Favourite Song Friday – Gabriel

Today is my wedding anniversary so this is a mushy Favourite Song Friday:

In Your Eyes by Peter Gabriel

Who remembers John Cusack in the very forgettable movie Say Anything, standing with his boom box held high playing this song, wearing his heart on sleeve trying to impress his young love?

Life in Camelot - Favourite Song Friday, Peter Gabriel's In Your Eyes

Peter Gabriel’s album SO was released in 1986 and this was the year I travelled overseas as a young backpacker.  I played that cassette over and over until the music became part of my euphoric European experience so this song, in particular, will always be one of my favourites.

I still play this song when I travel, with my husband instead of a backpack, but now it is on an Apple iPod rather than a Sony Walkman.

The lyrics are lovely and the melody is haunting so join me, on my wedding anniversary, in reminiscing with this Favourite Song Friday.

 

 

Time travel (how I wish I could)

“The bad news is time flies. The good news is you’re the pilot.” – Michael Althsuler

This weekend marks the 30th anniversary of the start of my big overseas backpacking adventure.

On September 9th 1986, at a very tender age, I set off alone into the wild blue yonder.

I had lots of time, and not a great deal of money, to travel the world and experience what I could.

I said goodbye to Mum and Dad and did what many young Australians did in the 1980s – put on a backpack and travelled to the other side of the world with a vague plan to see Europe.

I had purchased a return ticket (which I eventually extended by a month),

I had one friend in England

and not a clue about what to expect on my travels.

qantas-ticket

Life in Camelot’s ticket to adventure

inside-qantas-ticket

Life in Camelot’s ticket to adventure

I marvelled at seeing Mother England,

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Life in Camelot and a Beefeater at the Tower of London

where the east coast beaches had no sand, just rocks!

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Life in Camelot at Snape Moultings in Suffolk, England

Then popped across to the Emerald Isle, which was great craic…

Genevieve & Mary - Ring of Kerry, Ireland 1986 (2)

Life in Camelot and Mary in Ireland

Then I launched myself across the English Channel, alone, and was less than impressed with Paris, or more accurately, with the way I couldn’t communicate with the Parisians.

I stopped off in Nice and Monte Carlo (where I met fellow Australian travellers) and then continued on eastwards to Italy.

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Life in Camelot with fellow travellers in Monte Carlo

The journey only got better from there because…

…Italy was gorgeous,

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Life in Camelot and Mathew at Trevi Fountain, Rome.

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Life in Camelot at the top of St Peter’s Basilica, Vatican.

Greece was marvellous,

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Life In Camelot with Michelle and Mike, American backpackers.

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Life In Camelot with fellow international backpackers in Santorini.

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Life In Camelot at Thira, Santorini

and Turkey was sensational.

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Life In Camelot in Turkey

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Life In Camelot in Marmaris, Turkey.

Haga Sofia  Istanbul  Turkey - 1986

Life In Camelot in Istanbul.

Genevieve at Turkish Wedding in Izmir  Turkey - 1986

Life In Camelot at Turkish wedding in Izmir

Genevieve at dinner with Erol and friends - Turkey 1986

Life In Camelot in Kusadasi with Australian and Turkish friends.

But the months passed, the northern winter approached and I was getting colder, more homesick and very low on money.

So I headed westward through the same countries and returned to the United Kingdom to travel a bit more (with my fiance who’d flown over to spend Christmas with me) before going home to Sydney, Australia.

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Life In Camelot at Loch Lochy, Scottish Highlands

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Life In Camelot in Scottish Highlands

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Life In Camelot, Aviemore, Scottish Highlands

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Life In Camelot, Twickenham, England.

Over the years I have been lucky enough to return to all of those countries, apart from Ireland, but I do plan on returning to them as many more times as I can, as well as all the other countries on my long list.

30 years later I might have a bit more money but also less time to travel as much as I’d like.

I do wish I could travel back in time to relive that wonderful journey with the knowledge I now have, but until that becomes a possibility, I have my photos and more importantly, my memories of my grand adventure.

