Monthly Archives: April 2013
While in Canakkale we have stayed in a hotel right on the Dardanelles and have seen two magnificent sunsets.
We now head off south for Kusadasi and along the way one of our main stops is at Troy were Peter O’Toole held off Brad Pitt and the Spartans for nearly 10 years before the poor old Trojans fell for the big horse trick. Now seriously Troy is an interesting place. As an archaeological site it has seen better times and is currently undergoing renovation work on the facilities and the trails around the site. If you like a 10th Troy is being built on top off the previous 9 habitations. The Trojan Horse Troy is believed to be the 6th Troy. Troy is now inland someway, its port silted up and it has become a fertile plain, below the site of the old city.
Along the way we have had two industrial facility tours checking out a Turkish Carpet complex and a Leather Coat factory. Really interesting stops these were as we were convinced of the regional authenticity and originality of a whole range of carpets and leather coats. Hmmmm
A highlight was the stopover at Ephesus and it was surely the best Roman excavation we have come across. Simply mind-blowing in its size. Much of the site has been reconstructed like a jig saw puzzle because of earthquake damage. The Library complex is particularly impressive.
In Kusadasi we are in the Charisma Hotel overlooking the Aegean Sea with Samos, a Greek Island just across the bay.
Not a bad camping ground this, great beach front. Allthego has had a dive into the Aegean. The top 10 centimeters nice and warm, below that well it was just cold stuff. The hotel pool then called me…………….and that is where I must leave you dear readers for the time being.
Well the last few days have been flat-out keeping me away from the keyboard until now.
We left Istanbul the day before ANZAC day and travelled down the Gallipoli peninsular for the Dawn service. This was an experience to say the least. We arrived at the Commemorative site around 9pm, after a bit of a walk from where the bus dropped us off. This is where the TV broadcast comes from. By this time all the seating on the grassed areas was taken. All the ‘young people’ lie here in their sleeping bags gazing up at the stars in the sky. The rest of us take seats in the stands. Now this might sound more pleasant than lying on the grass, but ahead of us was 8 or 9 hours of increasingly cold night air as the dawn approaches. Despite blankets and double layers it got a bit nippy and uncomfortable. The benches were a bit hard on the rear end.
The irony of all this is of course that nearly 100 years ago a whole pile of young Australians landed here and spent the next 9 months or so in far more horrifying conditions than we can ever imagine. Our complaints of cold seemed so insignificant. We can only thank our Turkish friends for keeping the place and memories so well-ordered.
There is a new Museum at Gallipoli, it opened in early April. It is a flash interactive type of set up. In telling the story it brings a strong Turkish perspective to the confrontation and makes one realise that the Turks suffered far greater losses than the combined Commonwealth forces did and also faced the same deprivations.
Following the dawn service we walked the 2km or so up to the Lone Pine Memorial and cemetery for the Australian ceremony at 10am. In getting up this ‘hill’ to Lone Pine from the shoreline Allthego and ‘Reality’ were almost Allbutgone. Lone Pine is the place where 2800 Australians were killed in an area about the size of a football field. Most of the ‘graves’ marked are symbolic as the bodies lie everywhere under our feet. What a walk. How tough it would have been 90 years ago!
After the services we returned to the bus and crossed the Dardanelles on the car ferry to Canakkale for a sleep. We had been allthego for about 36 hours and wondered why we were a bit tired and in need of shut-eye. We were all in good spirits though.
The following day we returned to visit various cemeteries on the Peninsular, including the impressive Turkish memorial.
The crowd was largely gone but the ANZACs remained behind to await another influx in a years time.
We are now ensconced in Istanbul in the Taksim area. This is the more modern side of the Golden Horn compared with the old side which is where the big Mosques, Grand Bazaar etc are located. Have spent our time so far just wandering around the place on and off the metro tram and funicular. Istanbul also has the worlds second oldest underground which opened in the 1860s, might have 1870s (it is pretty short but runs up the hill from the Golden Horn for a few hundred metres).
The city is very colourful at the moment, April is Tulip month and blossoms are all over the place. Have looked through part of the Archeological Museum, very focussed on the Roman period with much of its material having been collected in the late 1800s. It seems there were sarcophagus everywhere around these parts just waiting to be picked up and put in Museums. Later we went for a short round trip cruise on a local ferry up and down the Bosphorus.
On the other side of the old city in Topacki area is the 1453 Siege of Constantinople Museum. Now this was pretty good. It is one of those panorama displays. One stands in the middle surrounded by a circular painting, leading up to the painting though is open area with all sorts of scenery etc that merge in with the painting, it gives it depth. The difference with this Panorama is that there is also a sky dome over it which also merges in with the painting. You are right in the thick of the action it seems. There is some accompanying sound effects. The attached picture depicts one small segment of the scene.
