Honouring our ANZACs in Istanbul

This is the third installment of my special ANZAC centenary series, acknowledging the importance of ANZAC Day in the lives of Australians, New Zealanders and Turkish people. If you’re an expat in Istanbul or travelling to Istanbul for the centenary then here’s are a couple of commemorative events taking place you might wish to check out.

An Unusual Friendship – Remembering Gallipoli

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Photographer Mine Konakci explores the unusual friendship that has arisen between the Anzacs and Turks since the fighting and anguish of the Gallipoli campaign.  By photographing subjects from Australia, New Zealand and Turkey, this project documents direct descendants of Anzac and Turkish (Ottoman) soldiers who fought in the 1915 Gallipoli campaign during World War I. The subjects are photographed with a projected image of their ancestor in an attempt to illuminate the relationship between the soldiers who fought in Gallipoli and their descendants.

The exhibit is open until May 24, 2015 at:

Buart Gallery

Bahçeşehir University building

Level 4, 24 Kemeralti Cd, Karaköy

Set aside 30 minutes to see the exhibition and read the slide show depicting the subjects’ quotes and information about their ancestors’ role in the Gallipoli Campaign. For more information about the exhibit visit: http://www.rememberinggallipoli.com

Getting there:

The Bahçeşehir University building is on the T1 tramline, between Tophane and Karaköy. The T1 tramline links directly to Sultanahmet – the main tourism precinct – in 10 minutes. Get off the tram at Karaköy and walk on the Bosphorus (water) side of the tramline/road in a north-easterly direction for a few minutes until you see the Garanti Bank. The entrance to the university building is next to the Garanti Bank. The latest Istanbul public transport map can be found here, showing the T1 tramline in dark blue. Walking from Sultanahmet can take 20 – 30 minutes.

Çanakkale 1915

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The İş  Bank Museum (Türkiye İş Bankası Müzesi) near the Spice Bazaar/Egyptian Bazaar is hosting an exhibit called Çanakkale 1915. The exhibit features photos, memorabilia and other artifacts from the Gallipoli Campaign from both the Ottoman and British Empires (including the ANZACs). Çanakkale is the town near the Gallipoli Peninsula that came under fire in the battle over the Dardanelles which led up the Allied landings on April 25, 1915.

Entry is free. The exhibit is in Turkish but ask for your free English audio-guide on arrival. The address in English is:

2 Bankacilar Caddesi (Road)
Eminonu

Getting there: Take the T1 Tram to Eminonu and walk towards the entrance of the Spice Bazaar. Bankacilar Caddesi (road) is the first cobblestone road on your left as you face the main entrance of the Spice Bazaar. You’ll find the museum opposite the New Mosque (Yeni Cami).

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2015 ANZAC Appeal

Red remembrance poppies are available from Fuego Café & Restaurant in Sultanahmet for you to take to Gallipoli to place against the names of the fallen who lay peacefully on our shores. All proceeds go to the RSL ANZAC Appeal in Australia. The ANZAC Appeal aims to give back to past and present servicemen and women who sacrificed their lives for Australia. For more information visit www.anzacappeal.com.au.

Together in Istanbul

Fuego Cafe & Restaurant is also hosting an informal, “Together in Istanbul for our ANZACS” from 22 – 27 April. The gathering is for modern-day Johnnys and Mehmets to meet and share their ANZAC stories and continue the friendship that started 100 years ago. Go along and enjoy a drink or dinner with new and old mates and soak up the ANZAC spirit. Drop-ins are accepted but bookings are advised to ensure you get a table. More information and how to get there is on the Fuego website.

Previous posts in the ANZAC Series:

16 tips for visiting Istanbul for the ANZAC centenary

A lesson on ANZAC Day

Tomorrow’s post – My ANZAC Day diary at Gallipoli.

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16 tips for visiting Istanbul for the ANZAC centenary

This is off the normal topic of writing for expats in Istanbul, but I’ve been dishing out a few tips to Australians and New Zealanders coming to Istanbul for the ANZAC centenary. I thought I would write a blog article summarising the questions and answers given to date.

