About Clunegapyears

Travelling around Europe with James in our motorhome

1575-77: Bimbling around Belgrade

1575:  Three Degrees of Separation!

 Sunday 28th June 2020

David and Karen left Zip Camping first to head off to Greece.  Danny and Lisa stayed on another day at the campsite.  Quite emotional as we have spent so much time with particularly Karen and David.  After a few jobettes (and a slow start) we headed off for the wheel arch repair in Belgrade, or Beograd, as it is known in Serbia.

We stopped off in Uzice, as Michail had told us about a cheap shoe shop … I forced myself to buy a couple of pairs … J didn’t!  Think that now makes 14 pairs, I think … oops.  In my defence, my lord, I do need shoes for all seasons!

 

1576:  Biking in Belgrade

 Monday 29th June 

Given that dogs are not allowed on public transport, busses were not an option.  So we used bikes to travel the 4.5km into the city centre.  Not pleasant.  Begrade drivers are just soo impatient.  Beeping horns at each other even when the car in front cannot move.  Busy.  No cycle tracks; we used the pavements a lot.  And it was HOT … 38C.  We started out following a GPSmyCity sight seeing tour, but aborted about half way through and headed to the fortress park for a lunch … which we slept off in the shade!

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Cathedral of Saint Sava: The largest Orthadox Serbian church and dedicated to the Medieval saint who is the founder of the Serbian church.  It is modern … started just before WW2 and was only completed in the ‘70s.  And one has to question the workmanship, as the main church was undergoing serious renovation ….

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… only the Crypt was open.

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The Skupstina: the Serbian parliament building.  With the changes of rulership, it has had various names  The National Assembly of Serbia 1945-46, The National Assembly of the Peoples Republic of Serbia 1946-63, The Assembly of the Socialist Republic of Serbia 1963-1990 etc.

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The lovely Kalemegdan fortress complex … we ate, slept and admired the views of the Danube.

And when we returned, the wheel arch crack had been glued and re-sprayed and the glue off the van cleaned up … it would be affixed tomorrow.


1577:  Taxi to Zemun

 Tuesday 30th June 

The info sheet we’d been given a the camper stop offered to book us a taxi … not happy to cycle again, we booked it.  It turned out to be the camper stop / garage / furniture shop owner … happy for dogs as he brought a different car with a big boot for CO2.  He told us that Belgrade had been destroyed 15 times!

Zemun is the other side of the Sava river which flows into the Danube and is one of the oldest parts of Belgrade.  Narrow streets, low rise attractive buildings, a street market and a relaxed vibe.  We liked it a lot and did another GPSmyCity walking tour … I’ve paid for the full app and it is getting used!

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The Zemun Gymnasium1858,  undergoing some refurbishment – renowned for its academic record.  But with initially only 21 students, that should have been a fairly easy achievement.

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Zemun Post Office 1896.

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The sun dial to the left of the window still works … not sure why it wouldn’t with no mechanical parts!

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Wide boulevard along the river … CO2 had a good run.

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Gardos Tower 1896: built to celebrate 1000 years of hungarian settlement.

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View over Zemun and the Danube.

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And lunch … a lovely wine suggested by the people at the neighbouring table.

 

Another Route Decision!

And when we got back, the wheel arch was on … good to go tomorrow.  BUT where???  It transpired that the Hungarian border is fully open from Serbia.  It would mean we could tour in Hungary and not have to quarantine in the house we’d booked in Croatia … rules could all change on 1st July ,,,, but Croatia is not good for wild camping … we have been all along the coast … Hungary was our intended route back after this trip and we have the guide book!!!  So a change of plan.  Hungary it is.  Danny and Lisa will use the Croatia house for a few days …  it was not enough money for us to worry about …. and should we be refused at the Hungarian border, we can about turn for Croatia!

 


1573-1574: Tara Tourism

1573:  Sargen 8 Railway

Friday 26th June

Camping Zip in the Tara National Park is just great, so we stayed 3 days.  Water and EHU on the pitch, super clean facilities and great views.  Oh, and the company weren’t bad!  CO2 were delighted to see K and D, the dog parents … it is being written into our wills.  When a storm came over, Corrie was found to be seeking comfort with K and D!  

