By Louis Whitburn | Posted: Wednesday October 7, 2015
A group of senior History students, teachers and parents enjoyed their 3 week tour of Turkey, Greece and Italy, organised by History teachers Mr Fielding and Mr Enright.
A highlight of the trip was visiting Gallipoli. The following is Louis Whitburn's account of their 23 day trip.
By 6:45, everyone had arrived at the airport, and had checked in. It would only be one hour until we boarded the first flight to Christchurch, however it was delayed by 15 minutes due to icing. The weather in Christchurch wasn’t the best, with a lot of wind and rain, which made the approach and landing quite bumpy (and rather fun). Thankfully it was only an hour wait in Christchurch for the flight to Singapore, which lasted nearly 11 hours. After arriving in Singapore, we had a five hour wait, and $40.00 Singapore worth of vouchers to spend, which some used to access some pay per use lounges with showers, beds and food.
After boarding our next flight at 1:15 Singapore time, 24 hours after most of us got up for the previous day’s flights, most of us went to sleep instantly, and many of us were not able to make it to the 1:15 boarding time without falling asleep. We arrived at Istanbul Attaturk airport in the morning, where we were taken to the terminal by bus, and then went to our hotel to regroup. On the way, we got to see some of Istanbul’s transport infrastructure.
We then met Mustafa, our guide for Turkey, and went to the Hagia Sophia (Ayasofya), and ended our day there, after having lunch at some local restaurants. One of the roads near the hotel goes through the arches of an old Roman aqueduct. One of the more interesting parts of the Hagia Sophia was that it was the third church (although it became a mosque) that was built there, as the previous two were torn down by angry residents after political incidents.
We started our day at the inner city of Istanbul, where we went and saw parts of the old Byzantium city walls. We then headed to the Topkapi palace, and looked around there. It consisted of four courtyards, and a harem section, all of which were used by the rulers of Constantinople and the Ottoman empire, the sultans. Lunch was only a short walk away and we were joined by a feline guest. We then went to the blue Mosque, and learnt about Islamic traditions, such as ritual ablution. We had to wear appropriate clothes for the mosque, which included a head scarf for females. We then saw some obelisks in a square that was a Circus Maximus during the Roman period, and even saw a Roman water cistern. After that, we went for dinner at a local restaurant, where we got to eat some local Turkish cuisine. Some people then returned to the hotel, and the rest went on a walk.
The first thing we did was to have a look at the Grand Bazar. Mustafa said that it had become more of a tourist destination, and that we probably shouldn’t buy anything until later, but we could still look around. We were then taken on a cruise of the Bosphorus. It was a hot day, and many appreciated the cool breeze. Next was lunch, where we went to the Taksim square area. We also did some shopping and bartering. Finally, we went to the spice market, where many people bought souvenirs and foodstuffs, such as Turkish Delight. We ended the day with a tram ride to a restaurant for our last meal in Istanbul outside the hotel.
We started this day at 06:00, after packing our bags the previous night. We boarded the bus at 08:00, and proceeded southeast to the town of Gelibolu, where we had lunch (many had fish), and took a ferry to the Asian side of the Dardanelles. We then proceeded to Troy, where we looked around with the guidance of Mustafa, and went into a replica Trojan Horse. Some dressed up as Roman soldiers and had their photos taken. We then went to our hotel (which was very new), and spent time in the indoor pool.
Today was a big day. We received a wake-up call at 06:30, and we were by the bus by 08:00. While we were waiting for the bus, Mr Fielding announced that David Smith (our travel agent who was with us for the whole of Turkey) had bought us all T Shirts. After selecting our T Shirts and boarding the bus, we took the ferry to the Galibolu Peninsula, or Gallipoli. We first arrived at ANZAC cove, where the ominous thunder, lightning, and rain was suitable in representing the noise and conditions of the Gallipoli Campaign and World War One in general. We went along the coast for a while, looking at the cemeteries beside the road. Mr Enright attempted to find the grave of his Great Uncle, however it was missing. We ended this part of our Gallipoli adventure with an emotional waita at the Shrapnel Gully Cemetery.
