Like you, Michael Palin, I too am afflicted. My remedy was to organise a trip to Europe, visiting some places on my list that I hadn’t yet ventured to.
After a stopover in Dubai that included a sunset taken in from high in the Burj Khalifa, Garry and I arrived in Istanbul. I immediately fell in love with this city where Europe meets Asia straddling the Bosphorus Strait. What’s not to love – the hospitality, humour and patience of the locals, the centuries of history to discover, beautiful sunsets from the rooftops, the amazingly diverse cuisine, and the early morning wake up calls as the many mosques sound their calls to prayer – no need for an alarm clock here!
Visits to the Blue Mosque, Hagia Sophia, the Hippodrome, Topkapi Palace, Dolmabahce Palace, Kariye Museum, Galata Tower and the Basilica Cisterns unfold the layers of history from underground to the tip of the minarets. The local trams, trains and funiculars are a great inexpensive way to get around and a cruise up the Bosphorus provides another perspective. An obvious visit was to the Grand Bazaar, built in the 15th century, with over 13 acres of covered market stalls. However, it was the 350 year old Spice Bazaar that enchanted me with its enticing aromas of spices and teas – some incredible delis there as well.
From Istanbul we travelled to the Gallipoli Peninsula, staying in the town of Cannakale for 3 nights, giving us plenty of time to explore the memorials, sites and landscapes. These days were very emotional but insightful – it is impossible to put into words how you feel standing before the Lone Pine grave of a 16 year old who gave his life. The highlight for me was a Dawn Service at which we were able to take part – I read a poem I had written.
Then it was back to my love of ancient history. Visits to Troy, Pergamum, Ephesus and Aphrodisias brought my school book knowledge to life. Added bonuses were driving through some stunning scenery and staying at the most pleasant seaside resort of Kusedasi. Some parasailing and dips in the Aegean kept us cool.
At we were able to wade in the limestone travertines that have been formed by thermal springs. A most unique experience was swimming amongst ruins in the ancient Roman pools of the city of Hieropolis dat ing back to the 2nd century BC. As well as having an invigorating thermal mineral pool our hotel was memorable for its Turkish to English translations: Classic example – “Entering the bathroom and when you leave we need to shoot them”. We think this had something to do with “killing the light switch”!
This is part 1 in a 6-part Series, Thanks to Betty Fielding for the great article.