Dear Ms Julia Gillard,
I write because I understand you’ll be visiting Turkey next week to attend Anzac Day memorial services at Gallipoli, and I’d like to give you a few handy hints on how to survive the Anzac Day experience.
I wouldn’t eat the kebabs they sell on site if I were you. They were a little bit old a few years ago when I went, and the chicken wasn’t great – quite over-cooked actually. Instead, I definitely recommend stopping at the supermarket in Kesan on the way down to stock up on food. We got some loaves of bread, some pastirma, feta and salad, and chocolate and pringles. Lots of pringles. They’re the best thing for long bus rides and camping out, wouldn’t you agree Ms Gillard?
One more tip Ms Gillard – get there early. Did you know they’re expecting up to 15,000 people this year? There isn’t much space so the earlier you get there, the better spot you’ll get. The coveted spot is right up the front, on the grass next to the row of chairs saved for dignitaries. But avoid the Fanatics’ area (they’re the ones in yellow hoodies singing I come from the Land Down Under), they’re a bit rowdy. And if you spread all of your stuff out around you when you first arrive, then you’ll have enough room to lie down on the grass at night. Getting there at 1pm for the 5am dawn service the following day should be fine.
Through the night, it’s hard to sleep due to all the documentaries they play on the big screen, and the brass bands playing war songs. Oh, and the man on the loud speaker asking everyone to move up to make room for newcomers still arriving. This is a tough one – on the one hand, you want to squish up to let as many people into to the site as possible and you know, show some Anzac spirit. On the other hand, you’ll have got there SO early for that awesome spot at the front Ms Gillard, so why should you let them into to your space at 4.45am? It’s a call you’re just going to have make at the time.
Have you packed yet? Pack as many clothes as can fit in your backpack. It will be hot as during the day so I suggest jeans and a t-shirt – the sun will be out and you can roll up your jeans and tan your legs. But make the most of it because once the sun goes down, you’ll have to line up for the porta-loos and put your thermals on underneath your jeans. I suggest a double layer of socks too. You’ll need a good sleeping bag and beanie, and preferably a couple of advisers (or new backpacking buddies) to snuggle with. There’s warmth in body heat you know.
I assume you’ll spend some time in Istanbul – you couldn’t not, it’s an awesome place. Just don’t have too much to drink at the Sultan Hostel when you get back from Gallipoli. The barmen will try to keep you there by plying you with vouchers for free efes beers, and the Fanatics will no doubt chant “Here’s to Julia, she’s true blue…” in an effort to make you skoll them, but trust me, the Topkapi Palace is not appealing the next morning.
Speaking of the tourist attractions, they’ll be jam-packed next week so try to get to each site early. Aya Sofya is particularly busy and you can often be waiting in Sultanahmet Square for hours. If you do need some sustenance though, there is a man, Mehmet, who makes the best ever kebabs nearby. He has a portable cart, normally on the corner of Akbiyik St opposite the carpet shop and only sells one type of kebab. And they’re way better than the ones at Gallipoli.
So I hope you have fun in Turkey Ms Gillard, I’d love to hear how you enjoyed it. Don’t forget to check-in to Gallipoli on facebook so we can track your experience!
Rosie Richardson (who loves taking groups to Gallipoli, but not on Anzac Day, who loves kebabs but not the ones at Gallipoli on April 24 each year, and who loves drinking efes at the Sultan Hostel, without exception.)