We then proceeded to have lunch at a restaurant that served us fish, salad and fresh fruits, and saw an Ottoman Cemetery, with a large monument. It was interesting to see an Ottoman Cemetery, as it is a perspective that is not often shown. The final part of our Gallipoli experience was a trip to Lone Pine, Quinn’s post, and Chunuk Bair. We laid poppies on the memorial there, while we talked about a person that died there, who we all choose in the weeks before we left. Mr Fielding spoke about all the people in Opoho who were killed, and Ms Millar laid poppies for all the mothers who lost their sons at Gallipoli. This was the saddest part of the Gallipoli experience.
During the bus ride back to Eceabat we sang songs and came to terms with the emotional day that we had just been through. One of the students suggested that we were a “Crossroads of Empire” touring band, playing at Istanbul, Gallipoli, Athens and Rome. On the ferry to head back to Canakale, we say a ferry that had the famous picture of a Turkish soldier carrying a wounded ANZAC soldier, with the caption “Peace is possible.”
We spent most of today on the bus, traveling from Canakale to Kusadasi. After being woken at 05:45, we got ready to leave, and then left. By around 12:00, we had arrived at our first stop, Bergama, or as it used to be called, Pargamon. We saw the Acropolis, which was built by Alexander the Great to protect his wealth, and the Asclepius, a Greek hospital with a very good reputation. We then had lunch at a local restaurant where we had either kebabs or pide a local dish similar to a pizza. Finally, we proceeded to the hotel, where we checked in, and had an hour at the pool, before a hotel dinner.
Today we went to a shop that sells leather jackets. We first watched some people model them (with some guests), and then we learnt about their use of lamb leather. Some people bought jackets and belts, as they were discounted about 65% for us. Next, we had a look at the Virgin Mary’s house. It was quite small, and there wasn’t much in there, except for religious artefacts. We were not allowed to take photographs. The last Thing we did before lunch was to have a look at the old city of Ephesus. Since it was late morning by then, the day was quite hot. Ephesus was the most interesting archaeological site because it was large, and mostly intact. We then had lunch at a traditional Turkish restaurant, where we had to sit on what was effectively the floor(but with cushions), where we had another local dish, which was something similar to a pancake. Finally, we went and had a look at a carpet weavers, where we learnt about how carpets are made, and were able to buy some handmade Turkish carpets.
Today we got up at 05:30, and were on the bus by 08:00. It would only be a one hour drive to Izmir airport, where we would take our first flight to Istanbul. After a long check in, we were on our way by 10:00. The aircraft we took (a Boeing 777-300ER) was quite large, compared to other aircraft used for domestic flights. We arrived in Istanbul, half an hour late, and we probably would have missed our connecting flight, had it not too been an hour late. We made it through passport control quickly (due to most of us having New Zealand passports), and went to our gate, where many people bought drinks from a vending machine to get rid of any Turkish Lira they had left. We boarded our flight at about 13:00, and we were on our way quickly. It was a small aircraft (an A320) so the flight (and landing) was quite bumpy, and parts of the hydraulic system (mainly the PTU) were quite loud. After landing, we went directly to the hotel via one of the new motorways built for the 2004 Athens Olympic games. The hotel had a very good pool, with a nice spa, which people used to recover from this day of traveling.
Today we visited the Parthenon and its museum. The museum was interesting since it was built on columns above an old archaeological site. In the museum our guide informed us about the Parthenon, and how its statues and statues from other places around Greece help tell us about life in ancient Greece. We then went sightseeing around Athens during our bus ride to the actual Parthenon, and saw the stadium used in the first modern Olympic games. When we arrived at the Parthenon, we were given free time to take photos. We then had lunch near Constitution square and the Parliament buildings, and took a shuttle bus back to the hotel.
Today was the longest bus trip of the tour. After leaving Athens, our first stop was a toilet break near the Corinth canal. As this was only a quick stop, we were on our way quickly, where we soon arrived at our next destination, a large Greek theatre. Next, we quickly stopped in a coastal town to take some photos of some Greek forts, then we had lunch. After lunch we went to the town of Mycenae, where King Agamemnon lived. This was the second main landmark of the Trojan war that we have visited. We then went to the tomb of Agamemnon, which is not actually the burial site of Agamemnon, but simply a name given to it by its German discoverer, Heinrich Schliemann. The last thing we did before arriving at the hotel was look at a pottery shop, where we learned about the Pythagorean “Cup of Justice”, a cup that relies on siphoning to prevent anyone having more wine than they were allowed. We then made it to our hotel in the village of Olympia, where we would stay the night.
