You might think that the plumbing in Turkey is of the Third World but we have been pleasantly surprised at the cleanliness of the place. We could learn a few things from these people. Because we are travellers we have to be on the lookout for toilets. Public toilets invariably have a man or woman waiting for payment and I must say this works a treat. The place is always spotless, there is no vandalism and someone takes home some money at night.
An innovation we discovered early on was a small nozzle at the rear of the toilet. For some days this little protuberance the shape of a little boy’s willy, remained a little bit of a mystery until an extra tap beside the seat was discovered. Turn the tap on and a cool, sometimes cold stream of water shoots across the passage of time leaving the seated user with a somewhat refreshed feeling in the lower latitudes. However, this somewhat delightful innovation has its drawbacks.
We were in Antalya to celebrate Sharon’s birthday and had a couple of drinks when the call of nature came. As you would expect, I was not there, so what I relate now is not an eye witness account but permission has been granted for this messy tale to be told.
I am told that women on the road do not like to sit and contemplate. They don’t pull out a rolled up newspaper from the back pocket and attempt the final crossword space in public conveniences. I have heard their action above the seat described as, “hovering,” which brings to mind a craft that blows air downwards to manoeuvre above the surface. I say this because I am not there and being a man, can only imagination how it works for them.
As the story was told to me, the small tap was turned that allows water from the cherub’s willy to spurt forth to do its deed. Water pressure in some towns has been disappointing and showers sometimes come at a trickle but in other places a torrent rushes forth. I’m told that was one of those occasions. I wasn’t there, but I find it hard to get an image from my mind. A woman, hovering above the seat, a strong stream of cool water from a fully turned tap spurting from behind, through her legs to hit the opposite wall of the small room. The woman jumps in fright and in her panic steps through the torrent to reach the tap giving her legs a wash. In the meantime a flood of water flows under the door into the hallway threatening to run into the cafe. The woman unrolls paper and forms a scrunched up levee bank against the door crack while she attempts to mop the floor with what remains of the Sorbent.
This may not be the image in her mind, but it is one that will remain with me.
After resting up for some time in the hotel after a long, leisurely walk around the many mosques and pokey streets of the town, we felt a drive was in order. I felt a drive was in order. Sharon would rather I didn’t drive for any other reason than to get from A to B.
“I’ll put the GPS on,” she said.
I don’t usually get lost as that magnet in my pigeon brain seems to find a way home again.
“Don’t bother. Why don’t we just make it up as we go along? We’ve got a map in the book if we need it.” I said.
She gave me that look that is accompanied with a slow intake of breath and a stiffening of the shoulders. We drove for some time, retraced our path a few times and crossed one of the many stone bridges over the river in Edirne as the sun began to set.
Map in her lap, and eyes glued to the road we set off again into the city for our drive, into narrow roads of taxis, horses and carts, trucks, small buses, coaches, motor scooters, men pushing carts of scrap metal or fruit or bags of firewood and pedestrians willing to take us all on.
“I’ll just drive up this road, see what’s up there, do a u-turn and we’ll head back to the hotel,” I said.
She gave me the look that meant, “It’s about time you stopped playing dodgem cars and came to your senses.”
The road was busy, peak hour in Edirne, and this skinny street turned into the main arterial to Istanbul and didn’t allow u-turns for some kilometres but the scenery was good. Lots of small buses, big buses, trucks, cars and taxis. We’d left the horses and carts far behind.
In the interests of marital harmony and to avoid an early trip to the approaching capital, I said, “Why don’t we just punch the hotel in the GPS and we’ll go home?”
Our paper map of the town is small and shows major roads, not like a GPS which is a mighty beast and has every motorway, arterial road, highway, street, bush track and cobbled lane you’d ever need to negotiate. Before long, we had missed our turn and the all-knowing navigator recalculated us onto an alternative route.
In the interests of marital harmony I should clarify that the all-knowing navigator is the one on the dash, not the one sitting next to me. Before anyone takes offence at that last remark, I had better…Oh, on with the story.
My pigeon brain told me we were headed in the general direction of home and so I ignored the external warnings that with hindsight, I might have otherwise heeded. The sealed road skirted the edges of the city but soon narrowed and the cobbles became potholed. Rubbish piles began to appear and smoke came from recently lit fires beside the road. Horses were tethered to posts beside the road, their carts nearby.
“In 50 metres, turn left,” one female voice on the dash said.
In a more strident tone, another female voice said, “I don’t think we should!”
Pigeon brain said to himself, “This is the right way,” so it was onward and somewhat upward along the cobbled street that might had benefited from one of those gradient signs we see in the mountains.
The cobbles led up a narrowing residential street, past a small gathering of women who were discussing their day. They looked somewhat surprised at our passing and all stopped and gaped as if we were the first car they seen in their street!
The engine was labouring as the French Alp incline increased and I dropped it down a gear to round the curve in the lane, narrowly missing the stone wall of a house. In the distance, an old man in a cap sat on his step and he leaned back, pulling his feet in to avoid them being run over as we passed.
“Continue for 100 metres, then turn left,” the calm voice on the dash said.
