Monthly Archives: August 2020


After five days in Canakkale it was now time to start making tracks north towards Istanbul. I was a bit nervous about actually going into Istanbul, with it being a big city and was concerned about how many people would be there having managed to avoid crowds pretty much so far and the dreaded corona virus. We decided to play it by ear when we got there. Istanbul was about 130 miles away.

We left on an overcast day and as we approached the new “1915 Canakkale” bridge that is being built across the Dardanelles it was thundering and lightening. The length of the bridge’s main span will be 2023 metres and the significance of this, is that is when the centennial of the Republic of Turkey will be marked. The towers are 318 meters high and will be the longest suspension bridge in the world.

We arrived in the Sea of Marmara 10 hours later and moored up alongside in an abandoned marina on the Island of Avsa. We ended up staying here for four nights sitting out the winds. There was nothing around where we were so we took the bikes and rode to the town of Avsa which was about 2km away. It was a tourist town for the Turkish. Talking to a waiter apparently 50,000 people would descend onto the island the first week of July, so glad we were there the week before!

We had three more long sails until we arrived in Istanbul. We eventually stayed for 11 nights here, one because there is lots to see in Istanbul and two there was more wind and they were now in the opposite direction to the way we were going. The Northerly winds were in, these being the predominate winds for this time of year.
The marina was in Fenerbahçe, home to one of Istanbul’s top football teams, we passed the stadium on quite a few occasions, on the Asian side. Most of the sights were on the other side of the Dardanelles, the European side. We took a taxi which was about 10mins to the ferry port which set us back the princely sum of £3. The ferries run backwards and forwards and it is hectic. They moor the ferries like they are parking a car in a car park, no waiting for one boat to finish mooring they just slot in alongside.

Hagia Sophia

We were probably two of the last westerners to visit the Hagia Sophia as a museum. On 10th July a Turkish court struck down the 1934 cabinet decree that made it a museum and restored its status to that of a mosque with the first prayers to be held on Friday 24th July 2020.  It was built as a Christian church in the 6th century but became a mosque in 1453 after the Turkish conquest.  In 1934, President Ataturk, changed its status from a mosque and in 1935 it became a museum. 

Tombs of the Sultans

Blue Mosque

Unfortunately for us, the Mosque was having work done and so there wasn’t much for us to see as most of it was covered in scaffolding.  It was built between 1609 and 1616 and is still a functioning mosque.  It is known as the Blue Mosque because of the blue tiles surrounding the interior walls. 

Basilica Cistern

The cistern is located nearby to the Hagia Sophia. There are hundreds of ancient cisterns underneath the streets of Istanbul. The Basilica Cistern is the largest. It was built in 532 during the reign of Emperor Justinian I to meet the needs of the Great Palace. The Cistern is 143 metres long and 65 metres wide. It is supported by 336 columns, each 9 metres high and spaced at four meter intervals arranged in 12 rows of 28 columns.

 The Süleymaniye Mosque 

The mosque is located on the Third Hill of Istanbul. The mosque was commissioned by Suleiman the Magnificent in the mid 1550’s. It is the second largest mosque in Istanbul.

We decided that we should go for a drink, and take in the view across the Golden Horn of Istanbul. “There is a very expensive beer with my name on it” said Ian. No there wasn’t. Only fruit drinks here. Wasn’t always easy to find places that actually sold alcohol. On the way back down the hill on another day we passed a bar, which had football scarves hanging everywhere and here we did get a beer, although, you could touch the trams as they went by if you stuck your hand out.

Topkapi Palace

The Palace was home to the Ottoman Sultans for nearly four centuries.  It housed between 1000 and 4000 people.  The Harem was the living quarters of the Sultan’s family, it supported as many as 300 concubines (mistresses).  The Sultan, under Islamic law, was allowed four wives but clearly no restriction of concubines.  The Queen Mother, was the central power in the Harem, she was the chief consort whose son had ascended to the throne. She also had influence over the Sultan.