Today we were out at the Princes Islands. Caught one of the public ferries out across the Mammara sea. It is about a one hour trip to the group of 4 Islands. The ferry stops at each one. We went ashore at the last stop, can’t spell the island’s name now! These Islands were a bit of a playground for the idle rich in 1920s/30s. Trotsky was exiled here by Stalin.
The ferry back from Princes Islands was running a bit late on the way back so we walked into our next tour briefing half hour late. The tour takes off tomorrow with a day around Istanbul and then onto Gallipoli for Anzac Day and then on around parts of Turkey.
Balagan did not continue to Istanbul with us choosing to return home with his fellow pilgrims to Brisbane. Balagan first appeared with us when we were in Galilee, having risen from a pile of wool Leanne had brought with her from Australia at the last moment following a suggestion from Allthego.
At first he was simply known as the Pilgrim Gnome, a lonely soul looking for friends and companions on the trip. Well he soon had a few friends and began to appear in photos in some unlikely places and poses. If the tour had been a little longer he might have even become a bit of a show off. You might be wondering what Balagan means? It is Hebrew for something like a ‘spot of trouble’. You can have ‘ big Balagans’ and ‘little Balagans’. Our Balagan was just a nice little guy with the wrong name!
So here are some ‘Best of Balagan’ moments…………..
We are almost about to farewell Israel. The last couple of days have been a bit hectic. A number of highlights include the visit to the Dome of the Rock, The Garden Tomb (there are apparently a good number of scholars who do not believe that this is the place of the crucifixion and burial……..The Church of the Holy Sepulchre being the preferred location….but this was a much more calming place than the church location), The Holocaust Museum, a quick look-see at the Dead Sea Scrolls and very quick pass by the Herod exhibition at the Israeli Museum.
About half our tour members are leaving to return home to Australia and the rest of us our ensconced in a hotel not far from the Tel Aviv airport awaiting onward flights in the early hours tomorrow.You will next hear from Allthego when in Istanbul.
It was off to Bethlehem today again crossing into the Palestinian Authority and having to change guides for a few hours. First port of call was the Shepard’s Fields. This is an area of Bethlehem where a church has been established near some excavated caves that are suggested could have been those occupied by the Shepherds, to whom the impending birth of Jesus was announced. Well, wherever the truth lies the site and Church are a moving experience and convey the feeling of that moment. This is in contrast to the Church of the Nativity which was crowded and very heavy on symbolism. One wonders if there was more time to be had in these places without the pressure to move that a different impression might be gained.
From here we headed back towards Jerusalem reclaimed our guide and headed off to the Genesis experience. This establishment sits on the way to the Dead Sea overlooking a fairly remote region and then across the Jordan Valley to Jordan. Abraham met us at his tent and invited us in for some hospitality. Now Abraham is actually an Australian (Jewish) with a fairly strong Aussie accent. In welcoming us he in a story telling style told us Abrahams journey from Ur to Canaan. It was quite entertaining and thoughtful. Food was great too. Camel rides for everyone as well for full measure.
Back in Jerusalem for a free day and I have caught up on this blog. Internet is lousy in the rooms so Leanne and I are sitting in a bar area this evening listening to the melodic tones of the piano whilst I tap away at the computer. Today was a long walk around New Jerusalem. This is outside the city walls and is the area that was developed in the early part of the 20th century when the British ran the place. This was a good contrast to our previous days of roaming the old world areas.
Its taken a while to get here and this is the run down to the end of the Israel adventure. In six days we head off to Turkey and others in our party go off to other parts of Europe or return home to Australia. Jerusalem is not a big city as such but it packs a lot in. This is a snippet of our first couple of days. Started out at the Mt of Olives, descended down the hill to the Garden of Gethsemane and onto the Eastern Gate of the City. Wandered around the Muslim section of the city which contains the Via Delorosa, the path through the city which tradition has Jesus tracing to the Crucifixion. Some of these Stations of the Cross have historical basis and others are, well you know, somewhat problematical.
We visit the Church of the Holy Sepulcu (spelling ? its late at night!) and see the place where tradition and perhaps historical evidence places the crucifixion of Jesus. Well I feel it’s a bit over the top for the Protestant branch………….but the Catholic and Orthodox traditions of eastern Europe and Eurasia place great belief and faith in these places and the traditions that go with them.
Down at the Western Wall we see some great contrasts of tradition and the modern presence of the Israel State, a few days before Israel’s Independence day and Memorial Day.
Something more tomorrow no doubt!
We are now catching up this blog and this is the last day travelling to Jerusalem. We headed off a bit early from the Dead Sea but there is one last wander along the beach in the early morning to catch sunrise. Now, whilst I am sure that there were just ordinary folk like me down there at 6 or so in the morning there were also a few egos bursting out. A couple of couples giving themselves a mud rub down before washing it off (interesting sight this) and others sort of strutting around in the water catching the early morning rays of the sun. Probably all very beneficial for the soul and ailments.