Can you imagine beginning a drive into a giant ice-cream cone? Start at the big opening and continue driving till you reach the other end. This residential street was that ice-cream cone.
“Stop Bill! We’ll never get through!” she said rehearsing for a role with Garmin.
I have to admit, the gap was narrow. The horse would fit through but the carts were down the bottom of the hill for a reason.
The old man began to wave his cap before we reversed down beside his lifted feet. He spoke in tones not suited to the kind Turks we’d met, but I gave him my best Mr Bean wave and grin and backed by, my nose on the back window.
The women had reached the funny parts of their day’s recollections and were all laughing happily as we reversed downhill past them. I was finally able to nudge past the horse chewing on his cut grass, manoeuvre around the parked cart, turn the car in its normal running direction, and go home.
“You have reached your destination, on the right,” the steady voice on the dash spoke.
As I swung into the drive, I scattered a flock of birds on the drive.
We’ve spent a busy few days in the north-west of Turkey, driving up the coast to Canakkale where we based ourselves for our trip across the Dardanelles by ferry to the battlefields of Gallipoli. Having read and taught about this period of Australia’s history, it was good to get the Turkish perspective at the excellent museum at Kabatepe. The modern digital presentations told a somewhat nationalistic story of the conflict and it made me reflect on how we tell this story to our people.
The cemeteries were sombre places with just a few headstones compared to the hundreds, thousands of names of those who have no known grave from both sides.
We found the names of the three men from Howard who were killed at Gallipoli, David McKenna and Samuel Wright at Lone Pine and John Byrne at Shell Green Cemetery.
A road wound its way up the ridges past cemeteries, Quinn’s Post, the Nek of the movie “Gallipoli” fame, Johnston’s Jolly and we walked along the trenches of both armies that were separated just by the width of the road. The Light Horse charges at the Nek were across ground the size of two tennis courts. This field is now the graveyard with just a few headstones. The others are there but with no headstones. The sadness is heavy here.
Parking beside the road at Anzac Cove, we tried to find a way to access the beach but this was nigh impossible given it is now backed by a 2 metre high stone wall down a steep slope from the road.
We found a high drain under the road that directs stormwater from the cliffs to the beach so we used this to make our way down. Images from the landing show a wide beach but the 100 years since has shrunk it to less than a few metres wide in places. With the wall preventing the beach replenishing itself, I can see that before long there may be no beach at all. We sat for some time, I took photographs and sketched and tried to imagine those young men and boys who scrambled onto this small beach and up into those steep hills. Men from Howard, Tom Young, George Shaw and their mates of the 9th were the first ashore that morning 100 years ago.
The two beachside cemeteries were peaceful places and not just because we had them all to ourselves. They were green and well kept with large shady trees, the sound of the lapping waves on the stones nearby.
We spent nearly all day on the peninsula. I have read that the soldiers used to sit on the hills in their dugouts and watch the glorious sunsets over the ocean. I took this shot some time before the sun set from the beach cemetery where John Simpson is buried.
The ferries that take cars across the narrow stretch of the Dardanelles have large painted signs on their sides, “Peace is Possible”.
We ate dinner at a Canakkale fish restaurant seated beside two Australian couples on a cruise. They were surprised that we had spent so long driving around and the truck driver from the Gold Coast was horrified that I attempted to drive in Turkey. He questioned whether we had felt safe on our own. Of course we have! I felt like telling him to get off his comfortable cruise ship deck chair and spend some time with the local people and realise they are not terrorists dressed up as kind and generous citizens. Granted, we do feel very conspicuous at times in some non-touristy areas and curious but polite glances are given our way but it is surprising how a smile and a “Merhaba,” breaks the ice.
Back in Europe from Asia – I like saying that, seeing it just took 15 minutes to get here – we drove to Edirne in Northern Turkey. On the way we paused in Uzonkopru. We had the feeling that not many tourists stop here. We have developed a taste for Turkish coffee and merhabaed our way down the street looking for a cafe. Locals looked curiously at these two strangers. A man was standing in front of a shop.
“Merhaba”, I said smiling and signing and mumbling coffee.
“Hosgeldiniz,” (welcome) he said.
“Tesekkurler,” (thank you) I said.
His smile split his face and he tapped his hand on his heart and pointed us around the corner to the cafe with coffee.
The coffee shop found, we ordered, gave our where from, where to script to the men at the corner table and the one who served us.
As we drank, they talked about us amongst themselves and to another who entered the cafe as we heard, “Australia” spoken a number of times. I tried to hand some notes over to pay, but some words between the men saw them returned.
“Australia,” he said with a smile. We thanked them, shook hands and walked down the street thinking what the cruise ship truck driver from the Gold Coast is missing out on.
We ate lunch under the world’s longest stone bridge at Uzonkopru built between 1426 and 1443 before making our way to Edirne. It is 1392 metres long and has 174 arches. Edirne is near to the Greek border and has many quality examples of mosques, large arcades and caravanseray on par with any we have seen in Turkey. Although it seems off the tourist route it has a lot to offer and we have decided to spend an extra night here.