Thursday, May 22, 2008

Turkey Thursday May 22


We all got up this morning, and went down to the sea. Not unlike tens of thousands of Australians, New Zealaners, and British did in the early months of 1915. To Gallipoli - to be exact. We boarded the bus, and the bus boarded the ferry, and we sailed across the from Asia to Europe and drove onto the island of Gallipoli.

Making this journey today with seven Australians who have become our friends - was very special. Their journey to these shores carried the significance of many Americans to Normandy, except that the victories in Europe which followed the American invasion were not to be for these fallen soldiers. Waiting for each of them can only be said to be the birth of a nation, as our fellow travelers told us. For this was the defining moment for a continent which quickly came of age, and had been galvanized by this campaign.

Watching and photographing them as they stepped back in time to March 18, 1915 until January 1916, I gained a much better understanding of the sacrifices their grandfathers and great-uncles made, and the hardships they endured. Reading the words of Ataturk on the marble memorial to the mothers of these soldiers, I knew more now how two countries could share such a traumatic period and move beyond it.

Our guide, Shenay, also helped me understand the sacrifices of the Turkish people as he told us that seven of his great uncles died here, and that five of his uncles were named for them. He described how at dawn on every March 25th, tens of thousands gather here to pay their respects to those who died here.

We had lunch on the water again, and the remainder of the day we drove to Istanbul. A city of 16 million residents on two continents, it just kept getting more and more populated as we drove. At one point, Shenay showed us hillside after hillside of houses being torn down to make way for new government apartments. It seems like millions of houses and apartments are in the final stages of completion in Turkey, awaiting one last drop in the interest rate for new owners and renters to move in. I can't wait to see what happens over the next year.

Tonight, Pat and I went for a walk in Istanbul in the area between our hotel and the Grand Mosque. We had dinner with our friends on the top floor of the hotel overlooking the sea, and hundreds of small boats off the coast. Tomorrow, we'll be taking a tour of the city, and Saturday a cruise on the Bosphorous. Sunday will be the last day of this part of the tour, and we'll be flying to Ankara for two days to visit their museum. Then, we fly to Antalya to pick up the middle of a gulet cruise on the Mediterranean. I'll be unable during the cruise to blog, and you'll not see the photos until we return on June 1st to this hotel in Istanbul. I'm just hoping the sailboat has a generator to recharge the camera batteries. I've been told by some members of our group who have just finished a similar cruise that the circuits only work periodically, and then only when the boat is ashore. Of well. We'll make do.

For a look at the day's photos, click on: Turkey Thursday May 22

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