The highlight of today was the trip to the sanctuary of Olympia. We learned about the origin of the ancient Olympic games, and about some of the traditions and practices around the games, such as writing the name, city, state, and sport of any cheaters on the stadium entrance. We also held races in the stadium entrance, which some local dogs always won. We then heard some aircraft overhead, which (due to their sound) were likely fighter aircraft. This was confirmed when we saw one at a lower altitude. They were quite loud. Following our visit to Olympia, we got on the bus, and had another four hour bus ride to Delphi. During this, we saw some old bauxite mines, which (due to electric power being quite expensive in Greece), is exported, and they import their aluminium. This was quite interesting, because New Zealand is the opposite. When we arrived, many people went shopping.
Today we visited the old stadium grounds and sacred path to the Oracle in Delphi. We started our visit at the Oracle, where our guide talked for a bit, then let us take photos. Some of us climbed to the top to have a look at the stadium grounds of the Delphic games, which were similar to the Olympic games. This stadium was different to the Olympic stadium because it had seats for the spectators. We then had a tour of the museum, before having lunch, and after that we proceeded to our next destination, near Meteora, where we would visit some monasteries the next day.
Today we had a look at two of the six monasteries of Meteora. We departed at 08:00 in order to avoid the crowds, and arrived 45 minutes later, to discover that we were the first ones there. The first monastery that we visited was built on the top of a hill, similar to the Athens Acropolis. As well as containing a church, it also contained several museums and a gift shop. The next monastery we went to was a nunnery. It was smaller, and its church was similar to the one in the previous monastery. As we were leaving, some people noticed an injured kitten, so they took it up to the nuns for them to take care of it, as the nuns (and teachers who buy too much cheese pie) feed the local cats. After the monastery tour, we went and had lunch, and proceeded to Athens. When we arrived in Athens, the bus driver attempted to park in Constitution square, but this caused traffic problems, which annoyed a local policeman. We had to park in one of the side streets and unload our belongings there. We arrived at the hotel to very spacious rooms, but many had difficulty carrying their suitcases up the narrow spiral staircase.
Today everything went wrong. After being driven to the airport in a bus that was fifteen minutes late, we arrived to find out that there had been an issue with the bookings, and that many of the tickets had been cancelled. Thankfully, our travel agent (who had left us in Istanbul to return to New Zealand) was able to come into work to sort it out with Singapore airlines, who were more helpful than any of the Alitalia staff that Mr Fielding spoke to. After about an hour it was decided that a group of about half would go through first, with another group taking another flight. As soon as the first group arrived at the gate, that group found out that nine additional students would be able to board the first flight, meaning that a group of 23 would be going first, and a group of nine would have to wait and take a later flight. Passport control was quite unusual, especially since they didn’t check our passports, only our boarding passes. While waiting at the gate, Mr Enright informed the first group that the bus driver probably won’t speak English, so we will probably have a difficult time explaining the flight issues. We would also probably have to do a lot of waiting in Rome. Not long after, the first group had boarded their flight. It was quite cloudy over the Ionian sea, but we got a good view of Athens and Rome from outside of the aircraft. As we approached the coast of Italy, both groups encountered some moderate turbulence. Meanwhile, the smaller group back in Athens bad collected their tickets for the next fight to Rome, and were playing cards and eating lunch in the airport McDonalds. Thankfully, when the first group arrived, the guide was aware of the situation (again thanks to David), and the Schengen zone immigration rules applied. When we collected our bags, we were given free time from 14:30 to 16:45 to have lunch and rest. When the secondary group arrived from their later flight, there were even more problems, this time involving their checked luggage, which didn't arrive until 35 minutes after they had got there. In the end, we didn’t depart Rome until 17:15, about three and a half hours late. Due to the lack of available seats, we were quite spread out on both flights. During our bus ride to Naples, we saw many sheep, and solar farms, as we appreciated how clean and well maintained everything was compared to Greece, as well as the good motorways, which made our journey to Sorrento (near Naples) relatively quick. As we approached Naples, we saw a small display of fireworks. We finally arrived at 21:15, where we immediately had dinner, and went to bed quite tired.