To know what the ANZAC century is, then check out my previous posts about ANZAC Day and Gallipoli.

Firstly, to those venturing to Turkish shores for the first time, know that Turkey is a modern first-world country full of modern-day conveniences to serve its population of over 70 million. Istanbul alone has over 14 million nestled in its boundaries, so, expect convenient public transport; shops open all day, every day ’til late; an abundance of ATMs; and basically a lot of conveniences that you will wish Australia and New Zealand had themselves.

On the flipside, Istanbul can be like your uber cool, chaotic and often unpredictable friend. They’re not always organised but they’re charming and fun to be around. In other words, don’t expect things to always go to plan. What you might be told, might be different to what you get….and most of the time that’s ok because sometimes plans change for good reasons. Don’t be afraid to ask questions, and ask again to validate your understanding.

If you are coming to Istanbul for ANZAC Day (or any other time) then firstly:

Hoşgeldiniz! (Welcome) You’re about to holiday in one of the most hospitable countries in the world!

Here are a few tips that might help you have a great time.

1. Do I take Euro, American dollars or Lira?

There is no need for Euros and American dollars if you don’t want to exchange your Australian and New Zealand dollars. Turkish Lira (TL) is the local currency and is used in Turkey to pay for everything.

In Turkey’s tourism sector, however, “money is money” and most hotels, tour operators, hamams (Turkish baths) and shops will promote prices in Euro or (less often) US dollars. They do this partly believing it’s convenient for the majority of travellers to Istanbul. It’s not for Aussies and Kiwis who don’t use these currencies. Check with your vendor with what they prefer you to pay them in, but know you should be able to pay them in Turkish Lira too. Make sure you’re not losing out on the exchange rate first.

Other than paying for these tourism services, do shop, barter, eat, and pay for transportation in Turkish Lira. Do as the locals do.

2. Shall I take Turkish Lira with me?

Apparently there’s a shortage of Turkish Lira in exchange bureaus of Australia. Don’t panic. Turkish Lira can be obtained from ATMs throughout Istanbul (and the country) using your VISA card. ATMs are everywhere and have English instructions available to make it easy to complete your transaction just as you would at home.

You can exchange your country’s currency into Turkish Lira at exchange bureaus (called, döviz) around the country too.

VISA, Mastercard and often American Express are accepted at most shops, restaurants, bars and hotels so you can earn those reward points whilst buying for goods and services in Turkey.

Avoid using traveler’s cheques if you can. They’re time consuming to exchange in Turkey and should only be used in an absolute emergency. Western Union have branches here for emergencies too.

turkish money

Image: Turkish coins and notes

3. Where are the best money exchange bureaus?

Locals will tell you the best exchange rates are in the Grand Bazaar. But like all money exchange dealings do shop around for the best deal – and look for ones without commission.

4. Is it safe in Istanbul?

Is it safe in your own hometown? It’s a difficult question to answer. Istanbul is a big city and not immune to crime. But one thing that is different is its huge population. There is always a high degree of natural surveillance around you – many eyes on the street.

As a woman, I can usually take public transport at night by myself – which I do not feel safe doing in Australia. Of course I assess the risks and make a judgement call, but being a Muslim country, there is far less people afflicted by alcohol and drugs than Australia and New Zealand which generally makes me feel safer.

Crowded areas can sometimes be problematic, such as peak hour on public transport and in the bazaar areas. Crowds make for easy prey for pick pocketers – as they do in other big cities.

There is a heightened threat of terrorism as the Australian and New Zealand governments have warned. However, as the events in Sydney and Paris recently showed us, sadly terrorism can occur anywhere around the world. The best thing to do, is follow the information from your country’s traveller advice website. Stay vigilant, avoid high-risk areas and ultimately trust your instincts.

Do know that Istiklal Street/Taksim Square are the venues for protests almost on a daily basis. These are usually peaceful demonstrations about a broad range of topics from animal welfare to legal injustices. Armed police complete with sizable guns are normally on stand-by which can be daunting to most, but it’s just precautionary. If you feel unsafe at any time retreat and get a taxi to your hotel or another safe destination.