“Memory is the diary we all carry about with us.” – Oscar Wilde

The Luck of the Irish (and other quotes)

Bless your little Irish heart and every other Irish part.

I boarded a Qantas jet in Sydney with a return ticket to London, a 3 month Eurail pass and my sister’s backpack.

I wore my red Reeboks, a camel duffel coat with toggles and a dodgy haircut.  It was the late 80s and I was ready for my European adventure.

But the continent could wait as my English friend Mary was keen to show me the land of her Irish parents so after heading up to Woodbridge in Suffolk to meet her, we set off for the Emerald Isle.

We travelled by train across to Holyhead, Anglesey in North Wales, then ferried across the Irish Sea to Dun Laoghaire, and arrived at dawn.

Dun Laoghaire at dawn, Ireland 1986

We were whisked away by Mary’s welcoming relatives who fed us bacon and eggs and homemade soda bread and put us to  bed for a few hours.

Then we set off to Stillorgan for our first night in Ireland.

Bus travel in Ireland, 1986

God Invented Whisky to Keep the Irish from Ruling the World.

Our destination was the St John of God hospital and seminary run by the Christian Brothers who manage hospitals and missions all over the world.

As luck would have it Mary’s brother was a Christian Brother who had been living and working in South Korea and was back in Ireland for a visit with a Korean delegation so celebrations were in order.

We were treated to an Irish-Korean cross cultural feast that had all the main dishes accompanied by potatoes and rice, and they were then washed down with Irish whisky and Korean soju.

We donned traditional Korean costume (Hanbok) whilst a well-known Korean opera singer entertained us.  Then we rolled up the sleeves on our Hanboks to clap along with traditional Irish folk music and swayed our skirts to the haunting melody of Danny Boy, sung in Korean.

Wearing Hanboks for Korean night in Ireland - 1986

After disentangling ourselves from our Hanboks we said goodnight and Jal Ja to the Brothers (some of them who were beginning to look irreverantly handsome to me at this stage of the evening) and headed over to the hospital to sleep.

As luck would have it there was only space for us to sleep in the alcoholic ward but we trusted that the Brothers had our best interests at heart.  And so it came to be that we were locked into that wing of the hospital, for our own safety, and were then rudely awakened by the fire alarm in the small hours of the morning, not long after we’d fallen into an alcohol induced sleep.

I was very concerned by the residents of the ward as they milled back and forth past our peephole; presumably they were also locked into the ward and didn’t know what to do.  Mary appeared calm whilst I imagined the flames flickering away, just beyond our corridor, and the smoke induced coma that would envelop the Irish, the Koreans and this young Australian backpacker with a promising future.

I hoped to be saved by a handsome young Christian brother – or anyone, for that matter.

A good laugh and a long sleep are the two best cures.

After escaping a fiery demise we considered our hangovers to be a blessing and bid the Brothers farewell as we headed off to Dublin.

The Gaelic football finals were on the following day and the streets were a sea of red and white for Tyrone, and green and gold for Kerry, which I felt more partial to because of the Australian colours.

As we celebrated into the night at O’Donohue’s pub I had to ask Mary to translate many a conversation as the brogues around me were thicker than my Bailey’s Irish cream.

Love may make the world go round, but not as fast as whisky. (Richard Harris)

Dublin was a bit anti-climactic after such a big night so we hopped on a train to Tralee, saw Dingle briefly and then moved on to Killarney, in the ring of Kerry.

Genevieve & Mary - Ring of Kerry, Ireland 1986 (2)

Upon arrival at the train station in Killarney Mary and I were whisked off our feet, along with our bags, by a couple of guys in a blue minibus.  Mary was sanguine about this heist as they said they were from the 4 Winds Hostel, which was where we were headed.  I was very reluctant to jump in a van with two complete strangers, but Mary was responding calmly to our hijacking whilst I contemplated the best way to jump from a moving vehicle.