In the Domed Chamber (also known as the Council Hall) council members met to discuss state affairs. The Grand Vizier led state meetings and sometimes the Sultan would listen  through a grilled window from a small room above. 

The Ceremonial Throne

We thought we’d take a boat trip down the Bospherus, as we hadn’t spent enough time on boats! However, we ended up taking more trips that we originally anticipated going backwards and forwards as we hadn’t appreciated we had to change at Eminuou. So 90 minutes later we eventually headed up the Bospherus. Ian was checking the current as it rips along here so we knew which parts of the channel to sail up when we left to go up to the Black Sea.

We really liked Istanbul and it is definitely somewhere we’d recommend a visit.

July 2020

Gallipoli & Troy

The Dardanelles is a narrow natural channel of water (3/4 to 4 miles wide) which leads from the Aegean Sea through to the Sea of Marmara and connects to the Black Sea via the Bosporus Strait which we would later sail along.

There are many ships to navigate between whilst sailing along here. We were headed to Çanakkale but it was too far in one hit so we stopped at quite an open bay, which you can only anchor in if the wind is in the right direction and thankfully it was. We thought we would get a swell from the ships going backwards and forwards but surprisingly we didn’t. Standing imposingly overlooking Morto bay is the Çanakkale Martyrs’ Memorial, which stands 137 ft high and is dedicated to the Turkish soldiers who participated in the Gallipoli Campaign in 1915.

We saw the biggest group, in one place, of jelly fish. It was like they were streaming along off for a day out.


We arrived at the marina in Çanakkale which was right in the centre of town. More sightseeing here. Someone had recommended that we should have a tour guide for our visit to Gallipoli. We were their first customers of the season. We arranged our tour guide and we left at 9.15am on the ferry to Eceabat where we picked up the minibus to start our tour around the Peninsula.

We visited a number of War Grave Cemeteries, including 57th Infantry Regiment (Turkish), Lone Pine (Anzac) Lone Pine Memorial (Anzac and British), Helles Memorial (Commonwealth) and Çanakkale (Turkish). The Helles Memorial commemorates more than 20,000 servicemen of the British Empire who died during the campaign and have no known grave. Each of the graves at the Çanakkale Cemetery has 36 names and the background of the headstone depicts the Turkish flag.

Alongside the 57th Infantry Regiment Cemetery is a large statue of a Turkish Soldier carrying a rifle. The guide asked us if we knew what was wrong with the statue. Clever Clogs Ian, had the answer. The soldier was holding a Lee Enfield rifle, which was you probably know, a British rifle.

Part of our tour included the Gallipoli War Museum. They had various British notices encouraging men to enlist. Also there was a museum set up as a field hospital.

We visited where the Anzac front line trenches were, there wasn’t much to see but the tour guide told us some interesting stories. He then suggested that we might like to have a wander about. I was OK until he said “beware of the snakes”. “There are vipers and they are vicious”. Well that was it for me. I was back the minibus like a shot. A major phobia of mine. We then went to Walkers Ridge, which was mostly eroded now. We followed the guide who stamped his feet as he walked along. I looked Ian and said “is he doing what I think he is?” Yep! He was just warning the slithery things that we were there. Lost my concentration at that stage and kept looking about just in case!

Included in the tour was a three course lunch which was very nice. I would definitely recommend visiting with a guide to give you the history and our guide certainly knew his stuff. We arrive back in Çanakkale at 6.30pm, it had been a long day but worth it. So we thought we’d finish off with a couple of beers.


The other sight to see here is the ancient city of Troy. It is not your typical ancient ruins, or as some would say – pile of rocks. It is very incomplete but there are nine layers of Troy dating back as far as 5,000 years ago to 3,000BC.

Made famous by the legend Helen of Troy and the Trojan Horse. The original Trojan Horse used in the film “Troy”, is outside the marina in Çanakkale.

The landscape in this part of Turkey is surprising as it looks very much like parts of the English countryside.

June 2020