5. What’s the weather like in April?

Being in the northern hemisphere, Turkey is coming out of a cold winter so expect the evenings to be chilly and the days, inshallah (god willing), to be sunny. It’s possible to get sunburnt on a cloudless day so remember to slip, slop, slap and throw on a hat!

Pharmacies are called Eczane (signposted with a large “E” in lights) . You can pick up sunscreen there. Pharmacies are again located on many streets in the city.

No need to pack bulky umbrellas too. If it rains people will come out on the street to sell them for 5-10TL ($AUD5)! They won’t last a lifetime but they’ll do the trick for a few days…or less.

…and don’t forget to celebrate our springtime and check out the tulips! Gulhane Park is likely to be your closest location.

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Photo: The tulip is celebrated in its country of origin at the International Istanbul Tulip Festival every April.

6. What should I wear?

It’s not quite weather for wearing shorts every day in April so pack jeans, a few long sleeved shirts and a winter jacket or two. Scarfs / pashminas are more common than apple tea so make the most of the “2 for 1” deals (I mean the $AUD1:2.02TL exchange rate) and buy up if you get cold. Thermals may be useful on the night of April 24 at Gallipoli – but unlikely to be needed in Istanbul at this time of year.

7. Do I need to cover when entering mosques?

Yes. When visiting mosques, make sure your shoulders and legs are covered and ladies do cover your head with a scarf. It’s respectful to do so. Some of the bigger mosques will have scarfs for you but best to use your own.

Take your shoes off before entering any mosque and take them with you using the plastic bags provided.

Also avoid walking in front of people praying, and know mosques will close for 30 minutes after the call to prayer five times a day for local worshippers. Expect major delays to get inside mosques around lunchtimes when Friday prayers take place.

Mosque

8. What’s the shopping like?

You’ve come to the right place. Turkey is one of the biggest producers and exporters of textiles so shopping for clothes is great. Sultanahment and the bazaar district in the old city is the place for genuine fakes but the range of shops for modern fashions, especially for women, is light-on.

Head to Istiklal Avenue in Taksim for international retailers like H&M, Mango, Zara, Topshop and enjoy other great retailers like Mavi, ADL, OXXO, Koton and Collezione. Istiklal, a street they say millions walk down every day, is two kilometres of shopping and cafes…and a good excuse to venture out of the old city to see another face of the Istanbul.

The neighbourhood of Nişantaşı on the European side or Bağdat Caddesi (Avenue) on the Asian side are where the swankiest shops can be found.

Large shopping malls like Istanbul Forum, Zorlu Centre, and Cevahir are also taking over the city – but will require a few changes in public transport or a taxi ride to get there from the old city.

If you’re in the market for jeans, then I swear you won’t find a better pair than buying them in Turkey. Even designer brands source their denim from here.

Istiklal Street

Photo: Istiklal Avenue, a two-kilometre pedestrian street, runs from Taksim Square to Galata.

9. Do I need a VPN?

People living in Turkey are becoming increasing users of VPNs (Virtual Private Networks). VPNs allow us to tap into servers in other countries to access sites that may be blocked in Turkey. We use them to run our businesses and communications with the outside world if the government blocks Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and other social media sites (which they did in early April). At the moment, these sites are available to access so it is unlikely you need a VPN on your stay here.

Twitter

Cartoon: Turkish humour reacts to Twitter being blocked…

10. What about Turkish SIM cards – should I get one?

You can buy Turkish SIM cards with varying packages (from 29TL) from Turkish phone dealers: Avea, Vodafone or Turkcell. They have dealers in the arrivals halls of the airports. Do be aware, however, that putting a Turkish SIM in a foreign phone can eventually lead to Turkish authorities blocking your phone – unless you register your handset.

At the moment, there is a guide that you can use a Turkish SIM in a foreign phone for up to two months before it becomes blocked. But sometimes in Turkey, what is communicated and what actually happens are two different things. And do you really want to risk having an issue with your phone when there’s so much to see and do in the country?