When we were delivered safely to the hostel, Mary continued to smile and wink at me as though I should know why.  Then I saw the driver.  I looked at his dark celtic features and knew that she had fallen under the spell of his looks, and I averted my gaze so I wouldn’t fall too.  He was far too good looking to be a serial killer.  That night, over many drinks at the Danny Mann pub, Mary and I discussed the pros and cons of marrying a handsome Irish man.

Next morning we jumped aboard the hostel’s tour bus for a guided tour of the Ring of Kerry.  We were inspired to undertake this journey because the Irish hunk was on the bus – how lucky could we get.   We watched him walk up and down the aisle, checking tickets and then he jumped off the bus and onto another bus heading off on a different tour.  Mary’s hopes were dashed, and I confess to feeling a bit the same myself.

We really have everything in common with America nowadays except, of course, language. (Oscar Wilde)

On board the bus tour we met two young male backpackers, an American and an Australian.  We were kept amused by the antics of the elderly tourists aboard with us, particularly an American couple we dubbed ‘Mickey & Minnie’, who were dressed in Disney apparel and accessories, complete with a set of braces and copious amounts of jewellery.  They took photos of each other all day long with their Polaroid camera – sadly I didn’t get any photos of them.

To cement our new friendships, we four ‘ mousketeers’ spent that evening in the Danny Man pub celebrating Kerry’s win in the football the previous day and trying to outdrink a German called Fricker who thought our accents were funny…

Danny Mann Pub, Killarney, Ireland 1986

Just before midnight we learnt it was Matt’s birthday and, as luck would have it, we found a spare birthday banana that we signed and presented to him.

An American in the Danny Mann, Killarney, Ireland - 1986

I watched a funeral go by and asked who was dead.  A man said, “The fella in the box”. (Dave Allen)

A snap decision to visit Cork was made so we said goodbye to our fellow travellers and boarded the 10.30am train from Killarney, where the clouds continued to threaten us, and we were in need of some sunshine.

Ring of Kerry, Ireland - 1986

As it turned out, the only good thing about Cork was the weather.

We checked into the Cork City Tourist Apartments, upon the River Lee.  Apparently Cork is called the Venice of Ireland due to the fact that it was built upon islands.  I confess, I saw no resemblance whatsoever.  As we were travelling on a budget we weren’t expecting 5 star luxury but these apartments were so grim we felt we were on the receiving end of some wretched joke that we just didn’t get.  Upon making our way down to the basement, where the showers were located, Mary and I had a brief look around and made a pact not to bathe until we reached the next destination.

We decided to take in the sights of Cork instead, but sadly didn’t see anything to make us want to stay longer than one night.  Walking past a funeral parlour we noticed the open doors and then just beyond them, an open casket complete with corpse, ready for viewing I suppose.  I ventured a closer look and was struck by the gentleman’s peaceful expression; he was clearly relieved to be leaving Cork, as we were the following day.

Heading to Blarney Castle

If you’re lucky enough to be Irish, then you’re lucky enough.

On the outskirts of Cork lies Blarney Castle, where for hundreds of years people have been visiting to kiss the Blarney Stone.  For some reason I declined to do this, possibly because of the athletic skill required to hang upside down to reach it whilst puckering your lips beyond their normal extension.  However I was happy enough to hold the contents of Mary’s pockets as she bent herself over backwards to complete the task.

Kissing the Blarney Stone, County Cork, Ireland - 1986

We continued our journey eastwards back towards England for another few nights, discovering and delighting in this charming island nation.

Ring of Kerry, Ireland - 1986

I know I don’t need to extol the virtues of Ireland with it’s fierce history, passionate people, stunning scenery and world class whisky as there are many who have done so before me.

I’m glad I went, I’ll go again, and I hope you get to go too; until then:

Wherever you go and whatever you do, may the luck of the Irish be there with you.

 

Four leaf clover - Luck of the Irish

One November in Turkey (part 3) – Gallipoli to Istanbul

Destination Istanbul was only two more smoke-filled bus trips away.  The first stop on the way, a must-see for ancient history buffs, was Canakkale.  Here we made a quick trip on the local dolmus out to Troy, with its 4000 years of history.