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Construction of the Sargan 8 railway started during WW1 and it connected Serbia (partly Bosnia and Herzegovina now) with Austro Hungary.  Italian and Russia POWs had a tough time digging into the rock and snake infested land.  Work resumed under Yugoslavia in 1921.  The ascent of 300m is dealt with by the figure of 8 (hence the name) and the track actually crosses itself!  It connected Belgrade with Sarajevo and closed in 1974.  The section here was repaired and is now a major Serbian tourist attraction.

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Glimpses of the track snaking around.

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They could do with removing some of the trees for photos!  But they did stop a few times on the descent for photo opportunities.

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We didn’t fancy lunch at the Mokra Gora station … the lady serving coffee had been a little surly, but a hot trek into the small village revealed no other choice.  A quick glass at a bar and back to the station for a late lunch.  This was pork rolled around ham and cheese … am finding Serbian food too meaty and not enough sauce.

1574:  Lake and Gorge

 Saturday 27th June

David offered to drive, so we piled into Buster.  Destination Lake Zaovine up in the Tara National Park.  D and K had previously cycled a good chunk of it until their batteries (bike and own!) were close to exhaustion!  So driving all the way it was.  

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Woods on the drive up and then opening up to the valley with the reservoir.  After so much rain the murky waters were released from the dam.

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Karen wedging the fridge door after it threw a tantrum on a bend!

IMG 5913We tried the only restaurant for lunch, but no dogs!  Hurumpf!   We backtracked to a small village cafe and had buns!  The only choice was filled baps.  A local dish!  Some lovely English speaking ladies helped us with the menu and suggested the fillings … egg and cheese or ham egg and cheese.  Surprisingly delicious … and given how busy it was, obviously known for its baps!

A few KM away was the Drina gorge … K and D had been told about it.  Some steep sides off the road … and then a fab view point.

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Just had to climb that for the view!

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Look!  No hands!

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Drina Gorge.

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We were parting ways tomorrow so a ceremonial handing over of the bread knife wed lent K&D all those months ago!

There was a Russian called Michail on the campsite.  In conversation with David, it transpired that he’d spent time with Danny and Lisa on a site in Belgrade.  His home is Montenegro, where his wife and 2 children are.  And he couldn’t get home. Danny and Lisa had spent a few days in Kosovo and had just come back to Serbia.  Crossing at the same border point is OK, but the guard wanted ‘paper’.  Danny translated this as a bribe, but played dumb.  But you have my papers in your hand!  You have our passports!  They did a long drive but arrived that evening at Camping Zip.  A BBQ and far too much to drink … again.

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Sundance Camping Reunion, just missing Anetta and Geo.

Route Decisions!

Due to the spike in Covid cases, Croatia had just closed its borders with Serbia … except for transit or a 14 day rental / quarantine.  Transit is 24 hours with resting at motorway services and then only 12 hours to cross Slovenia.  Probably quarantine in Italy.  So what to do?

D and K elected to transit back through Bulgaria and enter Greece.  We’d heard of people that had done it.  We reluctantly decided against Greece:  W

e have to be back in the UK for mid August, ferries are not yet running and prices have shot up.  If we have to quarantine somewhere, let it be in a rental in Croatia.  I found the cheapest I could find … very basic and only £279 for 2 weeks.  If is truly awful we can still live in Jez and just use the shower, wifi and fridge.  if quarantine is lifted, we can leave early … at that price we weren’t going to worry about it.  But first we would go to Belgrade as we’d booked a camper repair / hire / camper stop to re-affix the wheel trim.

 

 

1569-1572: Flood Damage and Miracles

1569:  Devil Town

Monday 22nd June 2020

A Lidl bit of shopping … managed to nearly spend £100 … £36 of that on booze.  Karen and I had been pining for Aperol and found it in the Turkish duty free shop, just between the border with Bulgaria. We bought a bottle each and I bought 4 different sparking wines in Lidl to sample … purely in the interest of research, of course!  Sadly our bottle remains unopened!  It carried on raining stair rods and we’ve had to resort to long trousers … not Aperol weather at all.  How ‘sod’s law’ is that … finally lay our hands on some and then not the weather to drink it!  We’ll have to stick to the duty free Gordons and then the Lidl version!

