Days: 521-522 (28 November 2015 – 29 November 2015)
Total distance travelled: 132,996.8 kilometres (82,606.71 miles)
Our bus had carried us all through the night, from a sodden Sofia, through a bleary eyed Bulgaria-Turkey border crossing all the way through to Istanbul, the city which bridges the European and Asian continental divide.
We were still on the European side of the Bosphorus, and our pre dawn welcome to the Turkish capital was as wet as our Bulgarian farewell had been.
It was apparent we were in some sort of bus station, but not for one second did it feel like the main bus terminal in which we’d expected to be deposited.
We were still pretty tired, it was dark, it was raining, suddenly our lack of Turkic felt woefully inadequate and where the fuck were we!
I stood in a queue at what I took to be an information kiosk, whilst a trio of men inside deliberately made a young woman and myself wait before allowing us to ask for directions.
We were pointed in the same direction, so off I wandered following this other woman in the still pre-dawn dark.
Soon we were approaching what looked like a highway overpass, so a little skeptical, I turned back.
Eventually, I asked for directions again, and as before was pointed in that same direction.
Turns out the highway overpass is just one of the many entrances to a series of roads the lead to one large ring… the main bus station!
I collected Sarah and we shouldered our packs, quickly trudging our way over to the main bus station.
Now despite its size, don’t think of anything akin to New York’s Central Station, or anything similar.
This was basically a series of various company offices, each with its own waiting area and each with its own destinations and prices.
Basically the onus remained on us to shop around and find the best time and the best price, as staying in Istanbul, we were not!
Despite our interest and its incredible history, we were leaving it for several weeks time, as an appointment with the Iranian Consulate dictated we must be back in the capital soon enough.
So after a little shopping around, we found a price we were happy with, and had ourselves tickets booked to Ҫanakkale.
Our breakfast needs were met by our first Turkish kebab, in all likelihood we being their first of what I assume would be many customers throughout the rest of the day.
It didn’t disappoint.
To my surprise, our bus included an on board entertainment system in each seat, although despite such catchy categories as “Fear & Tension”, there wasn’t really anything to watch.
Apparently this modern coach had even grander aspirations in the vein of Richard Branson, at least if the “Ecco Space Travel” scrawled down the side was to be believed…
Eventually we were inching our way on board a ferry, for the crossing into the larger landmass of Turkey and finally into Asia.
The crossing was smooth enough, but getting out of the harbour area proved a little more difficult.
I was about to write ‘suddenly’, but given the slowness with which we were able to depart the ferry, there was nothing sudden about it at all.
We were in one hell of a bottle neck, with vehicles blocking our passage in seemingly every direction.
When a path had finally (or seemingly) appeared, we were again stuck, one tight corner proving too much for our long coach, a parked vehicle ensuring the turn simply could not be made.
A lot of tooting, shouting and gesticulation followed, but the owner of the vehicle could either not be found, or given the fuss, perhaps was simply not game to come forward.
The situation was finally resolved in a hands on manner, as a mob of men formed, and after a couple of half attempts, lifted the car out of the way!
Finally, we were again on our way.
After a long night, then another day of travel, evening finally found us in the city of Ҫanakkale, for us a base from which to further explore, but for tonight, also a place in which we could finally stretch our legs.
We found ourselves a hostel, empty of any other guests (at least when we checked in), had a brief brush with many very youthful looking members of the Turkish Communist Party, indulged in another kebab and strolled the waterfront (not necessarily in that order).
A large wooden horse caught our eye for a few moments (apparently a prop from the movie Troy), and in an effort to be time efficient, we sorted ourselves out with a tour for the following day.
As suggested by the movie prop, we were close to the site that is the ancient city of Troy… but that’s not where we were arranging a tour for.
Back across the other side of ‘The Narrows‘ (fittingly named as this is the point where the Dardanelles passage linking the Mediterranean with the Black Sea is tightest) sits the Gallipoli Peninsula, a place of historical significance for Australians and Turks alike (as well as New Zealanders, English and French).
We could spy it in the evening light, and we were eager to sort ourselves out a visit for the following day.
After investigating a couple of tour operators, we negotiated what we thought a good price and were set for our excursion the following day.
Back at the ranch (well back at our hostel), we now had more company, with a young Australian guy relaxing on an adjacent bed.
It turns out he too was off to visit Gallipoli tomorrow, but somewhat surprisingly (seriously, the 25th of April every year it is commemorated as a National Holiday in Australia in respect for the events that took place here) he actually knew nothing of its history, all of his knowledge apparently coming from a Mel Gibson film ‘The Water Diviner’ (which neither of us had seen nor even heard of).
I’ll cover it separately, but it was a slightly cool, yet gloriously sunny day that greeted us for this excursion, and the wonderful weather repeated itself the following day as well for our excursion to the ruins of Troy.
Given our proximity to the sea, there was no avoiding its fare, and as a bit of a treat after our day on the opposite side of the Dardanelles, we dined on a Ҫanakkale special, the Midye Tava.
A fresh chunk of Turkish bread was filled with basic salad fare, some lashings of a tartare style sauce and fried mussles, and it was tasty to boot!
We shared one between us, whilst indulging in another option full of fresh, fried fish (also delicious).
With our excursion out to the ruins of Troy an early morning affair, we were back aboard a bus that same day, headed further south to our next port of call, Bergama…
* An overnight bus from Sofia to Istanbul set us back 50.00 Lek per person.
* Our bus from Istanbul to Ҫanakkale cost us ŧ45.00 Lire each.