Week 30a – Gallipoli

  • After visiting the ANZAC battle sites of Montecassino, Crete and Passchendaele, (where we visited the grave of Adrienne’s great uncle, killed in 1918), my visit to Gallipoli, (where my great uncle Eric Sargisson was killed), took on greater significance as we have come to understand the horrors and pointlessness of the wars that claimed generations of our young men.
  • I was collected before 7 am and we headed for Gallipoli – a rather dull 5 hours away through rolling hills mostly now ploughed and waiting for new crops to be sown in the spring. But I found a friendly Canadian and we chatted for most of the way.
  • After a quick lunch we, (Crowded House Tours), headed for Gallipoli with our excellent guide, Burak, and I hope I am now far better informed as to the where, why and how of the whole disaster. The first thing that strikes you is how small and rugged the area is, and how many were lost for so little gain.
Grant at ANZAC cove. It was a very cold day
ANZAC Cove – 600M long by 20M wide – and cliffs above it, (the road did not exist in 1915)
This is what they faced as came ashore, but without trees. The locals had cut them all down for wood.
The Sphinx from the beach
  • The NZ film director, Peter Jackson, has created an exhibition in Wellington dedicated to the Gallipoli campaign. His research partner in Gallipoli was none other than our guide, so I felt we were in very knowledgeable hands.
A couple of likely lads
  • We headed for Hill 60 where great uncle Eric was mortally wounded but were blocked by roadworks. Hill 60 is an inconsequential bump in the landscape, but was on the path to Chunuk Bair, so obviously of some importance.
Hill 60 – a small bump in the middle of the photo, (taken from Chunuk Bair – the high point and goal of the campaign)
NZ cemetery and memorial at Outpost 3
  • From there we headed up the hill to the Australian memorial at Lone Pine. This battle cost thousands of lives for a piece of land the size of 3 football fields – it was almost too much to visualise and comprehend. The Turkish trenches were where the memorial now stands, the Australian positions at the other end of the  field, about the same distance away. I took a video to show the size of the area.
    The Lone Pine memorial and cemetery – many soldiers are buried in either mass graves or not even recovered due to the ferocity of the fighting. The tree is not the original tree, but was planted some years ago in memory of the fallen


  • Only a few hundred metres away is The Nek. This was the site of probably the most senseless waste of lives – in a few minutes some 400 Australians were killed in 4 charges straight into entrenched machine guns across a piece of ground the size of a good backyard. The Australian officers pleaded for the charges to be called off as the barrage had been bungled, but the high command ordered them forward, despite the futility and carnage.
The Nek memorial
  • We then went a few hundred metres more to Johnson’s Jolly. Here the trenches were 8 metres apart. When they were not fighting the soldiers would throw gifts to each other and chat.
Australian trench in the foreground – Turkish trench on the other side of the (modern) road
The maze of trenches – this is where the term “Digger” came from – the faster you could dig, the more likely your survival
This diorama is in the nearby town of Eceabat but is regarded as a quite accurate depiction
  • But everything at Gallipoli is not about the ANZACs. The toll on Turkish lives was equally horrendous. The memorial for the 57th Regiment, Ataturk’s regiment, describes a regiment that was all but wiped from the face of the earth, and 100 years later no regiment in Turkey is called the 57th in memory.
The 57th memorial
  • Our last stop was Chunuk Bair – the highpoint of the peninsula and the whole point of the campaign. The NZ forces actually took the site at one point, but could only hold on for two days before a major counter attack drove them off, never to return. The main NZ memorial is here, with the memorial to Ataturk, and the Turkish losses.
Grant at NZ memorial
Chunuk Bair memorials
  • And so ended our tour of Gallipoli. It was a very cold day and two very long bus rides, but I would not have missed it. Gallipoli is a word seared into the minds of all Australians and New Zealanders and to put the horrors into context was extremely moving. I would recommend anyone do it – but not on the 25th April, just quietly when you can take time to hear the reasons for it all, and understand as best we can.
  • Turkey and the CWGC have spent a great deal of time and effort to create this National Park and memorials and the efforts then and now are appreciated.



Week 30 – Our last destination – Turkey

  • After a brilliant run of weather during our gap year we finally ran out of luck on Saturday and it was cold and raining in Marbella. I reviewed matters for our return to the “normal world”, while Adrienne sat in bed trying to work out what she could leave behind to make room for handbags and shoes ….