Speak to the phone dealers in the airport to get their advice. But do know that WIFI is free in MANY places. Cafes, hotels, roadhouses – most places you visit will have reliable and free WIFI available (or somewhere nearby will). Just ask for a password to connect and communicate through apps like FaceTime, Voxer, WhatsApp, Facebook, Viber, Skype – all for free – without the threat of your phone being blocked. Yes, even Whatsapp and Facebook Messenger will now allow you to call your friends for free if they use the app too! Just look for the icon of a telephone handset on the messaging screen.

If you own a business and/or need phone coverage whilst at Gallipoli then also check what your options are for international services from dealers in Australia and New Zealand.

11. What if a stranger approaches me on the street?

In the tourist areas such as Sultanahmet, Gulhane Park, the Blue Mosque etc, would-be-entrepreneurs are on the ready to trip you into unwanted ventures like carpet shopping. If a man randomly approaches you on a street and offers to take you for drink or take you to a carpet shop, decline the offer, unless you wish to buy.

At no time should you hand over money to enter the Blue Mosque. It is free to enter. Donations on exit are appreciated and should be placed in the box marked as such.

Carpets

Photos: Excuse me, would you like to buy a carpet?

12. I heard men can annoy you on the streets? Is it true?

Again in the tourism precincts, expect most restaurant waiters to approach you to dine at their premise. Politely decline unless you wish to eat there. They’re used to rejection and are unlikely to follow you beyond the boundaries of their restaurant.

Ladies, also expect vendors in Sultanahmet and surrounds to try to get your attention by questioning you with, “Excuse me did you drop something…my heart?” and, “Can I ask you something?” or, “Where are you from?” Ignoring them and walking on is acceptable and will save you time and their heartache.

On a side note, do go to Taksim, Galata, the Asian side and other city locations to see the different faces of the city. The old city (Sultanahmet and surrounds) is very much a tourism precinct where many local men work. You may ask, “Where are all the local women!?” They are in Istanbul – you just need venture out of the old city to find them.

13. How do I avoid being ripped off by a taxi driver?

Difficult question to answer but there are a few tips I can offer:

  • When you get into a taxi the flag fall on the taximeter should be 3.20TL – day or night. If it is not just say “problem meter” and if he doesn’t fix it then get out and get another taxi.
  • There is a reliable app for locals called BiTaksi. You can use it to call for taxis using a GPS system, but I’ve used it with limited success in Sultanahmet and Taxim due to the enormity of one-way roads.
  • Avoid taking taxis off the street – unless you want a tour of the city to get to your destination. Instead, ask your hotel or restaurant to order you a taxi from a reputable taxi stand.
  • Avoid using 50TL notes in paying your fare as they look like 5TL notes. A quick switch by the cab driver and your handing over more money than you need. Have 10TL and 20TL notes to avoid this confusion. The government have started issuing purple 5TL to stop this swindle.
  • A taxi to “Topkapi” can lead you to the suburb of that name – not the palace – with the latter costing significantly more. Ask for Topkapi Palace or take the T1 Tram to Gulhane or Sultanamet stops and walk to the palace within five minutes.
  • Use Turkish Lira to pay the price on the taximeter at the end of your trip. Never bargain up front – you’re just asking for trouble if you do!

14. Can I expect discounts?

Yes, it’s possible to obtain discounts on your travels here.

  • If you plan to use public transport than do get an IstanbulKart. Click here for more information.
  • The Museum Pass (MuzeKart) does offer great discounts but make sure you’ll get your money’s worth before purchasing.
  • Turkish hospitality is the best and chances are you’ll enjoy the rewards of being a wonderful guest with complimentary teas and the like. Yes there are dodgy people on the streets, but there are far more considerate local people that are willing to offer you tea and a great conversation.

15. I have food allergies – what can I do?

The Turkish diet is one made from fresh produce, cooked-fresh and rarely uses processed products. Interestingly, in my observations it would seem food allergies are much rarer here. This means most menus won’t be marked with gluten-free or lactose-free meals. When you order your meal always let your host know your allergies and see what they recommend. Also ask your concierge or a Turkish speaker to write a note for you in Turkish to explain your allergies. You can simply hand that over when making your order. Things can get lost in translation otherwise!