Life in Camelot at Troy's Trojan Horse, Turkey.

Nice place, shame about the wooden horse.

Then, on 15th November 1986, a small boat from Canakkale – a very small boat – took this weary group of 4 Australian backpackers across the Straits of Dardanelles to Eceabat on the Gallipoli Peninsula to the see some modern history (that occurred some 71 years earlier).

Cabs queued at the dock to drive us out along the dusty, windy road to the battlefields, and being Australians, we chose to visit the site of the Anzac and Lone Pine Ridge memorials.  After ascertaining our nationality, our driver took one hand off the steering wheel to open the glove-box and pulled out a well-worn cassette of Men At Work songs.

Image courtesy of http://www.anzacday.biz

We sang along, loudly and proudly, as the historic dirt from the peninsula flew in through the windows and into our mouths. I spent quite a bit of time there, walking in the footsteps of thousands of young Australian, New Zealand, British and Turkish soldiers, who made such a tragic mark on our combined histories.  I walked through the trenches, looked out at the deceptively calm ocean, and took in the scent of the lone pine tree.

Life in Camelot at Anzac Cove, Gallipoli, Turkey

I read the names carved in stone and shed a tear at the words of Ataturk:

Those heroes that shed their blood and lost their lives…
You are now living 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 here in this country of ours…
You, the mothers, who sent their sons from far away 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.

 

Life in Camelot at Ataturk's memorial, Gallipoli, Turkey

And finally, after working my way up Turkey’s beautiful west coast, I boarded a bus to majestic Istanbul.

I was tired but exhilarated to be in this bustling cultural mosaic and the centre of the old empire.  I had become used to the daily chanting from the mosque that began at 5.30 in the morning (and would go on another four times throughout the day), so had almost forgotten how to sleep in, and my arms were getting tired from carrying those two carpets that Erol had sold me.

One November in Turkey (Part 2)

But by the time I reached Istanbul I had come to expect anything in Turkey so when I bumped into a work colleague from Sydney in the famous Pudding Shop, I barely raised an eyebrow.  The Pudding Shop served as an essential part of a young traveller’s life, before mobile phones and the internet.  There you could arrange to meet fellow travellers, or leave messages for friends; exchange ideas and travel anecdotes; buy a travel iron, or catch a lift in a kombie to the next adventure. Oh, and they sold food there too, but no puddings that I recall.

Life in Camelot at Hagia Sofia, Istanbul, Turkey

Despite the entire city being under martial law whilst I was there, with a nightly curfew that accompanied this, I managed to have fun, haggled my way through the Grand Bazaar to find the perfect pair of Lapis Lazuli earrings, and even got drunk without getting into trouble.

Life in Camelot with taxis in Istanbul, Turkey

I had not finished my European odyssey – I had only sampled a juicy slice of life in Turkey, and was greedy for more.  But my 3 month Eurailpass would run out soon so I needed to retrace my journey westwards to London.

Here I would return to a different empire where trains would stop running that winter because the tracks would freeze over, and where consumers would trample each other in the Boxing Day sales along Oxford Street.

So called civilization was just one more bus ride away…

One November in Turkey (Part 1)

One November in Turkey (part 2) or Remembering on Remembrance Day

In early November 1986 I had arrived in Turkey on a whim, with no idea of what I would encounter.  A handful of fellow backpackers had suggested it as the next stop east from Santorini, so I joined them on a ferry ride to Rhodes; a ferry ride that took about 22 hours instead of the regular 13 because one of the engines broke down.

We found a cheap hotel in the heart of the old city but because it was the weekend not much was open.  We did however, find the famous Popeye’s Bar where we feasted on a wonderful and traditional roast lunch with all the trimmings.  This food was a welcome change from all the Mediterranean food we’d been eating for so long.  In the late afternoon we headed to the port to buy our tickets for the trip to Turkey.  We had been told that we could get discount tickets if we purchased them as a group, but despite meeting up with 37 other backpackers to take advantage of this wonderful marketing strategy, we all only got a discount of 10% – the Greeks don’t like to part with their money.