    These are just the new shoes – Can I pack my clothes in your suitcase??
  • On Sunday we really came to the conclusion that our time away was done – Adrienne ran out of vegemite …. there could be no greater sign!

    Tourists are gone, pop-up restaurants are gone, sun is gone, time for us to be gone
  • We had a few walks and managed to get wet, but on Tuesday we packed up our lovely house in Benehavis and headed for our last stop in Turkey.
  • The flight over to Istanbul on Turkish Air went without a hitch, (new aeroplane, excellent service), but then we got to Immigration at Istanbul airport – what a circus – the queue must have been 1.5 km long, and took 1.5 hours in a hot, confined space. But with the exception of four chaps from India who made the mistake of trying to push in front of Adrienne, (and were chastised severely and sent packing), most folks were well humoured and stoic.
We became BFF’s with other people in the queue – I’m expecting Christmas cards
  • The hotel is right in the heart of all the major sights – the Blue Mosque is right outside the restaurant window, spectacular viewing.
  • Wednesday morning we headed straight up the hill for the Hagia Sophia Cathedral / Mosque, (and now museum), and straight into the clutches of Sonny, (our new BFF and would be tour guide and carpet seller). We were ushered straight past the ticket queue, (Sonny knows people), and into the largest free-standing dome in the world, (prior to St. Paul’s cathedral in London). It was built by the roman emperor Justinian of solid stone sourced from all around the Mediterranean, (no expense spared),  and opened in 537 AD as a cathedral, having taken only 5 years to build. It was refurbished as a mosque in 1453 AD by Fatih Sultan Mehmedand, (having conquered this part of the Ottoman Empire), but still has many Christian mosaics. It is staggeringly huge and beautiful – a wonder of the world still.

    The Hagia Sophia from the massive square between it and the Blue Mosque
Adrienne and Grant in Hagia Sophia
The scaffolding is to facilitate preservation and restoration works – there is work going on everywhere in Istanbul – most impressed
Carafe carved from a single piece of marble, (I almost got the Chinese tourist out of the frame, but she is a good measure of the size)
Christian mosaics in a Muslim mosque – exquisite and so thankful the transformation from cathedral to mosque did not result in total destruction of the past
This photo really shows the enormity of the Hagia Sophia – all under one stone dome
  • But Sonny was on a mission – he had carpets to sell, so we were guided to his shop with promises of “best prices in Istanbul”. Try about 4 times what we would pay in Sydney, so after much negotiation and apple tea Adrienne settled on a silk scarf, (probably still $20 too much), and we headed to the nearest cafe for a few wines and a regroup. It is probably worth noting here that the shop and restaurant touts are ubiquitous – you cannot move 10 metres without at least one harassing you and wanting to be your new friend. Adrienne is now afraid to even stop and look, and will leave Turkey with almost no new acquisitions!! What riches are they loosing by being so in your face??
  • We then headed for the Topkapi Palace complex, (right next to Hagia Sophia). In the 15th century, it served as the main residence and administrative headquarters of the Ottoman sultans. It is a huge complex, the kitchens had to feed about 5000 people who lived in the complex, so they were impressive in their own right.
    Topkapi Palace front entrance
    I could fit in these pots – cooking on an industrial scale
    Adrienne in front of one of the many museums in the complex
    The pain and suffering this room must have seen ….
    Offset perhaps by the pleasures of this place nearby
    The Harem was a large complex on it’s own. This is the main room where the Queen held court – sumptuously decorated