I’d planned a run, but too wet.  CO2 have been in and out of their doggy dry bags!  I promise never to moan that it is too hot again … today where we ended up was all of 9C and the UK is starting a heat wave.  For once we are in the wrong place!

Hey ho, we set off after a coffee and a tasty sauted onion filled pastry and headed SW.  But progress was so slow!  The roads are truly the worst we’ve ever experienced … and that included Italy!  The patching has obviously changed colour over the decades. We arrived in rain down a windy narrow tarmac road in the rain.  D&K, ahead of us, were already exploring.  In the rain we walked up to the Devil’s Town pinnacles.  We’ve seen this phenomenon before (Forget where!), but these were by far better.  Even in the rain!  After our walk, we slept at the car park …and listened to the rain get heavier!

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The Well:  So much iron ore in the soil.

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We don’t have any torments, so no hankies left!

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Either they are tall aliens with hats or phallic symbols!

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Looks a mess, but tasted fab … Turkish Menemen and paprika roasted potatoes … apparently corn flower is the key to crispiness!

1570:  Devil’s Flooding

Tuesday 23rd June 

It rained all night and morning.  Like the 40 days and nights.  We had to drive out with rushing torrents crossing our single track road.  Rock fall and churned up brown rivers, that had been mere streams the day before.  What’s that noise we said?  J nobly got out and checked the tyres and underneath … we had not caught any of the flood water detritus.  As we got to the main road the noise was louder.  He investigated again … the force of the water had pulled the steel arch trim off.  Strangely when we did set off again, there was no warning noise … the noise altered us before we got too far away to retrieve it!  My turn to get wet … a walk back along the lane to find the wheel trim a couple of KM back.  Shoes wet through from wading the torrents and soaked down to my knickers!

But we had the wheel trim!  Slightly battered as a car had driven over it.  I reckon having the part has saved us about £600 as the front bumper part alone was £2600! 

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Bear in mind, I waded thorough the like.

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It seems to have just been attached by glue!

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A little damaged!

The drive only marginally improved.  As we approached the National Park by Kaoponik, fog lamps were deployed!  The view (apparently) are stunning, but we could only see a few metres in front of us and it was still raining.  We aborted sightseeing on the basis we would not want to get wet again and parked up off road up high in the mist!  Day done.  Tomorrow has to be better.

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David and Karen missed out on slow cooked pulled pork as we agreed to part company for 2 nights.

 

1571:  Oldest Church and Divine Sopocani

Wednesday 24th June 

It rained all night … didn’t yesterday start like this?  About 10.30, it stopped but not early enough for us to enjoy the views.  We were later told these were the worst floods since 1965.  We decided not to stop at Kaoponik … a very large ski resort and busy.  Good to see walkers out … a lot of nationalities don’t walk for pleasure.  

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Ski hotel just outside Kaoponik … looks spooky.

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As the mists cleared we had glimpses of the hills.

Today’s journey was not incident free either.  J was looking for a space to pull over to let a lorry pass … he was super impatient and clipped our wing mirror.  He did the decent thing and stopped to make sure it was OK … fortunately it was.  Lucky or divine protection?

First destination was the Church of St Peter just outside Novi Pazar.

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St Peter’s stone church is the oldest in Serbia.  

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Apparently these shaped grave stones were fashionable in C18.

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Able to climb the tower.

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Family likeness:  father and son Priests.

The lady showing me around (we went in singly cos of CO2), said she was surprised to see us. Visiting each other in groups during a festival had resulted in a huge spike of Covid cases and Novi Pazar was the epicentre.  The infected were being shipped of the Belgrade as the local hospitals couldn’t cope.  Shame for us, but we decided not to visit the town with its old Turkish centre and copper ware products.

Sopocani monastery next.  Lunch in the car park first.  We had the place pretty much to ourselves.  A sole monk with some English converted the Euro entrance fee into Serbian Dinar … seen a lot of this.  Of the same tone, seen a number of EU funded projects … last I looked Serbia was not part of the EU.

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Built mid C13 by King Uros, who is buried here.  Destroyed by the Turks end C17. 