And finally my favourite question to answer was…

16. How many Tim Tams do you want me to bring to thank you for your advice?
How many can you fit in your bag? Is there room for champagne too 🙂

(Just joking! On a serious note. Say thank you by donating to the ANZAC Appeal online or in Istanbul at  Fuego Cafe & Restaurant. Fuego has 2,000 RSL red remembrance poppies too. When you make your donation take one with you to Gallipoli to place on the names of the fallen).

tim tam

Iyi yolculuklar (Have a good journey!)

Tomorrow’s post: Honouring our ANZACs in Istanbul – What’s on in Istanbul for the ANZAC centenary.

A lesson on ANZAC Day

The 2015 Gallipoli Ballot has been drawn and 10,000 lucky Australians and New Zealanders now have their tickets in hand to attend a once in a lifetime experience – to be on Turkey’s Gelibolu Yarımadası (Gallipoli Peninsula) for ANZAC Day, April 25. The event will mark the centenary of the ill-fated Allied landings at Gallipoli during the First World War (WW1).

This means Istanbul is about to experience a ground-swell of “Aussies” and “Kiwis” during the latter weeks of April. In previous years, we would predict the coming of ANZAC Day by the sudden presence of casual board shorts in cold conditions, thongs flip-flops, freckled skin and profanity pounding the pavements of Sultanahmet.

Tank tops, tattoos, flags and a barbie (BBQ) - Australians in full patriotic bloom!

Photo: Tank tops, tattoos, Aussie flags and a barbie (BBQ) full of sangas (sausages) – Australians in full patriotic bloom!

But this year, we’re expecting a more refined crowd. More dignitaries and less backpackers. More veterans and less beer guzzling world travellers under the age of 25 – due to the ballot’s attempt to manage crowd numbers.

Whilst those attending are more likely to blend in, media attention and heightened security measures will follow as dignitaries and celebrities alike gather for a front row seat at the commemorations.

Prince Charles and (swoonworthy) Prince Harry will be in town. So too will Russel Crowe, who returns to Turkey after doing a sterling job on entwining Australian and Turkish WW1 stories born of the Gallipoli Campaign in, The Water Diviner, known in Turkey as Son Umut (2014).

Prince Harry is hot

Photo: Will having a sign like this earn me a hand in marriage high-five from Prince Harry?

If you’re not an Australian or a New Zealander, then ANZAC Day may be a foreign concept to you. ANZAC Day is like your Veterans Day, Memorial Day, or Remembrance Day – our day “down under” to patriotically honour the men and women who served, fought and died for our countries in the military missions throughout history.

So important is this day, that it’s a declared a national holiday in Australia and New Zealand. In most cities and towns, governments will host memorial services and marches to honour the significance of the day in defining our national identities.

ANZAC Day itself commemorates the crucial events on Turkish soil when the (then) young countries of Australia and New Zealand first engaged in battle on an international front. This occurred in the early hours of April 25, 1915, when a long-awaited ground invasion of Allied forces stormed the Western shores of the Gallipoli Peninsula in an attempt to conquer the Dardanelles – the strategic geographic gateway linking the Aegean and Marmara seas.

Gallipoli

Photo: Location of the Dardanelles and the landing area for ANZAC troops labelled with  “ANZAC Cove”.

Approximately 4,000 ANZAC troops of the 3rd Brigade were first ashore near Ari Burnu as the Allied “covering force” around 4am. By nightfall over 20,000 ANZAC, British and French soldiers were ashore in armed combat on the Gallipoli Peninsula* against the army of the Ottoman Empire, that included one Colonel Mustafa Kemal.

The British Empire, leading the ANZAC troops, believed defeating the Ottomans over the Dardanelles would provide passage to the capital of the Ottoman Empire – Constantinople (today’s Istanbul). First take the land-based forts and batteries lining the Dardanelles, then sail the Royal Navy down the strait to the capital. The strategy, envisioned through rose-coloured glasses, assumed a multi-pronged victory; Capture of the supply routes to Russia via the Bosphorus and Black Sea, and create a new frontier from the east to support existing battles on the Western Front in Europe.

