Cities / Towns Visited: 15
Countries Visited: 7
Steps Taken Today: 16,785
Steps Taken Around the World: 736,275
We had a 9am flight, so that meant waking up at 5:30am, which in turn was followed by a large amount of groaning and general complaining by both of us about how that isn’t an actual time of day in which anyone should be awake, and that waking up before the sun does is torturous. We aren’t morning people, to put it politely. After mindlessly shoving things into our bags, most of which we had done the night before to ensure that we wouldn’t have any security problems from accidentally placing anything over 100mL in our hand luggage, we stepped out into the brisk morning air to trek to the train station, which, luckily for us, takes you directly to Frankfurt International Airport.
Everything went smoothly through security and passport control, and I managed to get through without any extra bomb testing, which was a nice change. We even had time to grab one last bretzel before hopping on to the shuttle bus that whizzes you out to your plane on the tarmac because the airport is huge. Our mood was somewhat dampened by an extremely rude, notably overweight, passive aggressive American man on the sardine can filled bus who, instead of saying ‘Excuse me sir, can you please take your backpack off as it’s knocking into us’ to my partner who obviously hadn’t noticed he was bumping the man (you know like a normal functioning adult would), he instead opted for just loudly saying ‘Geez, I wonder how many more times this guy’s water bottle is going to have to hit us!’. Sigh. He then spent the rest of the bus ride loudly asking a Norwegian passenger a million questions before randomly taking a selfie with him. It was way too early in the morning for me to mentally deal with that much obnoxious behaviour, so I just kept my mouth closed (I really wish he’d followed suit), while we alighted the bus and boarded our flight. Naturally, said man was then seated just in front of us and began accosting his neighbour with the same million questions he’d asked the Norwegian man, but this poor German man he was victimising wasn’t really up for the chat and kept his answers short and to the point until Captain America here finally got the hint and shut up.
Once silence had been achieved, the flight went smoothly and we landed promptly at our destination; Ataturk International Airport in Istanbul. Why were we flying so far from our obviously tight route around western Europe, you ask? Because it was almost April 25th, and we were in our way to meet up with my brother, and tomorrow join a tour group down to Anzac Cove for the Anzac Day dawn service. It was something I’d had on my bucket list for many years, and with this year being the centenary of the conclusion of World War I, it seemed as fitting a time as any.
Passing through passport control and customs went smoothly, if a little slowly, and we avoided any further delays by having already bought our visas online before we left Australia. Tired, but excited about our new surroundings and delighted at the prospect of a new adventure, we hopped into a taxi and headed towards our hostel, where my brother was already waiting for us. Now, the taxi ride in and of itself was an experience enough to know that we certainly weren’t in the west of the continent anymore. With a driver who didn’t wear a seatbelt, chain smoked the entire ride, threw a half empty bottle of water out the window at one point, and weaved through the insane traffic like he was trying to keep his lead in Mario Kart, we were more than thankful to reach our accommodation. The only upside being that, although the taxi ride had taken about an hour to get through the congestion, it had only cost the equivalent of AU$20, once I’d stared the driver down long enough to actually get my change. I guess we were saving at the expense of comfort and safety. Welcome to Turkey.
As we walked through the bar at the front of the restaurant we spotted my brother, and after checking into our room, went back down to sit with him and have lunch, while catching up both on what we’d been doing for the last month and a bit, and about his plans for his insane idea to ride a bicycle from Istanbul to Italy. Quick fun notes on our room: this was our first country experience with toilets you can’t flush paper down and have to put in a bin (trust me it takes some getting used to); it had a shower head on the wall but no curtain so if you showered the entire room got wet; and the radiator was on and seemingly couldn’t be turned off, so despite it being 28°C outside our room was boiling hot and we had to counter it by having the air conditioner on full blast. To be fair though it had only cost us just over AU$50 for a three bed private room, split between three of us it wasn’t expensive enough to expect anything more than a bed and a roof.
Finally we were downstairs in the bar, and it was time to have some food, as a bretzel and aeroplane breakfast food aren’t overly filling. We ended up ordering a share plate of random fried foods (fries, onion rings, mozzarella sticks, frankfurts, pastry with feta), and a testi chicken kebab to share (essentially chicken with vegetables and a spiced sauce cooked in a clay pot, which they bring out on a bed of flaming sand, then break the bottom off and turn the dish out onto a plate for you). The taxis and the living conditions might not be A grade, but the food was exactly what we wanted.
We still had some time to kill before sundown, so we three set out to explore our home for the day, that being the old town of Istanbul, as the call to prayer rang out from the mosques across the city; honestly, it’s incredibly loud and happens 5 times a day, with the first one at 5:30am and the last one at 9pm, it is constant enough you could set your watch by it, this noble call for the people of faith to gather together and worship. Even if you’re not religious you can’t help but admire the solemn cry that permeates the air. We wandered past the waterside from which you can see across to the Asian side of the country; in case you were unaware, Turkey straddles two continents, with only a small percentage on the West of the Bosphorus being in Europe, and the rest residing in Asia; a topic of hot debate as to whether they should be considered a European or Asian nation. From the edge of this ancient city it is easy to see why this region has been fought over so much throughout history, it truly is a gateway between the east and west. From here we continued through a small bazaar, out past the Blue Mosque and Hagia Sophia (two mosques which almost face off against each other on either side of a beautiful square with gardens and fountains), and up along a street full of shops with restaurant owners hustling you at every turn to come in; it was certainly a change of pace, but with trams passing by, it almost had a hint of Melbourne to it. Unable to resist, and because it seemed only natural, we popped into a store and bought some traditional Turkish delight, and nougat both filled with pistachios, from a cashier who was incredibly friendly, of not a little too chatty for our weary heads.
It had been a few of hours, and with Turkish delight not quite a substitute for real dinner, we stopped at the dodgiest looking place we could, and bought doner kebab plates. Finally it was time to head back to the hostel to try and cram in some sleep before another early morning to meet our tour group.
As I lay in bed in the ambient temperature of the radiator/air conditioner combo, with the new sounds of a new country and an entirely different culture weaving it’s way in the window, I took a moment to think about the young men who had signed up to go on what they thought would be an adventure, over a century ago. The men whom we would be going to pay tribute to in just two days time. What would they think if they could see us now, coming into this country as free citizens, into a country we are now on friendly terms with? I am on an adventure with two of my favourite people in the world, and I didn’t have to pick up a gun or put on a slouch hat to make it possible. I don’t have to risk my life to be here, and I owe it to the hundreds of thousands of men who did. At the going down of the sun, I remember this, and I am humbled.