Sunday, May 11, 2008

Best of the Wurst!

We left the house for Berlin last Saturday at the ridiculously early hour of 4:30am (!) in order to make the most of our May Day long weekend. When we arrived in Berlin we were tired but excited, we found our hostel relatively easily despite bus strikes as I had stayed there before. We checked in, stored our bag in the left luggage room and made a bee line for the TV tower and Alexanderplatz. We had been blessed with an amazing day and thought what better way to kick start our time in Berlin then high above its skyline within the TV Tower. Unfortunately, the entire population of Berlin had, had the same idea and after 15 minutes of not moving in the line we felt our time would be better spent wandering down to Check point Charlie before our 3pm walking tour.

At Checkpoint Charlie we took all the standard pictures, had our first currywurst and read most of the information displayed around what had originally been the death strip before heading to Hackerscher Markt for our 4 hour walking tour. Our walking tour was amazing (despite one very annoying New Zealander who couldnt help asking mundane, pointless questions), our tour covered most of the significant sights of Berlin including the Muesum Island, Bebelplatz, Gendarmenmarkt, Checkpoint Charlie, Hitler's Bunker, The Holocast Memorial and ending at the amazing Brandenburg Tor. At the conclusion of the tour J and I rolled around the corner for a quick happy snap at Reinstag before starting our walk back to Hackerscher Markt where we had a traditional Berlin dinner; pork meatballs for bec, and another currywurst for J. We then headed back to the hostel bar where we washed down our meals with some good ol' fashioned draft German ale.

The next morning we had a bit of a sleep in (finally bec won one!!!) and headed out to the east side gallery at around 9ish. There we were treated to the 1.3km stretch of the wall decorated by artists from around the world, particularly favourites (despite the graffiti) were Test the Best and The Kiss. Afterwards we headed to the Checkpoint Charlie muesum where we learnt all about the escape attempts and J was able to satisfy his passport stamp fetish by paying a few euro for all the stamps from the time of the wall. We then continued on to the Topography of Terror Muesum before returning to the Holocast memorial for some pretty inappropriate photos. From there a quick tube ride saw us travel to the last preserved section of the death strip and visit to the DDR muesum, where J got to sit in a Trabi car and see some boobies in an exhibit without any explanation! We then ended our busy day with a few beers at Bec's beloved ampleman bar before eating the most amazing steak at a Berlin chain known as the blockhouse.

We rose early on our final day in order to make our 9am breakfast reservation at the Reinstag restaurant, only to arrive, be seated and then ignored! I blame J's jeans! Hehe. However, making the reservation did help us to skip the enormous queue of people waiting to enter, something a strongly advise you do if wishing to visit the Reinstag. Afterward, we headed down to Pariser Platz for breakfast and contemplated what we would do for the rest of the day. In the end we decided to visit Postdamer Platz via the Holocast memorial and finish with a leisurely cruise of the River Spree. We spent our last hour in the sun, drinking Berliner's at ampleman bar, what more could you want?

At checkpoint Charlie (West Berlin side)

First of the wurst.... ;)

At the Brandenburg Tor.

Being silly....

Us at the east side gallery - Test the Best is the artwork!

Inappropriate photo from the Holocast Memorial

and another.

Out the front of the Reinstag

Inside the glass dome of the Reinstag - Can you spot us?

Bec at Ampleman Bar! I tried desperately to get J to buy me one of these deck chairs, but at 40 euro and the difficult task of getting it home he won that argument!

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Lest We Forget

We arrived in Istanbul late Saturday, we had a quick induction with our loopy-lou tour guide, dropped our bags and went to sniff out some local Turkish ale. After managing it across the road and to the corner we came across a pub with some friendly locals. So friendly in fact that they even took me on a spin around the local area on their motorbike, an excellent idea whilst tipsy and without travel insurance. We also spent some of the night hunting out a kebab stumbling across a hashish bar where many a parlour trick were performed and we went up in smoke like cheech and chong!

The next day we had a city tour of Istanbul, which included visits to the Blue Mosque, Hippodrome, Topkapi Palace and the Underground Cistern. We spent our free time in the afternoon wandering and shopping in the labyrinth that is the Grand Bazaar as well as drinking in another pub watching some very interesting attempts at driving. We then spent the night held hostage upon a Bosphorus Cruise where we were subjected to some pretty bad dance music most of the night. However all jokes aside it was fantastic to make some new friends whilst travelling down the strait that separates Asia and Europe!

Day 3 saw us travel 5 hours to Gallipoli where we visited all the memorable sites including Kabatepe War Museum, Anzac Cove, Chunuk Bair, Lone Pine and some of the remaining trenches. We were surprised at the small size of the commemorative site and appreciated visiting these locations without all the crowds. We then spent another 4 hours on our bus travelling to Ayvalik, our sea side resort for the next two nights. The next morning we left for Pergamum, were we discovered the Greek acropolis including the Temple of Athena, Temple of Trajan and theatre cut into the hillside. We returned to our hotel for a Turkish style BBQ, a dip in the pool complete with water slide and a cold beer from our makeshift esky. Very quickly the night turned into morning and just like the previous day we ended up in the "packed out" discotheque boogie-ing the night away.

After much pestering of our guide to be amongst the first at Gallipoli including threats of leaving without him, we departed Ayvalik bright and early. We made our way to the commemorative site stopping at Troy for a quick whirlwind visit, and while it was nice, it was as one tourist was overhead saying 'just rocks'. However all our nagging and racing to the site seemed pointless when we arrived at Gallipoli at 1:30pm only to be told they would be not opening entrance until after 3pm. But, somehow through pure luck, faith or chance we managed to sneak in and found that we were the 3rd bus to enter the site and literally had free picks of the grass. After much debate we found our home for the evening and rolled out the sleeping bags preparing for the hard 16 hours ahead. Being at the dawn service is something words and images do not capture, as cliched as it is, it really needs to be seen to believed. As the last post is played, the national anthem sung and you look up at those sharp, terrifying cliffs that 93 years earlier many sons, fathers and husbands were pointlessly forced to climb you are overcome with a wave of emotions. Many a tear was shed at this moving ceremony and the proceeding national New Zealand and Australian services at Chunuk Bair and Lone Pine, respectively. We both feel fortunate to have made the pilgrimage to Anzac Cove and it is safe to say it is something we will never forget.

I was wrapped in the Blue Mosque!

Where east meets west. J and I at Topkapi Palace lookout that views the strait connecting Europe and Asia.

Us at the Beach Cemetry Memorial

At Lone Pine.

In the trenches at Chunuk Bair.

J and I's tags for entrance to the commerative site, we were 144 and 167 (respectively) of 10,000.

Bed for the night...

Sunset over Anzac Cove

Dressed in Australia paraphernalia (and the rest) from head to toe and I was still freezing, although minus 3 overnight will do that to you!

Cold and tired after the Dawn Service at lone pine.