The landings on April 25 were a follow-up to the unsuccessful Anglo-French naval charge to Constantinople at the head of the Dardanelles on March 18, 1915. Victory by the Ottoman Army that day is now celebrated annually in Turkey as Çanakkale Victory Day or Martyr’s Day.

The Gallipoli landings and subsequent nine-month campaign evoked a series of well-documented heroic stories, but, the Gallipoli Campaign in truth was a military failure for the Allies. Many mishaps were brought on by poor planning or execution and an underestimation of the full strength of the Ottoman forces.

The major error pertinent to the ANZAC’s campaign involved their landing boats on the morning of April 25. The pinnaces towing the “covering force” ashore drifted further north than their intended targets at Gaba Tepe and the 4,000 ANZACS troops landed at the foot of soaring sandstone terrain adjacent to the areas now known as Ari Burnu, ANZAC Cove and North Beach. The landscape alone was not the issue, the majority of the covering force troops were greeted by snipers and heavy machine gun fire – many did not survive.

Gallipoli Peninsula

Photo: The terrain that greeted the ANZAC troops.

What followed was utter confusion, dispersed battalions and an abandonment of original plans to take Mal Tepe on the high ground by the end of day one (April 25). Over the following months, soldiers fought largely on foot over the cliffs, ridges and plateaus of the peninsula. Many hours were spent digging trenches to protect soldiers and enable supply routes through the treacherous terrain. The amount of tunnelling and digging that took place earned the ANZAC troops the nickname, “the diggers,” which is a name you’ll hear today to describe Australian armed forces.

Lady luck rarely struck the Allies on the peninsula for the remainder of the campaign.* By November 1915, with deteriorating weather conditions and an increase in Ottoman strength, the British Empire finally succumbed to the enormity of the target and ordered a mass evacuation involving over 140,000 troops, horses and artillery. The majority of troops were evacuated over four nights in December with the last of the British and French soldiers leaving the peninsula on January 9, 1916.  The evacuation to the Aegean Sea was met with little resistance and causalities were minimal – a rare military success in the whole campaign.

Leaving in its wake, an estimated 392,856 causalities of Allied and Ottomans soldiers (130,842 deaths and 262,014 wounded). Almost half of these were Ottoman casualties.  As for Australia, of the 50,000 men who made it to Gallipoli, over half of them were casualties of war (8,709 deaths and 19,441 wounded). New Zealanders, with a smaller contingent of around 14,000 men also suffered a high causality rate with 2,779 killed and 5,212 wounded (almost 8,000 casualties).

Also in the wake of the campaign were thousands of Gallipoli legacies. Stories of Australian and Turkish heroes and of “mateship” that formed across enemy trenches – just metres apart. Stories of bravery and tragedy etched in diaries and letters of those who were there. Photos preserved from the past that tell their own story. Legendary stories of ceasefire days (to bury the dead and collect the injured) where the “Johnnys and Mehmets” (ANZACs and Ottomans) exchanged cigarettes, chocolate and played football (or cricket – depending on which side of the story is told). These words and these legacies, along with the acknowledgement that the Gallipoli Campaign was a bloody battle that should have been avoided, is what binds Australia, New Zealand and Turkey today.

My Australian uncle recently asked me, “Why don’t the Turks dislike Australians? We invaded their lands and killed their people.”  The words of Gallipoli’s Colonel Mustafa Kemal who went onto become Atatürk – the father of modern day Turkey and first President of the Republic of Turkey – came to my mind.

Those heroes that shed their blood and lost their lives… You are now lying in the soil of a friendly country. Therefore rest in peace. There is no difference between the Johnnies and the Mehmets to us where they lie side by side now here in this country of ours… you, the mothers, who sent their sons from faraway countries wipe away your tears; your sons are now lying in our bosom and are in peace. After having lost their lives on this land they have become our sons as well.

The ANZACS are Turkish sons too are words of great forgiveness. And, when respected leaders show great forgiveness, their people will follow and friendships are formed.