Today we visited the cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum. In Italy, we wouldn’t have a guide for the entire week, but one for each day. Today’s guide was interesting, as she was originally from France, but has lived in Italy for most of her life. Our first stop was the city of Pompeii, which our guide said would be very crowded, since it was the first Sunday of October, and admission for cultural sites is free on the first Sunday of every month. Pompeii was quite large, and the ground was still covered in ash. Our guide took us first to the main square of Pompeii, where we were able to see some skeleton casts. Later we saw places related to the production of food (such as bakeries), and saw some private houses. We also saw some parts of the original water delivery system, such as the lead pipes used to deliver water to the individual houses. We then had lunch and did some shopping, before heading to Herculaneum. When we arrived in Herculaneum, we saw how it was excavated from the mud that covered it. It was in quite a large hole, and what was the shore in 79 AD is now about 400 metres inland from the sea. Herculaneum was quite similar to Pompeii, however it was smaller, and was a coastal town as opposed to a commercial town. As well as having a general look around, we also went to a boathouse, and a building constructed in honour of Caesar Augustus. We finished out visit of Herculaneum with a look at the docks, where the skeletons of 300 people were found. During dinner later in the day, some entertainers arrived, and set up a limbo rope. After a few minutes of that, they got us all up to whirl our napkins around.
After waking up at 6:30, and having breakfast, we were loaded on to two mini buses, and then taken to the ferry terminal in Sorrento, where we would take the 08:45 ferry to Capri. After arriving, we were bused (with two buses again) to the town of Anacapri, which means “high Capri”. We had a look at the old city, and of the original 800 step walkway from Capri to Anacapri. We then had an hour of shopping, and a bus ride back to Capri, where we had lunch, and went shopping again. The restaurant we went to was the first restaurant and included a meal outside of the hotel that gave us a choice of what to eat, even if there were only ever two options. While we were waiting, we saw some school children going home for lunch. We were then taken by bus to another ferry terminal, the Marina Grande, where we caught the boat for our cruise of the coastline of Capri. We saw many “grottos”, such as the coral grotto, the green grotto, and the outside of the blue grotto. After we arrived back at the Marina Grande, we had 30 minutes for shopping, before departing on the 17:35 ferry back to Sorrento. When we got back to the hotel, a small group went on a walk to a nearby beach to go swimming, however when they arrived, it was closed. After dinner (which started at 20:00), everyone was very tired, and went to bed soon after.
Today we went to another C.W.G.C. Cemetery. After leaving on a bus that arrived about 15 minutes late, we departed towards Rome, via Monte Casino. We first had a look at the abbey of Monte Casino, which was bombed and shelled by US and New Zealand forces, who believed that the German forces were hiding in it, and using it to target allied positions, as it was on very high ground, however it was later revealed that they were hiding in the nearby forest. We were given a tour of the abbey and its churches, and got to see the area near the “Pax” (Latin for “peace”) entrance, where the inhabitants hid during the shelling and bombing. We were also told that it had already been destroyed four times before the Battle of Monte Casino. After visiting the abbey, we went to the Battle of Monte Casino museum, were we were given a tour of the very linear and “modern” exhibits. Finally, we went to the cemetery. It was quite large, compared to some of the ones at Gallipoli, and the graves were ordered by the countries the soldiers were from. When we arrived in Rome, we had a few hours to rest, then we went for a walk (where we tried to find the Spanish Steps), and had dinner at a restaurant that was just large enough to fit our group of 30 (two stayed behind at the hotel).