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This divine rose is three colours on one root stock.

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More divine protection … these Medieval frescoes survived exposure to the elements.

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The drive to our over night by the Studentica Monastery was lovely … scenery pix for the Aged P’s as Serbia was their 4th holiday to have been cancelled.  And for once, we have visited a country before them!!!

 

1572:  Studentica Monastery

 Thursday 25th June 

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A peaceful night in the carpark of an abandoned hotel and CO2 were able to be off lead.  We were joined by a surly Serbian motorhomer … try as I might I could not get a Dobar Dan (hello) from him.  And check out that blue sky.

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One of the most sacred sites in Serbia.  

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Continuous monastic life since 1190.  The old cells were ruins, these were built in 1900’s.  The Curator took us into the Church of Our Lady, which is undergoing restoration.

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The massive local white marble blocks had survived intact.

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Some monasteries have a really peaceful atmosphere.  We liked it a lot.

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Logging area near Studentica  and my shoes still drying out!

Leaving Studentica, we had planned to do some more sightseeing before meeting up with Karen and David at a campsite in the Tara Mountains, but the roads were just awful.  There were SO MANY traffic lights, queues and bumpy bits, as most of the road structure seemed to be under repair.  And it was getting hot, not good when you switch off the engine as stationary.  When we arrived at the campsite, the Aperol was finally opened!

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Pretty scenery, not majestic but pretty. 

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Flooding.

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A few perilous castles en route.

1566-1568: Transit to Nice-Nis & Nasty-Nis

1566 cont.-:   Edirne

Friday 20th June 2020

Lunch after the Gallipoli tour was a pretty revolting doner kebab but it had to be done!  A few hours driving saw us in Edirne.  The main reason for coming here was that it is very close to the Bulgarian border, which we will cross tomorrow.   We met up with K and D at the famous mosque and eventually found somewhere to have a final glass of wine and something to eat in Turkey.  

It is a university town and close to the border, so we expected it to be quite Western … not!  Lots of places serving Cay (tea) but really hard to find a bar.  I asked in the Vodafone shop, thinking the staff there were quite young and would speak English … they had to phone a friend! Do they have Who Wants To Be A Millionaire here?  I got the name of the Patio bar, but imperfect directions.  We asked in a shop …. the next door show shop owner also owns the Patio Bar … really???!!  But we had a personal guide to its doors. 

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Karen and David elected to stay over night in the town centre, we elected to stay by the river as it was better walking for the dogs.  We slept pretty well as it had been a long day starting with the Gallipoli tour at 8.00.

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All, and I mean all, the streets had been dug up.  Piles of bricks and abandoned spades.  Quite why it was all a mess at the same time?

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The main attraction of Edirne is the Selimiye Mosque.  Built around 1570, it is considered to be Turkeys finest with a dome that it marginally larger than Istanbuls Aya Sofya mosque.   It had very clean lines and lots of light. 

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The marble sadirvan, ablution fountain.  Obviously not use enough as inside still smelt of stinky feet!

 

1567:  How Not to Tour Bulgaria

Saturday 21st June 

Turkey had imposed a countrywide curfew from 9.00 so students could get to their national examinations safely … although I presume they were all in big halls to sit the exams … would keeping people indoors make that much difference?  Consequently we set off at 8.06, slightly behind the scheduled departure of 8.00 as we had to clear up Corrie’s regurgitation of bones she’d snaffled the night before on her walk!

Although Danny and Lisa had crossed from Turkey to Bulgaria a few weeks before, we all had a slight sense of trepidation, so we met K and D at a petrol station and approached the border in convoy.  A complete lack of signage, so we led them down the bus / pedestrian route necessitating a convoy several hundred metre reverse!  Exit stamps for Turkey, only after the border control had made phone calls to confirm no penalty for overstaying our visas.  We had to sign a form to state that we agreed to 24 hrs to cross Bulgaria, and this is what we’d paid for on line motorway toll system … it even prescribes the route.

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Trucks stacked all over the place at both ends of Bulgaria  freight drivers must have to allow a day to cross the border alone.