One of the benefits of living in Turkey as an Australian is hearing the Ottoman side of the war and forming a greater view of what the war meant for all our countries. What most Australians don’t realise is that all three countries began to form their modern-day identities – their national identities – in those eight months at Gallipoli in 1915. It wasn’t just a defining event for Aussies and Kiwis – it was also for the country we now openly visit and love (and call home) called, Türkiye (Turkey).

The thousands of Aussies and Kiwis due to land in Turkey this month will carry their own stories with them. Some may even hold the possessions or replicas of those who fought or served at Gallipoli. I will be joining them and my Turkish friends, some of them descendants of the campaign, are keen to meet them. I will be at Canakkale proudly baring the replica medals of my great granduncle, George Albert Fearn, who was part of the covering force with Western Australian 11th Battalion, B Company.

George came ashore in the second wave of landings – the wave that came under the heaviest fire once the Ottomans were alerted to the ANZAC arrivals. Many of the men he landed with did not make it to the beach, yet he survived the entire campaign, and for this I am extremely proud to represent him and my family near Gallipoli among my friends – the modern day Johnnys and Mehmets – who will be with me as the sun rises behind the peninsula signifying 100 years since our ANZAC “fathers” first touched Turkish soil.

Lest we forget.

* For more information about the whole campaign, including the role of the British, French and other Allies visit the excellent websites: www.gallipoli.gov.au; www.abc.net.auwww.awm.gov.auhttp://discoveringanzacs.naa.gov.au; and www.anzacwebsites.com.

Come back tomorrow to read, 16 tips for visiting Istanbul for the ANZAC centenary– a post for Aussies and Kiwis coming to Istanbul for the ANZAC centenary.

74 Lessons from 5 years in Turkey

one-does-not-yc1utmI hit my five year anniversary of living in Turkey this week and so, in my moment of reflection, I brainstormed all the memories and things I learned since arriving. I normally write about my lessons from Turkey, but really – they mount up – I can’t keep up! These lessons are obviously skewed to my gender and neighborhood, so feel free to add yours in the comments section below.

