Tuesday 28 April 2009 by Andrew Gray. No comments
Battlefield Tours, Simpson Prize

Varun and Onder, our bus driver, laying a wreath at the Turkish 57th Regiment Memorial Varun and Onder, our bus driver, laying a wreath at the Turkish 57th Regiment Memorial

The return to the hotel after our big Anzac morning was a chance to relax, catch up on sleep and do whatever we felt like.  As it was a lovely warm day, Maddy and Lauren braved the waters for another swim, others walked and talked on the beach, Varun learnt card games - Pisti and Kapti Kacti - from our bus driver, while the more senior members of the group snoozed.

The day after Anzac Day was farewell to the Kum Hotel and back to Istanbul.  We stopped at the Turkish 57th Regiment to lay a wreath, with Varun and our bus driver doing the honours.  Our wreath, in Turkish, read "The epic story of heroism and friendship started here".  A very subdued bus trip back with some nodding off and others lost in their thoughts had us back in Istanbul, visiting Haggia Soffia (Ayasofya) before heading to the hotel.

It was such a contrast, with the morning wreathlaying on a cold and windy hilltop in the countryside and hardly anyone around, to the bustling crowded city full of tourists.  We counted 6 huge cruise ships berthed at the docks and it seemed all of them were visiting the old city area.

Haggia Sophia with one of the minarets added by the Ottoman Turks Haggia Sophia with one of the minarets added by the Ottoman Turks

Haggia Sophia is spectacular - for centuries the biggest church in the world, now the fourth biggest.  When the Ottomans took the city in the 15th Century, not only could they have never imagined building something this big, it took them a century to work out how to get up to the dome.  Turning it into a Mosque, they plastered over the Christian mosaics and in doing so helped preserve them so we can see them today.  Since the 1930s Haggia Sophia has been a museum, with restoration and uncovering of mosaics still going on.