We really only had a retina impression of Bulgaria … motorway across a wide valley and some ugly Communist housing blocks.  But our encounters with the people were a lot more encouraging … both at the coffee and lunch stop.  Fortunately both took Euros as we’d no Lev.  Welcome Break could really learn from the Bulgarians … we were given a huge choice of meat kebabs and it was freshly cooked; served with a huge munch crunchy salad … we shared a dish!  Super tasty and 19 Euro fed 4 of us!

The border to Serbia was similar … several stops and staff looking in the van, passports gaining new stamps.  At the moment Serbia is OPEN and we could stay 3 months … we won’t.  The plan is be tourist for up to 2 weeks, keeping an eye on the borders for the route home … likely to be transit through Croatia and Slovenia.

Our destination was Nis (pronounced Nish) sports grounds … lots of parking over the weekend, but it was chocker come Monday morning. We had a brief wander, mainly to find and ATM for cash and a Serbian Sim card.  The cash is going to take a lot of getting used to … Dinar 125 = £1.  There seems to be a huge number of 0’s on some of the notes and I’m back to counting them, like I used to count spots on playing cards as a child!  Should I confess that to David and Karen as I’m now the kitty holder!!!  Supper was close to the vans … a lot of restaurant choice.  Given our good lunch, we were guided by the lovely young English speaking waiter to select half portions.  He also helped with sorting out the Sim cards.  I wanted to adopt him, but Karen wanted to marry him … would that make me her mother in law!?!?

1568:  Nice-Nis and Nasty-Nis 

Sunday 22nd June 

I made use of the park by us, doing a couple of circuits for a run.  Corrie only did one circuit as she is now VERY nervous of other dogs, having had her bum nipped by Turkish canines.  J started, but stopped due to a calf pain.  And David is still off running due to shin splints.  That makes me the only runner … there’s a shock!

Over coffee we had a planning meeting … we pretty much want to see the main things and Serbia is not that large, so we will dip in and out of each other’s company.  We did a quick shop and then set off to be tourists.  With rain jackets  … it felt cold and rain threatened.  We are not used to this … please bring back the sunshine! 

Nis has a lot to offer and a good vibe.  Constantine (Constantinople) came from here, but little evidence remains.  The main sights can be visited in a day … and we did!  Fortress, Concentration Camp and Skull Tower.

The fortress is a large area of small museums and restaurants … CO2 had another run.  We continued up to the Concentration Camp … it was in the not so nice area of Nis … taking a short cut two big black dogs attempted to take their owners fence down in their attempt to attack us … resulting in the owner shouting at us to take our F…ing dogs away.  Nasty-Nis!

At the Concentration Camp, I chatted to a school teacher … his 14 yr olds were on a trip postponed from April.  He made the comment that this generation does not have relatives that remember the war and therefore it has little meaning for them. I didn’t like to draw his attention to the Serbian ethnic cleansing.  It has crossed our minds that anyone over about 45 here may well have been involved.

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The Red Cross Concentration Camp got its name from the nearby rail station … it was a German transit camp. 

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Every time a German was killed by the resistance, 100 prisoners or locals were slaughtered.  The penalty for a German being wounded was 50 deaths. 

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A monument a few km away was erected for the mass killings by the Germans.  Most of the people deported from here ended up either in gas chambers or dying from the conditions of forced labour.

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Researchers have used some documents and personal accounts to attempt to verify all the names of the people that passed through here.

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David ‘dragged’ us to the Irish bar … a light lunch … pumpkin soup with the Serbian yogurt, a little like clotted cream.  J’s paprika chips were so good, he needed help!

 

After lunch David and I had a swim … I wanted a shower without having to empty the store cupboard that is our on board shower.  Only £1.55 with an olympic sized pool.  Think it must’ve been built in the 80’s and not had any work done on it since,  The showers seemed to be communal, given the lack of signage and the chap that stayed in the shower block I was in.  No stripping off here then!  The changing cubicles had most panels bashed in, so a peeping Tom’s heaven … potentially, depending on who they were spying on!  Oh. and I was the ONLY female swimmer.  Had it not been for a mixed group of teens on the poolside, I would have thought it was a male only swim session.  And don’t get me started on the state of the ladies toilets!

