So when Leeds University gifts you with one month of holidays there is only one thing you can do – make the most of it!! After returning from Spain and spending a few days in Leeds studying, it was time to head overseas again! We were flying out of Liverpool so Georgia and I took the chance to visit the Beatles Museum.
After our quick foray to Liverpool we left for Rhodes, Greece. Rhodes is a large island in the southeast of Greece with lots of historical ruins. Old Rhodes town is so cool with heaps of little restaurants and shops amongst the ruins.
We also got to go to the beach but the water was really cold. It’s still Spring here so there weren’t a tonne of tourists. It was good to see Rhodes while it was a bit quiet.
After two days of sightseeing, we boarded our ferry (read cruise liner!!!) to Athens. It was a really long ferry ride and, because it was overnight, we didn’t get a great sleep on the couches. But it was so cool cruising the Mediterranean!
The next morning, we spent a few hours waiting in Athens and boarded our second ferry to Samos. Samos is the island that my family are from and it was so incredible to see them after 12 years. We spent the week visiting all the sites around Samos and it was just so lovely. It was also my yiayia’s (grandma in Greek) 75th birthday so I’m glad I was there to celebrate with her.
We went to Karlovassi, Vathi, Pythogoria (the home of Pythagoras), Hora (where my cousins live) and Mitilini (where my great aunt and more cousins live). The whole island is so beautiful and even though the weather wasn’t great, we had a really amazing time! I swear Georgia and I ate our body weight in Greek food!
Then it was time to move on to Turkey. We joined our tour at Kusadasi and went out to get to know our tour group. There was a great mix of 20-something expats working in the UK, some couples, a family and a retired couple from Brisbane.
Over the next two days we visited the ancient city of Pergamon – the site of the second largest library of the ancient world – and Troy. There were actually nine Troys, all built on top of each other as different empires conquered the site.
And finally, it was time for the event we had gone to Turkey to experience… ANZAC Day. We got to Gallipoli Peninsular in the afternoon and visited the museum. There were artefacts from all around the battlefields, including some remains (which were really eerie). There were bullets that had collided mid-air and an outfit worn by Ataturk, the founder of the Republic of Turkey.
We headed up to Lone Pine, the Nek and Chunuk Bair – all sites of major battles during the Gallipoli campaign. Once we made it to ANZAC Cove, we went through security, received our souvenir bags and found an area to sit in. Most of the other tours had been there for hours so we didn’t get a spot on the grass. We had made a pact not to complain and every time we were feeling tired, uncomfortable or cold we would say, “think of the ANZACs”.
There was a schedule of air force band performances, documentary clips, live interviews and addresses from the Prime Ministers. We learnt so much about Gallipoli but the most important part I learnt about was the Turkish losses. The Australian lost around 8000 men, the allied forces (including Australia, NZ, Britain) lost just under 45,000. But the Turkish lost over 85,000!!!! We never learn about that in the Australian history curriculum…
Georgia got 20 minutes of sleep on the wooden floor of the grandstands but I got none. I was sitting there in thermals, my ski jacket and sleeping bag and was still cold. Apparently, with wind chill, it got down to around negative 3… brrrrrr.
At 5am the Dawn Service commenced. It was so emotional being in the same place where the ANZACs came ashore in 1915. After the service, we walked up to Lone Pine for the Australian Service. We had a really great view and even though we were all overtired, we sang along to “we are one”, “home among the gumtrees” and other Aussie classics. The services were really well done and I now have an entirely new level of respect for ANZAC Day and what it stands for. If anyone is planning on heading to Europe for a semester one exchange, I’d absolutely recommend ANZAC Day. I can’t even find the words, but it was just… you’ll understand if you ever go. When the Turkish and New Zealand services finished at 1pm, we left the peninsular to make our way to Istanbul.
Istanbul is a busy and sometimes crazy place! Girls, be warned, you will be stared at, whistled at and shop keepers will make highly inappropriate comments – consider yourselves warned. Most of it is light hearted and we tried to explain away their offensive comments by telling ourselves they didn’t really have a good grasp of English. First up, we visited Hagia Sophia, which was absolutely incredible!
Then we went to the Blue Mosque which was also really impressive. There are a lot of mosques and we heard the sounds of the “call to prayer” echoing though the city five times a day. The shopping at the grand bazaar was really great and we certainly did our bit to “support the local economy”.
And so, after our amazing trip to Greece and Turkey, we boarded our flight bound for London. Georgia and I decided that we would catch a matinee session of something on West End and we were really lucky because Billy Elliot was playing! It was such a good show and the little boy was so talented!
After the show, we went to look at all the Royal Wedding Eve campers outside Buckingham and Westminster. Some people are NUTS! There was literally a whole lot of tents camped at the best vantage points, some had been there for days. After our recent ANZAC sleep out, we weren’t quite ready to brave the elements and opted to go back to Kim’s house to get a good night sleep before the big day.
We got up the next morning and made our way to Hyde Park. We got a great spot near the screens, laid out our picnic rug, cheese, crackers and drinks. It was just perfect! Experiencing the wedding with over 200,000 people waving union jacks in the air and cheering every time Kate came on the screen really was a once in a lifetime experience.
We had the most amazing day and the only way to end it was by going to see Tim Minchin perform in the Royal Albert Hall. He was absolutely hilarious and we really enjoyed the show.
So, now I’m back in Leeds. It’s good to be back with clean clothes, all my stuff and my hall mates! Now it’s time to knuckle down on my essays and do all my uni work. I have three essays, one due Thursday and two due Friday! I’m pretty sure that after the highs of Greece, ANZAC Day and the Royal Wedding I am about to experience some sort of sever psychological crash from not having all these exciting things happen in quick succession any more. Thankfully, assignment wise, I’ve got a good start on all of them so I’m sure I’ll be handing them all in on time. Wish me luck!