Saturday, January 16, 2016

Heavy hearted in Gallipoli

Gallipoli is a word that you can say to any Aussie or Kiwi and instantly leave them with both a mixture of sadness and pride. It is a place that most would want to visit. To see for themselves the place that claimed so many brave soldiers. To pay their respects and wander silently among the graves.

I knew while I was in Turkey, the Gallipoli peninsula would be a place that I had to visit. It was a place that I had heard of since I was in Primary School. A place that sounded so scary and harrowing to a child, learning about the ANZAC's and all they did for our country. 

To actually be there was surreal. To try and imagine what the conditions would have been like was hard. To even begin to imagine the thoughts of the boys and men who served was impossible and heart breaking. There were boys who landed at Gallipoli who were just 15 & 16 years old. 

What I wasn't expecting was how beautiful it is. On a clear summers day, it's hard to even imagine that a war took place here.

'There is hell waiting here'

Lone Pine - the Australian memorial.

What is left of the trenches.

In 1934, the president of Turkey - Ataturk, wrote a tribute to the ANZACs killed at Gallipoli (pic below):
Those heroes that shed their blood and lost their lives ... You are now lying in the soil of a friendly country. Therefore rest in peace. There is no difference between the Johnnies and the Mehmets to us where they lie side by side here in this country of ours ... You, the mothers who sent their sons from faraway countries, wipe away your tears; your sons are now lying in our bosom and are in peace. After having lost their lives on this land they have become our sons as well.

Lest we forget.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Did I feel safe in Istanbul?

I absolutely adored Istanbul. It is now one of my favourite cities I have been to and I would go back a thousand more times. It was the people and the bazaars, the buildings and the food, the absolute chaos & then the absolute calm.

Visiting Istanbul was a part of my (mostly) solo jaunt around Europe before I got deported from the UK. I flew to Istanbul from Bodrum and was met with absolute chaos. The traffic is some of the WORST in the world and it took a good couple of hours to reach my Hostel - in stop, start traffic. When I burst through the doors of the Hostel I dropped my backpack, said 'BATHROOM' and immediately ran for it. When my bladder was empty, the Istanbul adventure really began.

I guess I didn't think too much about how safe it would be as a solo female traveler in Istanbul (or Turkey as whole) - & it was other people around me who made me think more about it. I personally didn't see it as too much of a problem.

I don't think I'm an idiot when I travel and I'm definitely not overly-cautious-causing-anxiety-careful. I think that when you're on your own and in a place that is foreign to you, you have to be more observant of your surroundings - no matter where in the world you are.

This is what I took into account when I was in Istanbul.

Stay somewhere safe
I stayed in the best Hostel in Istanbul - Second Home Hostel. They actually deserve a shout out, cause they were amazing. The guys here were fantastic and did make you feel like it was your 'second home'. Location is everything in a foreign city. There are some parts of Istanbul that even some locals won't go to - so of course, I didn't stay there. I stayed somewhere in a good location that was easy to get to.

Ignore the unwanted attention
I got a lot of attention from the men in Istanbul. I just had to walk down a street and I would get looked up and down, yelled at and approached. I was by myself, so I was probably an even easier target, but I did see women with other people get harassed as well. I see this as for the most part - harmless. 'No, I do not want to go to your carpet shop with you in that alleyway' Avoiding eye contact is a good way to ignore this, not even engaging in conversation or just keep on walking. If the attention is unwanted, ignore it - don't encourage it.
Make friends or pretend 'mum & dads'
Hanging with a group or even with another person can put you at ease if you are in a foreign city. It's nice having the comfort of someone else there. I personally didn't hang with a group at all, but there was day when I tagged along with a 'fake mum and dad' to shake a guy who was following me. I had just come from a Turkish Bath (more on that later) and there was a guy who had been following me for a while, he started to come right up to me, trying to get me to stop and go somewhere with him. I was uncomfortable, so I fell into step with a British couple walking past and pretended I was with them. They were happy to walk with me pretty much all the way back to my Hostel and it got rid of the lingering man. Improvise if you are feeling really uncomfortable.

Don't go to sketchy places
This one goes without saying, but some people are dumb. You wouldn't advise visitors to go to the sketchy area of your city, so why go in a city foreign to you? There are bad people no matter where you are.

I do research before I visit most places, so Istanbul and Turkey were no different. I think you have to take it all with a grain of salt though. Everyone's experiences are different, people like different things, they have different thresholds of what feeling 'unsafe' means, some people are braver, some people are more daring. 

I am a big believer in experiencing something for yourself without passing judgement - so inform and educate yourself as much as you can, but don't pass judgment just because 'Bob' told you it was shit.


Did I feel safe?

While there were a few times I felt uncomfortable, it wasn't a constant feeling and definitely not enough to advise any solo gals from spending time in Istanbul. I want to go back and see more, eat more and do more. It's like any city that you visit - just be smart and do your research.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Turkey, the most anticipated stop

Turkey was by far the most anticipated stop on my 'last hurrah' before I moved back to Australia. I had wanted to go for so long and was mesmerised by the endless photos and stories I had seen and heard about this faraway place. I didn't spend as long as I would have liked there, nor did I see all of the places I wanted, but I did get a first taste of this amazing country.

I freaked out for a night in Bodrum, fell in love with crazy Istanbul, felt sad and overwhelmed in Gallipoli, died of heat stroke in Troy and felt like a British holiday maker in Antalya.

I can't quite put into words why I found Turkey so special.

Perhaps it was the tea and the warm hospitality? 

Or the cheap, mouth watering food?

The big tourist attractions and unique architecture?

The coffee that sure as hell put a spring in your step?

The delicious breakfasts?

The incredible history?
The natural beauty?
Or, the fact that I plucked up the courage to get naked with a room full of women I had never met and get rubbed down in a traditional Turkish bath....
More to come.