The Dead Sea is actually going to rise significantly over the next little while, it is currently at a quite low-level. Some resorts which were built on the shoreline 20 years ago are now several hundred metres back from it. Now this is not due to global warming. Israel is moving quickly towards relying on desalination for its water requirements rather than drawing it from the Sea of Galilee. Consequently, water needs to be released from the Sea (which is currently quite high) and let flow down the Jordan River into the Dead Sea. The Dead Sea is expected to rise by some 20 metres because of this. It will inundate infrastructure and necessitate the relocation of some of the newer hotels that have been built close to the current shoreline. There may also be some impact on the mineral content and salinity of the water.
Reality gets me back to breakfast and then the bus to Jerusalem with stops at a place called Ein Gedir, then Qumran to see the location of the cave system where the Dead Sea scrolls were found, and finally Jericho before winding up the road to Jerusalem.
Ein Gider is a nature reserve based around some steep gullies rising up from near the shore of the Dead Sea. Animal life ‘abounds’ in this area and the gullies are green and cool with waterfalls and pools. Israel’s animal ‘mascot’ is the Ibex, a deer like animal that blends very neatly into the rocky landscape. It is relatively common here. Fortunately, we were able to see a small group of these up on the slopes.
Jericho sits within the control of the Palestinian Authority so we had to go through a check point and change guides for a short tour of the Jericho Tel. Jericho is arguably one of the oldest cities in the world dating back 7-8 BCE. We lunch at the Temptation restaurant which monopolises a great location below the mountain and wilderness area where Jesus was tempted by the devil. Hence the name Temptation Mountain. Leanne was disappointed that we didn’t have the time to go up the cable car to the mountain top to get a real good view of the area.
Following lunch it was back to the bus and on to Jerusalem which we reached late in the afternoon of 12 April.
The day at the Dead Sea was a relatively subdued affair compared to the last few days. The morning was given over to a visit to Masada where the remnant Jewish forces endeavoured to hold the Fortress Herod the Great had built against the Romans. In the end the they effectively drew lots and killed themselves rather than surrender or be conquered by the Romans and enslaved. The ascent of Masada is by way of a cable car, although there is a twisting path up the mountain. Now Leanne and a few others in our party are not greatly enamoured by these sort of trips so it was great relief all round when we reached the top for our look around the site. Our guide David explained the historical background to the Masada event and the impact it has on Jewish thinking to this day. It is a symbol for never surrendering in the face of today’s enemies. Peter O’ Toole stared in a movie based on the Masada story and apparently there is a 4 part mini-series on the way sometime.
Back at the Dead Sea for the afternoon a numbered of us went for a ‘swim’ at a nearby beach. Well this was a bit of an experience bobbing up and down like corks in a lake.
We leave tommorrow for Jerusalem and I am still catching up on this blog.
Well today (physically a couple of days ago as I catch up on the blog………….we are here in Jerusalem) we head back into Israel and cross the border at Aqaba on the Red Sea , about an hour and a half from Petra, and then head up towards the Dead Sea. Border crossing went a bit quicker this time around and we set off in good time.
First port of call today was Timna Park which was the centre of copper mining in ancient times, although revived briefly during the 1960/70s. This is a desert landscape park and has as one of its attractions a replica of the Tabernacle carried around by Moses and his gang in the wilderness for 40 years. The replica has been constructed from interpretations of measurements contained in the Bible. It is of a reasonable size and an interesting structure apparently it is or was designed to be pulled apart to ease the issue of carrying it around. Still I would not like to be one of those who hulked it around. One can make what one wants to of this replica but it is an imposing structure on the landscape.
Leaving Timna Park for Be’er Sheva we travelled through the Negrev desert region for kilometre after kilometre past wide expanses of brown, almost black, grey, white and green tinged lunar like landscapes. Not much evidence of water in these parts. Be’er Sheva was were in 1917 the famous Charge of the Light Brigade (the Australian Light Horse regiment) took place against the Turkish army. This was apparently a turning point in this part of WW1 as the victory at Be’er Sheva allowed the Commonwealth forces to move further north into the then Palestinian territory controlled by the Turks. The British then achieved administrative control over this southern part of the middle east which it was to retain until Israeli independence in 1948.
Coming into Be’er Sheva we passed by the plain where the Charge took place, now surrounded by scattered settlement before the city proper starts. In the city we stopped at the Park of the Australian Soldier which connects the Australian contribution to the victory at Be’er Sheva with the Israeli people. Later we moved on to the British Cemetery which contains the graves of the Commonwealth forces who died in this theatre of the Palestinian conflict in WW1. This was a moving experience, particularly as there were 2 (?3) members of our party who had relatives who fought here.
We then headed off to the Dead Sea.