  1. Having an excellent Turkish vocabulary does not mean your Turkish is fluent.
  2. Attempting to speak a new sentence with your çok az (very little) Turkish will fail 99.9% of the time.
  3. Six months will be spent waiting to apply and receive your ikamet (resident card).
  4. Several hours will be spent learning to pronounce: Yabancılar Şube Müdürlüğü (the place where you get your resident card).
  5. Getting your ikamet can be a convoluted process, but still somewhat easier and far cheaper than most other countries.
  6. Most mornings will involve checking your Facebook and Twitter accounts by switching on your VPN.
  7. You know what a VPN is. You didn’t before moving to Turkey.
  8. Your friends and family back home are also learning what a VPN is and are considering getting one too.
  9. Fleecy pazar (street market) pants for 10TL are the best pants you’ll ever wear while you work (from home).
  10. Allowing the greengrocer to pick your fruit and vegetables means getting the goods with the mold.
  11. Once the greengrocer knows you’re “local” this will stop.
  12. You can’t find self-raising flour in the shops (but you can find the recipe online to make it yourself) .
  13. You can find coriander in the local street markets for 2TL.
  14. The location of sweet potatoes is still a mystery.
  15. Everything else you seek is generally found at Eminönü – between the Spice Bazaar and Grand Bazaar.
  16. An environmentally friendly canvas bag at a check-out in a supermarket will earn you awkward looks.
  17. Bruce Lee reflexes and speed are required to pack a shopping bag at the supermarket before the next customer starts packing theirs.
  18. It is possible to pick the nationality of someone just by looking at them.
  19. When there are no prices on items the seller will judge your income by the way you look and price accordingly.
  20. There is such a thing as yabancı (foreign) tax – it’s when you’re charged more for being obviously foreign.
  21. Yabancı tax is high on apartments on Craigslist.
  22. New foreigners to town will still pay it unaware of the prices on sahibinden.com
  23. Hairdressers in expat-dense neighborhoods may also be guilty of yabancı tax.
  24. Hairdressers will almost always be male.
  25. It’s possible for two men to work on your hair, with one woman doing your pedicure and another woman doing your manicure – all at the same time.
  26. Pushing and shoving people to get off a tram/train when people are trying to get on is perfectly acceptable behaviour.
  27. It’s possible that Istanbul bus drivers are in fact retired F1 drivers in disguise.
  28. It’s possible to drive a dolmuş (shared taxi) whilst on the phone, collecting money and smoking cigarette (simultaneously).
  29. Dolmuş literally means “stuffed”.
  30. Figuratively speaking a dolumuş is also “stuffed”.
  31. A taxi from Taksim to Sultanahmet is about 15TL max…never 20TL.
  32. Transport across two continents is as little as 1.65TL (60 US cents).
  33. Wearing headphones whilst walking near the tram line on Istiklal Street is not a good idea.
  34. Zebra crossings are for cars to speed up – not to slow down and stop.
  35. The Metrobus is possibly the densest “person per square meter” space you’ll ever experience in your life.
  36. Unless you find yourself at Kurukahveci Mehmet Efendi coffee shop in Eminönü on Saturday afternoon.
  37. The Sirkeci Marmaray line is possibly the deepest Metro station you’ll ever visit.
  38. The Metro lines should not be taken when tear gas is flying around upstairs.
  39. Tear gas certainly does tickle.
  40. The answer to, “But don’t you feel unsafe living in Turkey?” is still, “No.”
  41. The probability of being attacked by a drunk or a person on drugs in the West (or shot at in the USA) seems far greater than being attacked in Istanbul…in my opinion.
  42. Reporting a crime at a Turkish police station can earn you a police report.
  43. … and a friend request on Facebook the next day from the officer who took your report.
  44. You can sign up to online dating websites with no photo and no description and still get 100 likes overnight.
  45. Most of them will be married.
  46. Men will stare if you’re a blonde, brunette, or redhead – covered skin or uncovered.
  47. Ignore it – that’s generational stuff you’re never going to solve in your time here.
  48. Being a blonde in Aksaray is a beacon for Russian speaking sellers and businessmen wanting to “take you out for tea”.
  49. Nine out of 10 relationships that started in Sultanahmet will not work out.
  50. “Tsk” doesn’t mean you offended a friend, it can simply mean, “No.”…I think.
  51. “Allah Allah,” can be used to express anything from, “You annoy me,” to, “You’re hilarious, yani.”
  52. Yani does not mean, “my friend.” Nor is it a person’s name.
  53. At dinner time, it’s polite to always serve bread to Turkish friends.
  54. …even with Asian noodles.
  55. Saying, “I live in Fatih,” is met with a long and puzzling pause, followed by, “Why would you live there?”
  56. Saying, “I live in Cihangir,” is met with, “My god, that must be expensive. Why would you live there?”
  57. Someone is reading this list and asking, “But what about the Asian side?”
  58. Moving into a new empty apartment with lots of men delivering furniture and switching on services can be mistaken by conservative neighbors as, “The yabancı next door is a prostitute.”
  59. Internations expat only events are actually a great way to meet other foreigners in Istanbul.
  60. Those Internations twinkles from “Indian pilots” are still annoying.
  61. To understand the diversity of people in Turkey, you do need to ask questions about those taboo topics.
  62. Ask more than one person to get a balanced view…and ask in private situations.
  63. Explaining the fascinating facets of your life in Turkey to friends back home is almost impossible to do.
  64. But, doing so will have them booking a ticket to come experience the country themselves.
  65. There are far more people in Turkey willing to help you, rather than take advantage of you.
  66. Travelling to other parts of the world will make you miss Turkish hospitality…
  67. And the food…(ciğ köfte and kaymak – but obviously not served together!)
  68. And the hamams (Turkish bath)…
  69. And the hairdressers…
  70. And everything I listed here.
  71. It’s possible the friends and experiences you have in Turkey will become the fondest memories of your life.
  72. Istanbul is unlike any other city. She pushes you away and pulls you back in. She nurtures you and challenges you. She may in fact, with time, be your greatest love in life.
  73. Even Napoleon Bonaparte believed Istanbul should be the capital of the world.
  74. And maybe it should be!