Today involved a lot of walking. Our guide met us for a walking tour of Rome at our hotel. We first went to the Trevi fountain, which was under restoration. Next, we walked to the Spanish Steps, which we were actually able to find, thanks to our guide. These were also closed, for restoration, however our guide told us that they were open yesterday. We then walked to the Parliament buildings, each of which were guarded by military personnel with large automated weapons. We also saw some people outside one of the building partaking in a cardiac first aid course. Next, we visited the pantheon, a temple dedicated to all gods. It was very large, and it had a hole in the roof for plotting the sun’s course throughout the day. We also saw the grave of the renaissance painter Raphael. We finished the first part of today with lunch at a local shopping square. By the time lunch had finished, it was raining quite heavily, and we decided to go back to the hotel to reassess the situation. By the time we had returned to the hotel, everyone was very wet, but the weather cleared enough so that we could go to our next destination, the Colosseum. When we arrived we had to wait while our guide got our tickets. During this time, we saw two ambulances arrive. We had a look at the Colosseum’s structure and seating, and we also got to see how poorly maintained it had become, especially since all the marble and bronze had been taken out centuries ago to be used elsewhere. We also saw the dungeons which housed the gladiators, which were located under the floor. Prior to the construction of the dungeons, the Colosseum could be flooded (which took nine days), and naval battles could be held. After we returned to the hotel, we split into two groups. One would go shopping before and after tea, and would arrive back later, whereas another group would just go out to tea and be back earlier. The shopping group split into two subgroups, with only one adult per subgroup, as most of the adults were in the second group. The second group went to a restaurant nearby the hotel, and only did a little bit of shopping before returning.
Today was our last full day in Italy, which meant many students were keen on doing some last minute shopping. First, we took the bus to the Vatican City. The buses were very crowded, and Mr Fielding “[thought] we might have to take two buses”. Four buses later, we had all arrived at our meeting point, and walked for about five minutes to the Vatican City. Because we were in a guided group, we got to skip most of the lines, otherwise we would have had to wait up to two hours. When we arrived, we saw just how much wealth the Vatican had amassed as we walked towards the Sistine Chapel. Inside the chapel, we were not allowed to take pictures, and a dress code was in force. We then had a look in St Paul’s basilica, which (like most of the Vatican) was very large and well decorated. We exited through St Peter’s Square, and walked back to the hotel along the Tiber River. We walked past an old ruin that had been transformed into a cat shelter, however, it was a hot day and no cats were visible. After making our way back to the hotel, we had lunch, and had the rest of the day at leisure to go shopping.
Today was the beginning of the end. As per usual, the bus was fifteen minutes late. As we left the hotel, someone noticed their phone was missing. Thankfully, we were still quite close to the hotel, so we were able to return and retrieve it. When we arrived at the airport, we had even more check-in issues. Some people were able to be checked all the way through to Dunedin, whereas some were not, and not even Singapore airlines knew why. We arrived at the gate only five minutes before boarding, and we got to take a train to the terminal, similar to the “sky trains” at Singapore Changi airport. After boarding, and finally departing at 12:00, we had a few hours before any of us were able to get any sleep.
When we arrived at Singapore, we got to take the “sky train” to the immigration hall. We arrived at Singapore on time, so going through Singapore immigration was relatively painless, except for some of the questions on the arrival cards, which were very long and repetitive. After immigration, we had about an hour to have breakfast. When the bus arrived, we got on, and had a short drive to the Singapore flyer, where our tour guide explained some of Singapore’s laws, and how a road near the airport can be cleared in 13 minutes to act as an emergency runway for small aircraft. At the Singapore flyer, we were split into three groups, and put into the capsules. Because we were early, there were no people there when we got on. The capsules take 30 minutes to go around all the way, and we were able to take photos and see the haze around Singapore caused by the fires in Indonesia. Next, we went to Sentosa Island’s “Adventure Cove Water Park”. Here there were many attractions, such as dolphins and sharks, as well as many water slides, of which one accelerated the riders using linear induction motors. After finishing, we went back to the airport, and had to wait another two hours before boarding our flight and departing for Christchurch.
Today we arrived back in New Zealand. After our final long haul flight, we were very pleased to be back in New Zealand, even though we had to go through immigration and customs. Immigration was made very easy by the “SmartGate” system, where we simply had to scan our passports and have our picture taken, and then immigration was complete. We then collected our luggage and then proceeded to customs. This was the longest part of the immigration process, which involved extensive questioning. After completing customs, we proceeded to check in and baggage drop, where most of the students checked their bags through the baggage drop, however a few had boarding pass issues, which had to be sorted out at the check in counter. We then had a few hours at the airport, it was time to board the aircraft for our final hour long flight back to Dunedin. After we arrived, the students met up with their parents, and collected their bags. The adult helpers were given presents by the parents as thanks for the help on the trip, and everyone departed, tired, and happy to be home.