    Typical in every room – large fire places and tiles from floor to domed ceilings
  • After these two complexes we were in need of food and drink, so retired to one of the dozens of restaurants on our little street.
Duvares was so good we went back 4 nights running – we even had our “own table” and no harassment!
  • Thursday was cold and wet, but there were things to see, and places to go, so we headed for the Blue Mosque, and straight into Sonny …. but we extracted ourselves with a few white lies and instead headed for the Basilica Cistern – a huge underground Roman water source held up with 336 marble columns covering 9,800 sq. metres, made even more famous in the James Bond movie “Skyfall”. This cistern held over 100,000 tonnes of water when full – it is staggering to think it was built in the 6th Century, but it was noted that many hundreds of workers lost their lives during the construction.
For all you James Bond fans
  • We then headed back to the Blue Mosque, (keeping an eye out for Sonny) – one of the largest mosques on earth, capable of holding 10,000 people, and called “Blue” due to the colour of most of the tiles on the inside. Outside it is a dull grey!
The courtyard in the Blue Mosque
Inside the Blue Mosque. It was packed so don’t quite know how I got a photo with so few people.
I got the head spins from looking up in these buildings, but what can you do!!
  • But the day was not done – next stop The Grand Bazaar – and I have to say “Why did we do that?”. It is the largest covered bazaar in the world with over 4000 shops peddling just about everything from gold to spices to leather goods to slaves. It was chaotic and has something like 300,000 visitors every day – it took us about 10 minutes of having every shopkeeper’s tout harass us to want out. Nothing has a price on it – everything is a haggle – we were not buying anything here.
Not for the fainthearted
The guard standing in the doorway with an Uzi sub-machine gun said this was real gold. I was not about to dwell!!
  • We headed back to Duvares for dinner – and a very nice Turkish red wine. Friday I headed for Gallipoli, but that is a blog on it’s own.



Week 29 – Cordoba – Islam and Christianity intertwined

  • Our last week in Spain, so with the weather starting to have a European winter feel to it, we headed out for our final road trip to Cordoba, an important Roman city and a major Islamic centre in the Middle Ages. The city now has a population of about 300,000 but at one stage was the biggest city, (almost a million), with the most important university, in the world. We were not disappointed and found some wonderful sights, but it is not quite as “alive” as Seville or Lisbon, (which could be a very good thing!!), and is probably a little down the tourist list after these cities and Granada.

    Cordoba streets are narrow as they are over a thousand years old
  • The highlight of Cordoba is without doubt the Mezquita-Catedral de Cordoba. The first grand mosque was built in 784 AD and was steadily enlarged until the Christians resumed control in 1236 AD during the Reconquista, and the building was converted to a Roman Catholic church, culminating in the insertion of a Renaissance cathedral nave in the 16th century. It is a fascinating and beautiful building and we took about 2 hours to explore it, but you cannot escape the fact that this is a total fusion of Islamic and Christian architecture and for us was almost confronting.
There are about 900 pillars and archways of Islamic origin
The pillars are almost endless in all directions – the footprint is huge
The guide to Mecca for prayers
But then, right in the middle, let’s insert a cathedral
With the most ornate and grand choir stalls
Throw in some Christian statues, having noted the lack of idolatry in the Islamic religion

And add over 50 saint’s chapels – all incredibly ornate – just infill some of the archways
And dig up the floor all over the place to entomb all these saints, martyrs and miscellaneous bishops and dignitaries
And with the obligatory, priceless “mummy, pappy, bling, bling” (you had to be there), you are in business!
  • So after about two hours of head-spinning beauty and incongruity we wandered outside into another beautiful Spanish square to view the undoubtedly Islamic walls and Christian bell tower. We have visited some amazing buildings both before the gap year and now during it, and the Mezquita is right up there in terms of must see.
Catholic bell tower through Muslim archway
  • Cordoba has many museums both large and small, and it was a small one that blew us away. The Galería de la inquisición is a museum dedicated to the torture inflicted in the name of the Inquisition, and the implements on display with graphic drawings as to their use, was both fascinating and the stuff of nightmares. The Spanish Inquisition started in 1478 and was not disbanded until 1834 – less than 200 years ago!!
  • The chair below has over 500 sharpened spikes and various ways of tightening the shackles to further impale the poor sod, (most often women!!). There were six rooms of “equipment” ranging from various models of the rack to simple things like thumb screws and rakes with sharpened spikes to rip the flesh off backs …..

Image result for gallery of the inquisition

  • We needed something a little less confronting so headed for Puente Romano, originally built in the first century BC, but the current bridge is rather more modern having been built by the Moors in the 8th century AD
Roman bridge with Torre de la Calahorra at the far end – built in the Middle Ages to guard the access to the bridge
Who doesn’t like a triumphal arch, (guards the other end of the Roman bridge)
  • Torre de la Calahorra was built by the Moors and has a museum dedicated to the science, medicine and philosophy of the Islamic scholars. These folk were about 800 years ahead of the then barbaric Christians, (and probably are still ahead of some of today’s Pentecostal nut jobs in terms of their thinking on social justice), and the displays are a testament to their advanced thinking and education
    Surgical tools over 1000 years old