On a Monday afternoon, after spending only 2 nights in Rhodes, we took a boat to Turkey – it took just 2 and a half hours to cross this little piece of the Aegean and reach the stunning Turquoise Coast.  I arrived with 2 others from the big group whom I’d met in Greece plus another Australian couple we met on the crossing.

I had no expectations of what I would find in Turkey but, like nearly everyone of my generation, I had watched the movie Midnight Express years earlier with wide-eyed horror, so armed with those images, I stepped onto Turkish soil at Marmaris.

At the dock many happy hotel and hostel hawkers awaited us with their best deals but lost out to a well-spoken local called Ismail, who offered us a better deal for mattresses on the floor and home cooked meals.

There were various occupants present in ‘the house of Ismail’, including two shifty-eyed divers who couldn’t speak English, who were called Ali and Sali (I’m not making that up) as well as Ismail’s 5 year old daughter, Didem, and a Japanese girl called Bam, travelling on route to Israel.  I will always remember her as the girl who sold me her second-hand Sony Walkman.

I only had one cassette that I played over and over on the Walkman.  It infused music into my memories and gave new meaning to my travels.

After 3 days of resisting the charms of the abalone divers my companions and I said goodbye to Ismail and his house guests and took the first of many smoke-filled bus trips through Turkey.  We headed north-east to Kusadasi where I experienced my first, and only, Turkish Bath.

In an old part of town we entered the Belediye Hamami at the Hotel Akdeniz where my companion and I were told to wait in a curtained cubicle while all the male clientele were ushered out for the arrival of this white western woman waiting in the wings.  When the coast was clear the enormous but enthusiastic masseurs, wearing nothing but loin cloths, went to work on my male friend and me.

When the lights suddenly went out in our windowless room our only means of self preservation was to reach out for each other’s soapy hands across the cold marble slabs, as we waited for the worst to happen. (About this time I was having those flashbacks to the movie Midnight Express…)

Candles were quickly found and lit and the men continued to lather us up in our underpants whilst we waited for the electricity to be restored.  Perhaps as recompense for the worry of being semi-naked, trapped in a dark, underground cavern, covered in soap suds somewhere in Turkey, my burly masseur lifted his leg to me in the candlelight, revealing all his manhood beneath the towel.

The hotel gave us a little card that read: ‘You will feel completely relaxed after a Turkish bath’.  I certainly hope the masseur was relaxed after my massage because I was not!

This rather intimate look at Turkey in the bathhouse steeled me for any future suprises but instead, as we headed slowly north I was continually disarmed by the friendliness and hospitality of the Turkish people.  They all wanted to practice their English and continually filled us up with lashings of hot apple cay as we came into their shops, their lives, and then left again.

One of these friendly people was Erol, an international man of commerce who spent his time between the sleepy seaside town of Kusadasi and the windy city of Chicago.  He owned a carpet shop (what else?) and he and his friends entertained us with an impromptu barbeque outside his shop one evening in Grand Bazaar Street.  He massaged my icy cold feet by the open fire and gave me thick, beautifully crafted woollen socks from the store to keep me warm.

 

The next night they took us out to dinner at a nearby restaurant and we all ate more wonderful food while Erol translated everything for us.  After dinner we were treated to a belly-dancer who danced on our table but she looked a bit scrawny and desperate to me.

Because of this special bond we had forged over a several days, Erol naturally gave me a great deal on the two carpets I bought from him!

From Kusadasi the ancient town of Ephesus was only a short dolmus (mini-bus) ride away but the epic history of the place was lost on this young backpacker and the memory of hitching a ride back to town on a cotton bale truck is more readily recalled than the ruins.

The next bus ride took me east – inland to Pamukkale.  A picture perfect town, famous for the beautiful white pools and basins forming cliffs along the hillsides, made from years of calcium deposits.

Here we met even more backpackers from all over the world.  We spent our days in the magical cotton castle thermal pools and, for a token price (about 85 cents) we could access the “Sacred Pool”, located inside the Pamukkale Hotel at the top of the hill, where we sat and frolicked amidst the historical ruins of Hierapolis, until our skins were pruney with the pure warm water.

