes by the side of the road. On further investigation we uncovered and entrance to a tunnel. We retrieved our torches from our daypacks and decided to explore as far as we could. Of course we needed to urge each other on with typical boyish jibes like “Don’t be a chicken” etc. I was in front and when the roots of plants pretruding from the roof of the tunnel hit my forehead I had a strange feeling of Deja Vu. I stopped in my tracks. There in the subdued light of the tunnel laying against the side of the tunnel was the ghostly skeletal remains of a human. Not intact and certainly not complete but what I saw brought me into a cold sweat.
It was my dream.
I’m a fairly pragmatic person and not one to believe in ghostly mysteries or reincarnation. Somebody told me long after that day that they believed the dream was a message from the past. A call from that lost soldier for somebody, anybody to please come and find him and to take him from his horrible man made tomb. I notified the local Commonwealth War Graves Commission office and the remains were re-interred in one of the cemeteries. Something that still happens to this very day. I hoped that I had done something to put this poor soul to rest.
My fascination in Turkey and of Gallipoli has never gone away and hence why I live here and work to take other Aussies and Kiwis to this ‘Fatal Shore’
End of part 2.
Bit of a bio for you. I have worked since those early days of exploration in the travel business and mainly in Turkey. I am the GM of an exciting band of travel professionals in Sultanahmet at Road Runner Travel. If you have time please check out our ever growing products. And if you’re ever in Sultanahmet in this beautiful city and country drop by for a chat and a glass of cay! www.roadrunnertravel.net