    Cordoba from the Tower. The skyline is dominated by the Mezquita
  • We had a lovely apartment. Cordoba is very “Middle Eastern” in that the streetscape is rather bland but when we could see inside the doors there were beautiful courtyards
Our courtyard
And next door
Especially for our “Camino de Santiago” friends Richard and Carolyn – one of the paths passes here – anyone for 2021??
  • Right next to the Mezquita is the Alcázar de los Reyes Cristianos, (Spanish for “Castle of the Christian Monarchs”), also known as the Alcázar of Córdoba, is a medieval alcázar located in the historic centre of Córdoba. The fortress served as one of the primary residences of Isabella I of Castile and Ferdinand II of Aragon. The gardens are quite beautiful, and in the tower there are a number of large third century Roman mosaics found during renovations nearby in the Plaza de la Corredera.
Yes, another bloody castle!!
The alcazar from the gardens
The gardens from the tower
Adrienne’s check pants bum with one mosaic
The portico in the tower was built around the original Roman city walls – the doorway on the left cracked me up – why???
I can’t take her anywhere – is there any fruit safe from Adrienne’s foraging?
  • Cordoba has taken great pains to build anything new sympathetically with their history. Cordoba is a city drenched in history and like many others our advice is to see it and appreciate it as we did.
A Roman temple integrated with the city administrative centre
  • We headed back to Benehavis for the last few days of our stay in Spain. We have done some more long walks along the beach in Marbella and where are the tourists!!! It seems that last Saturday was the last day of the tourist season. The beach was empty, many of the pop-up restaurants have been dismantled and the beach chairs and umbrellas are gone. Time for us to head home we think ….

    The world’s loneliest life guard


Week 28 – A place in the winter sun

  • With only three weeks to go in our gap year we decided to have a quiet week and find some different walks around Marbella. As the photos show the tourists are few and almost all are baby boomers like us. But the weather is really nice – sunny and low 20’s so it’s still very pleasant.
Marbella – a few weeks ago this beach and waterfront was pumping – not much demand now for sunbeds and umbrellas – we baby boomers prefer a walk and then a cafe for beer and rosado
Fuengirola – the English place in the winter sun, but not many tourists left here either
Castillo Sohail near Fuengirola – 10th century Moorish castle – makes the walk rather more interesting than Kellyville park
Playa San Pedro – same story, but at least we could get a table!
  • We really feel for the dozens of Africans who walk up and down the beaches all day, laden with cheap knockoff handbags, beachwraps, sunglasses and other cheap junk trying to earn a living off the tourists. In the last few days we have seen them becoming more desperate as there are few folks lying on the beach, and less interested in their wares. I think many are in for a long winter until the weather warms up in April.
    Endless cheap knockoffs

    How many cheap handbags can a girl want !!!
  • We have done some walks around Benahavis and found another country walk yesterday. It was reminiscent of the Camino and was a nice change from walking the waterfronts. The local councils in Europe put a lot of effort into the walking trails – they are clean and well marked and make it so easy to head off without fear of getting lost.
The irrigation canal like most local rivers was dry
I have no idea why Adrienne took a jacket – it was about 23oC!!
But then a Spanish river with water flowing – quite a change
  • All in all a very relaxing week – if walking 10 – 12 km and swimming each day can be called relaxing, but we have both lost a number of kgs on our gap year and are determined to go home fitter and healthier than when we left.
  • Next week we are heading for Cordoba, our last road trip, and a day trip to Gibraltar if the weather is ok.

