Wednesday, 12 June 2013

Back to Europe....

Our circumnavigation of Turkey draws to a close as we cross the Dardanelles to the Gallipoli peninsular and so leave Asia and return to Europe. It seems to have passed by in a flash but we have so many wonderful memories that I hope we can return and explore more. Like Croatia last year, this has been a revelation and preconceptions have been blasted out of the water by the reality. The Turks, from our experience, are a truly nice bunch of people, happy, welcoming, polite, helpful, fiercely proud of their country, sometimes child-like in their attitude to foreigners, hard working, willing to sell anything to earn money, resourceful and probably the worst drivers we've ever encountered. The roads are generally awful but will be good in 5 years (probably)
and farming seems inefficient. An endearing trait is the universal acceptance that the hard shoulder present on most roads must be used for any purpose other than the one for which it was intended; Parking on it is the main past-time, followed by: setting up your stall to sell fruit,vegetables,jams,honey and olives, placing your wheelie bins on for dustbin day and then not removing them when emptied, herding your goats ,sheep & cattle along, driving your car along towards oncoming traffic as you use it as a shortcut to work/home, undertaking slower moving traffic and especially at traffic lights ,using it to nip in front of slow off the mark lorries. On the subject of driving, in roadworks where one carriageway is closed and the other is used for both directions with cones separating the two lanes, it is commonplace for impatient drivers to overtake by dodging through the cones like a slalom trusting to Allah to see them safely back through when oncoming traffic appears.
Scooters & mopeds carry impossible loads, 2 adults a child and a baby being quite normal and nobody but nobody wears a crash helmet. We saw a cow on the back of a tiny Suzuki flatbed truck, seemingly nonplussed by the experience as it was whizzed along, its halter being held the woman in the passenger seat, the only means of restraint. Donkeys regularly stand in the middle of the road, gazing into the distance, as tortoises amble slowly across busy carriageways.
Despite very hot temperatures, nothing seems to shut for lunch but are open early and stay open late.
Fuel stations abound and there are more brands than can be counted, all are attended service with obligatory windscreen washing thrown in and even a motorhome will be jet washed for a mere 5 lira ( less than £2) whilst you have a cup of tea, sometimes even that is free.. 3 vans stopped at a roadside cafe in the mountains with a terrace overhanging a stunning view and 5 teas including a refill and a can of iced tea came 10 lira ( under £3.50 ).
Beer , the local brew is Efes @ 5%, costs about 4 lira for a 500ml can or 6-8 lira in a bar for the same size.<
Wine is expensive and I have not bought any but the wines served with our meals have all been highly drinkable. Fresh fruit is abundant by the roadside and good value. Desserts are very sweet and sickly. Ice cream from street vendors has the consistency of bubblegum and is best avoided. The purchase of everything has to be haggled for, and even good quality jewellers don't have price tickets.
A thumbnail sketch.
So, drove to Cannakkale, where a chaotic landing stage is entered after having paid an arbitrary amount ( we paid a straight 50 lira but it ranged from a lucky 28 to a heavy 64) with half a dozen car ferries are lined up going to half a dozen different points on the peninsular and you are given no choice in the matter as you are directed to first one about to depart. They all land within about 10 miles of each other so its no big deal, just charmingly chaotic. Good campsite at Kabatepe on opposite side on the beach which has turtles which can be seen at night.
Next day tour of the Gallipoli beaches, cemeteries and monuments. Very instructive guide. Of course, everything is presented from the Turkish perspective of a great victory and one that cemented the reputation of Kemal Ataturk and the Turkish memorial is by far the most impressive and moving.
The allied memorial is quite low key( undergoing renovation unfortunately) and the cemeteries are standard war grave commission, well maintained and understated. On wed visited new local state of the art museum with simulation rooms offering 3d, imax-type 360 ° surround vision that was quite stunning with simultaneous English translation via headphones, describing all stages of the battle and ending with rousing vision of modern day turkey. We were the only 5 non.Turks.

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