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  • Writer's pictureElise K. Ackers

Free-falling, Trojans, and ANZAC poppies

Today I visited Gallipoli. As an Australian, as a student of history, and as a human being – the place moved me. I left there feeling many things, but mostly gratitude. Gratitude that I could be in this country and be welcomed warmly, gratitude that men and women laid down their lives so that we might live as we choose. I am honoured to have been to such a place, even though the earth was once damp with blood and the air thick with screams and gunfire.

Because it wasn’t all bad.

I learned of kindness which occurred during the ceasefires, of mateship and courage. I heard the story of the Australian soldier who took a piece from the lone pine home and grew it, who then returned with a piece when the original tree died. It’s kind of like its grandson stands there now.

I saw the Turkish memorials, and the New Zealand ones. I paid my respects, I re-read Ataturk’s wonderful words to the mothers of our diggers, and I listened. It’s so peaceful there. The waves were soft, the poppies were brilliant red in the sunshine. Those who never left can be at peace there.

In other news, I’ve ticked a few other things off the bucket list.

Namely the library at Ephesus, the ruins of Troy, the cotton castles of Pammukale, and the Altar of Zeus. Oh, and I leapt off a 2,000 metre high mountain – how could I have forgotten that?

The cotton castles were interesting natural formations caused by calcium-rich water. It was a hot day when we visited, made hotter by the thirty-odd degree spring waters. I traipsed up and down the spectacular amphitheater, shuffled through the pools and took an unexpected ride out to ancient coffins and tombs. I don’t know how I did it all without passing out, but it was excellent.

Ephesus was excellent. Just… excellent. I’ve wanted to see the library at Ephesus for as long as I can remember, and when it happened – when I was standing there – I couldn’t quite come to terms with it. So I sat and soaked it all in. Spent very little time with the group, as I lingered in a lot of places and charged ahead to others. Another scorching day, and walking on marble made things twice as toasty. I was also hot under the collar after hearing that Antony gave all the books and scrolls from Ephesus to Cleopatra as a wedding gift. These were later lost – burned, pillaged. In short, he gave away his people’s knowledge for love.

There’s romance, and then there’s that.

I visited a night bazaar, which was brilliant fun. My jewellery collection grows. I can justify it by saying such items take up little space and add little weight, yet if I were to display all my jewellery, I could rival one of those shops. That’s all I’m saying on that.

Troy was everything I hoped it would be. More, even. My tour manager warned me that I might be disappointed, but I wasn’t expecting the likes of Pergamon or Ephesus – I knew there was little left. And yet there was so much. And a turtle. Of all things to be following me around Turkey, I keep seeing turtles. I loved the ruins, and had a ball with the Trojan Horse. Everyone was sticking their heads out of the windows and smiling, but not me – I race up there, throw my upper body out the window, thrust my finger forward and yell ‘Charge!’

It may just be my favourite photo ever.

I para-sailed, too. Leapt right off the top of a 2,000 meter high mountain and sailed around for forty minutes. Fethiye is gorgeous from the air.

I’ve been sick for a few days, so there was a time I was struggling to speak in complete sentences, but I’ve bounced back and I’m ready for the rest. Today’s our last day of the Turkey Explored trip. Tonight we hit Istanbul’s Grand Bazaar, then we have our last group dinner and part ways in the morning. I have a little bit of downtime, then I’m flying back to Fethiye – the British resort town where my gullet cruise departs.

A whole week sailing the gorgeous Mediterranean coastline, swimming over ruins, diving into history, and contemplating the stars.

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