Thursday, April 07, 2011

From Greece to Turkey

We arose on Sunday morning at our usual time of 6:30 AM; had breakfast at 7:30 and were on the road by 8:30 heading toward Alexandrapolis and beyond toward the border of Greece and Turkey.  There were no more sites for us to see in Greece, and so the Greek portion of our adventure was essentially finished.   The drive to the border took about 2 ½ hours and we were to meet our Turkish coach on the Grrek side at 10:30 AM to make the transfer.  This was a new and easier system than that which Susan I had experienced when we led a group on a similar pilgrimage in 2003 when relations between the Greeks and the Turks were much more strained.  Then, crossing over was much more complicated.

In 2003, our coach took us to the border of Greece and Turkey and the bridge across the Meric River.  On the Greeks side, we had to take a taxi, four people at a time (with our luggage), which shuttled us across the bridge, where our Turkish coach and guide met us.    

Herakels and Sophia
When we arrived this time, the Greek coach pulled over to a side area where our Turkish coach was already parked and waiting. 

Transfer at the Greece and Turkey Border

We distributed the Turkish visas we had obtained prior to the trip to each member of our group so they could put them in their passports. The drivers transferred our luggage as we bid farewell to Sophia who had been an extraordinary guide for us, and also to Herakles who had been an excellent driver.  

We met Hussein, our new driver, who will drive us through most of Turkey, until we fly to Istanbul, where we will get a new coach and driver.  Our Turkish coach pulled up to the Greek border crossing, and we had to get out of the coach one by one as a Greek border guard collected our passports, verified our identities with our pictures and then took them into an office to be stamped while we waited on the coach. 

After this, Hussein collected them from the border agent and held onto them, driving the coach across the bridge.  Greek flags bade us farewell and Turkish flags welcomed us midway across the bridge.  Trucks were lined up heading for Greece, waiting as each had to be checked by customs.   When we arrived on the Turkish side,  our Turkish guide, Ali, met us and boarded the bus.   We were processed through Turkish border and customs without getting off the bus.      
Ali is a very personable guide who was gracious and generous in welcoming us to his country.  Shortly into our ride, I asked him how Turkish sentiments toward Americans were.  He assured us all that we were guests and would be warmly received and welcomed as such, that while some may not agree with the policies of American government, we would not experience any hostility.  This kind of warm welcome from the Turkish people was our experience in 2003 when we entered the country on the day bombs started dropping on Baghdad in the “shock and awe” campaign that launched the current war.  Needless to say, our group was a  little apprehensive as we entered Turkey back then.  It turned out then that our apprehensiveness was unfounded.  We experienced warmth and hospitality wherever we went.  Ali’s words to us on the coach were reassuring and I felt confident we would have a similar experience of warmth and hospitality this time as well.

A turkey in Turkey!
From the border, it was about two hours to Gallipoli, a famous battle site during World War I in which the Turks prevailed against the British.  We stopped for lunch en route.  At our lunch stop, the gas station kept a menagerie of animals and Susan took one of a turkey! After lunch, it was on to Gallipoli.

Huge statue of Mustafa Kemal who would receive the name "Ataturk" - Father of the Turks
This campaign was significant in the national awakening of Australian and New Zealand, whose troops fought at Gallipoli for the British and who experienced tremendous casualties. After World War I, and in part, because of their casualties in this battle, those two countries began to wrest more autonomy for themselves.  Today, Ali informed us, “Aussies and Kiwis” continually come to Gallipoli to commemorate the site.   Gallipoli also launched the career of Mustafa Kemal who would later become known as “Ataturk” which literally means “Father of the Turks.”  He is considered the father of modern day Turkey (many refer to him as the “George Washington of Turkey).  

Memorial at Gallipoli site
 The Gallipoli site is an extensive wooded national park with high ground that affords a great overview for miles and which was, therefore, strategically important.  There are also trenches which we could see, allowing us to use our imaginations as we pictured the horrific conditions on that Eastern front. There were more than 130,000 killed on both sides in the battle of Gallipoli. 

One of the trenches at Galilipoli
Although our itinerary called for us to visit ancient Troy the next day, Ali suggested that we visit it this afternoon, and so we did.  It was a couple of hours from Gallipoli, and we stopped for lunch along the way.  Ancient Troy (the modern city is Troas) is truly an amazing archaeological site that dates back more than 4,000 years.  Perhaps most famous for being the site of the Trojan War and its association with Homer’s Iliad, it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.  Extensive excavations were begun in the 1868 by German businessman Heinrich Schliemann and continued since by archaeologists and universities.  Currently, the site reveals 9 levels dating back to the early Bronze Age (ca. 2950 B.C.) and we saw mud brick structures dating to that period.  

The small numbers on the signs indicate which level I - IX they come from which sets them in time

very ancient mud brick structure

According to Acts of the Apostles Paul had a vision in Troas “of a man of Macedonia pleading with him and saying, “Come over to Macedonia and help us”  (Acts 16: 9).  This vision is understood to be critically important to Paul’s mission and ministry as it called him to go to Europe and ranks only behind his Damscus Road experience in Luke’s understanding.

Contemporary wooden sculpture of the "Trojan Horse"

At the entrance to the ancient site of Troy is a wooden construction of the fabled Trojan Horse which visitors can stand next to or climb. 

It was a long day of travel, but the sites were spectacular!  We left the ancient site and headed for our hotel in Cannakale which was located on the shore of the Aegean Sea and was a lovely setting.  We had a Eucharist at the hotel in a quiet room next to the “British Pub.”  At the conclusion of the service, the group blessed Susan and me with special prayer led by Deacon Clelia Garrity in honor and celebration of our 35th wedding anniversary.  Dinner was excellent with lots of choices including fresh grilled whole mackerel.  After dinner, Susan and I were surprised by a beautiful cake and a very thoughtful gift from the group.  It was a joyous way to end a glorious day.
Our room looked out over the Aegean Sea


Bessie said...

You are almost home! I have loved your trip, too. Please give hellos, congratulations to Clelia.Rosemary Hall should be so proud. Celia, you made up for my nonsense! xxx, Bessie

Sandy said...

Wow - great summary of a lot of history! Interesting pictures.