 

When night fell the chill set in as winter was on its way.  We would settle in to the best (and only) pizzeria in town and share travel stories with the English, Canadians, Swedes, Americans, one Japanese and one Kiwi before dispersing to our individual accommodations.  I would go to bed in the cheap pansiyon wearing my clothes, woollen socks and a scarf whilst I kept my fingers warm by writing letters home.

I wrote of the euphoria I felt in Turkey (and a bit about the cold) and about the bond between the backpackers – the sanctity of strangers who were all spellbound by this wonderful land.  Intrepid as I was, I piked out of the pilgrimage to Goreme, five hundred kilometres away in the middle of Turkey.  It wasn’t the long bus trip, nor the primitive conditions of the fairy chimneys and accommodation in the region that deterred me.  It was the first hand reports from fellow backpackers of temperatures reaching three degrees below zero that froze my fate.  I headed north instead.

Four hours away by bus, I found more food, more friends and more festivities in Izmir.  After getting another cheap room in yet another cheap hotel and emptying the contents of my backpack, I got word that some dear friends in Australia were marrying (quite suddenly) and I would miss their wedding.  Serendipity arrived in the form of a new Turkish friend, called Vile, who immediately invited our little group to a huge wedding in town.

 

In a restaurant in the middle of a big park we sat at a table amidst lots of floral arrangements and coloured balloons.  Because we arrived at 10.00pm we missed the main course but filled ourselves up sweet cakes and alcohol.  We were overwhelmed with the joy and love that marked this special occasion and I suddenly became very homesick – or perhaps it was all the baklava and wine I consumed.

Despite my new found love of everything Turkish,  I started to look forward to returning to England where I would spend Christmas with my own fiancé, who was flying all the way from Sydney to meet me.

(to be continued…)

One November in Turkey (part 1)

His steely eyes surveyed me through a sea of stubble (his five o’clock shadow grew well past the usual demarcation lines), as he slung my overly heavy backpack into the deep hole beneath the bus, one November in Turkey.

He grunted and jerked his head towards the door.  I watched him watch me climb the stairs and then I turned to face the aisle.  I was hit by a choking river of smoke.  Some thirty or so pairs of eyes peered out at me as I made my way up the bus.

I secured myself a window seat; a window that didn’t open.  Resting my cheek against the cool glass offered little relief from the heat of my forehead.  The driver slid into his seat, pulled a big lever and locked us into his silver vessel of smoke, sweat and stale air, where we’d stay for the next 15 hours or so, as the bus headed for Thessaloniki.

I was leaving Istanbul with a light heart, two heavy carpets, and a stress headache.

Departure time was 8.00pm, and not long after leaving Buyuk Otogar, (the main bus terminal in Istanbul), the driver kindly supplied us with some music for our travelling entertainment.  It didn’t seem to concern him that most passengers had pinned their hopes on trying to sleep throughout this night long journey and could have done without the tinny tones from his transistor.

Just in case anyone managed to nod off the co-driver undertook refreshment duties by walking up and down the aisle every few hours splashing us with a pungent eau de cologne; a scent that temporarily overpowered the smells of stale cigarettes, tired bodies and bitter oranges.

Perhaps they were trying to keep us alert for the impending border crossing into Greece, just past the Turkish town of Ipsala, where for several hours we had our adrenal glands worn down by armed Greek guards who contemplated our ‘Turkish’ motives for proceeding into their territory.  It was here I discovered that I was the only English speaker on board – my mad muttering and swearing under my breath remained untranslated and my wide-eyed questioning remained unanswered.

In the small hours of the morning, after hours of waiting and bag searches, the cologne had all but worn off as the bus quietly crept into Greece and stopped at Alexandroupolis (about forty kilometres down the road) for a meal break and a reality check.

This scary, but eventful journey marked the end of 3 of the most exhilarating, unplanned weeks of my young life, during one November in Turkey.

(to be continued…)