 

The Skull Tower was visited early evening … the heavy rain had stopped and David brought a brolly … a sure talisman to keep the rain away.    The Tower of Skulls is another revered testament to Serbian grit.  An uprising against the Ottoman occupation 1809 resulted in 4000 Serbian deaths.  The Serbs managed to wipe out 10,000 Turks by blowing up an ammunition store.  Retribution was the decapitation of the Serbs …. their skulls were embedded in a tower left to instil fear and subservience in the Serbs.  Of the 952 skulls, only 58 skulls remain.  Some Serbs took a skull to bury as a symbol of their own lost family.  The chapel likes building was erected some years later to protect the Tower.

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The chapel likes building was erected some years later to protect the Tower.

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1566: Gallipoli

1566:   Gallipoli

Friday 19th June 202

Minibus, guide and drive arrived promptly at 8.00 Apparently we were the first tourists for the tour company since Covid and we were told the same thing when we stopped for Cay … a few Turkish day trippers only.  Normally this time of year is wall to wall tours … we saw a few other people at some of the monuments, but again we were very privileged to have them mostly to ourselves.

David’s Great Uncle had fought here, been wounded, gone onto fight in the European trenches, been wounded again … only to die from the Spanish Flu.  Consequently we concentrated on the Irish and British landing areas, down the South of the Gallipoli Peninsula.  We only had about 4.5 hours as we needed to get onto close to the Bulgarian border.  To be honest, with assimilating the information and dealing with the emotions, the time was enough.  I am sure we will return and spend time in the museums and at the Anzac fighting areas.

The Allies withdrew after 9 months leaving

  • More than half a million casualties, of which 130,000 were deaths
  • The British Empire lost 36,00, including 8,700 Australians and 2700 New Zealanders.
  • French casualties were 47,000, over half their number and 8,800 dead.
  • Half the 500,000 strong Ottoman forces became casualties, with almost 86,700 killed
  • There are 40 Allied and 20 Turkish War Cemeteries.

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The map showed the landing beaches, some very narrow, the target villages and higher ground that was supposed to be captured.  It looked like a very small geographic area that was held by the Allies.  It was a shock exactly how small the area when we looked down over it from one of the hills.

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Turkish gun emplacements  either side of the Dardanelles …. the guns supplied by the Germans.  These and mines destroyed 6 Allies ships in March 1915 – the Turkish Canakkale Naval Victory.  The original plan had been to create a route up by Istanbul (Constantinople) to Russia, keeping Allied control of the waterway.  The land assault was Plan B.

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The Turks revere the Gallipoli Peninsula is a National Park as a symbol of national pride  whilst the Generals may have been German, it was Turkish soldiers who repelled the invaders.  At the time, Turkey was the “Sick Man of Europe.  At the outset of the war, Turkey was neutral, but Germany had freely supplied guns and equipment and Churchill had commandeered two battleships that Turkey had paid for (apparently!).  

This chap was a forester and during the sea campaign, he found the strength to lift up the shells when the lifting gear broke.  His statue is found in various places.

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Pic taken from the target hill the Allies never managed to take.  The opening of the Dardanelles is surprisingly narrow.  The pic does not show how small the geographic area was that the Allies managed to secure in 9 months of combat  and it was a really small area.

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At the Turkish monument.  All the memorials had been shut for much of 2014 to be cleaned for the Centenary celebrations in 2015.

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A moving speech by Mustafa Kemal, then a Commander of a Regiment … the future Ataturk.

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The Turkish memorial is visible for miles  14.5 metres tall.  From most angles you can see 3 legs, representing the Turkish common male name Mehmet, meaning the one who praises.

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The Clyde steamer foundered on the rocks and small boats had to be used to create a bridge for the troops.  Hundreds were picked off by Turkish machine guns.

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Allies Cenetary, with a lot of volunteer Irish.

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Hellas Memorial:  honouring 20,000 British and Australians who were known to have died here, but have no known graves.

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Lone Pine Cemetary with the most Austrian graves, where a 4 day battle left 7,000 dead.  

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The small Salim Mutlu War Museum mostly contained shrapnel and shells, but this display case showed how dense the number of shells was on the ground.

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A bit of light relief at the end  cats ever hopeful around the fish van.