Week 27 – Roadtrip to Lisbon

  • A month before we return home to Sydney,  so with time running out we headed off for a week in Lisbon, Portugal. We stopped for lunch in Faro on the Algarve – we must have gone in the tradesman’s entrance – all a bit run down, but we found a nice restaurant in the harbour and headed out via a far more attractive part of town.
  • We expected Lisbon to be old, a little tired, and somewhat sleepy compared with some of the bigger European cities – how wrong could we be – Lisbon is pumping!! We discussed this with a taxi driver, (most speak good English), because we saw many places from the outside, but the queues to get into the main attractions were just way too long for us. He told us that the explosion in tourism really only started a few years ago and many are still hesitant to employ more people – sadly this meant that we left many euros unspent, including restaurants we actually left because the service is so slow.
  • The first two days were showery so we took two day passes on the tourist buses and saw a lot of Lisbon – it is a beautiful city full of magnificent boulevards, gardens, fountains and buildings – but has odd areas of urban decay and rampant graffiti – add this to often chaotic parking and you have a city that is not quite aligned in it’s self image, but is definitely on the up and worth a visit.
Padrão dos Descobrimentos – monument to the Portuguese explorers – they are rather proud of the likes of Vasco da Gama
Belem Tower – medieval defensive fort at mouth of Lisbon port – note queue across entry bridge on left – Adrienne started thinking Morandi bridge collapse so we did not venture in
Jerónimos Monastery – World heritage listed Gothic monastery – queue was about 200 meters long, hardly moving, and there was a storm coming – we reluctantly got back on the bus
Arco da Rua Augusta – what’s not to like about a triumphal arch to enter the old city!! We had lunch in this square every day – it is beautiful – surrounded by an ornate portico and great restaurants that employ staff!!
We added a few grams back to the waistlines with some fabulous treats, and they have Pauls Boulangeries – baguettes to tempt the strictest diet. The famous Portuguese tarts, (bottom right),  are delicious.
Elevador de Santa Justa – built in 1902 – queue out the door, (so no visit for us), but still a stunning construction and view over the old city
  • So we didn’t get into some places, but that gave Adrienne more time to trawl through the endless shoe and leather handbag shops ….
  • Portugal is cheaper than Spain in many ways – we had some lovely lunches with a couple of glasses of very nice wine each for about 45 euro all up.
  • We found a number of supermarket wines for 5 euros that are really very good – their Syrah pushed Portugal into second place in my European wine order of merit list. (No one will pass Puglia Primitivo …)
Luscious brownie and tangerine sorbet – all for 4 euros after a very nice “modern” fusion lunch
  • Thursday we headed for the Fado museum. Fado is a distinctly Portuguese style of music originating in the late 1800’s in shady lanes and houses of ill repute. It is now very mainstream but has had a very interesting evolution. Adrienne now has a “best of” CD so be warned – if I was to suggest “sounds a bit like” Edith Piaf you will get the drift.
  • We then headed for Castelo de S. Jorge, (11th-century, hilltop Moorish castle and royal residence with palace ruins and archaeological museum), but who would have thought – an entry queue stretching down the hill for about a hundred metres!! Did we need to queue for another castle – afraid not – we headed back to the square, did lunch, and went shoe shopping.
    I’m sure it is a nice castle but after Ghent and the Italian castles we don’t feel the need to queue for more
    Odd brand name if you are Australian …. but nice leather shoes made in Portugal for 35 euros

    Portuguese food is very heavily slanted to seafood and there are shops dedicated to canned fish – there are cans of sardines going back to 1916! It is a real “thing” to have artistic cans.
  • Friday was set aside for a trip to Sintra – one of the premier tourist destinations with spectacular castle and palaces. We headed for the train station, (don’t drive to Sintra, no parking), and OMG – the queue for tickets just to get there stretched around the station and out the door – the quick decision was “stuff this” so we headed for the Oceanário de Lisboa.
  • This is the largest aquarium in the world with ocean habitats for sharks, rays, penguins and tropical fish and is well worth a visit. These folks are utterly devoted to preserving the seas and sea life and the aquarium is a testament to their work and research. Their enthusiasm is palpable and make it a wonderful experience.
The main tank is 9.5 million litres – the figure bottom centre is a diver cleaning the sand with a vacuum cleaner
The rays actually show off by coming to the glass and pausing for photos
They have an active sea otter breading program – these otters showoff like crazy – they hold food in their forearms and lie on their backs to eat it
The rays all stay by the glass where the children are
Sunfish can grow to about 2 tonnes – this bloke wasn’t there yet but was still about 1.5 metres across
Everywhere you look you see different vistas into the main tank. the small fish hang out in this area as the big fish can’t get in
A couple of moray eels just hanging out waiting for a feed to swim by
Estação do Oriente – Modern, Gothic-influenced railway hub near the World Fair exhibition site – another spectacular building
  • So we did not get into a number of premier historical sites due to long queues and the lack of staff in some places was irksome, but Portugal must be on any bucket list – it is being discovered so again – get there soon before the queues get even longer! The food and wine are brilliant value, and the leather goods are soooo cheap – what’s not to like!!