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From Mount Olympus to Istanbul

In the middle of the night, the Eternal Flame at Mount Olympus might easily have been passed off as an ordinary campfire. In fact, some French backpackers were using it for that very purpose, frying their dinner over the natural gas outlets. The flames lick out from beneath small ledges of rock on a barren landing; I was worried that I would dislodge a stone and a jet of burning, noxious gas might burst out from under my shoe. Everyone at the top of the mountain was respectfully silent, so the place had a nice aura about it. Still, I had some serious toast envy…

We have covered a lot of ground since I last wrote, so I won’t go into detail about all the places we have visited since Olympus. Continuing westward through Turkey, we stopped in Olu Deniz, a coastal resort town; Pamukkale, a small village famed for its calcium deposits and hot springs; and the ruins of the Roman city of Ephesus. Our campsite near Ephesus backed onto green hills and grasslands, with a castle perched in the distance above the modern town of Selcuk. One of the locals had driven his rust-bucket car into the middle of a paddock so that his boys could fly a kite and play with their dog. I found a quiet spot in the sun at the back of the property and managed to sketch out the scene in 10 minutes (unfortunately, I was too far away to capture any detail).

Kite flying at Selcuk, Turkey

We used a beach at Eceabat as our base for attending the ANZAC Day Services at Gallipoli. The truck was parked parallel to the sea to protect the tents from the beating wind. The local bar at Eceabat was owned by a former dive instructor called Mesut. The bar was full of paraphernalia from “Down Under” and the walls had been covered in a mural of boomerangs and yin-yang symbols in garish colours. The artist responsible for this funny mess was a close friend of Mesut and though I was eventually introduced to him on my last day there, I unfortunately didn’t catch his name. The artist was actually a woodcarver by trade and had also converted one of Mesut’s old motor boats (the Askim, which means “My Love”) into an ornate sailing ship. To be honest, I’m not sure that the Askim is still sea-worthy, but it was conveniently parked up on the beach near our tents, so I climbed up onto the deck early one morning to draw a picture of another boat (the Akay). I’ve included a sketch of both boats as well as photographs of the original and converted Askim. The Askim sketch includes two tiny helicopters in the top right corner (Black Hawks?), which were flying to Gallipoli that morning.

The “Akay”

Revamped “Askim” on the beach at Eceabat

The original Askim dive boat and plan for reconstruction underneath

The “Askim M”

Missy and I survived ANZAC Day, despite plummeting temperatures on the Gallipoli Peninsula and a gale wind that could almost have cut you in half. We were out in the elements for twenty-one hours straight, sitting awake overnight in a plastic grandstand filled with several thousand Australians, Turks and New Zealanders. The ceremony at Lone Pine was certainly worth the wait though. I was particularly stuck by how pretty the actual lone pine is, though it isn’t the original tree as it stood during WW1 (we were told that it did not survive the battle that took place there between 6-10 August, 1915). It is certainly an inhospitable place and I am not at all surprised that so many young men suffered frostbite or died from exposure.

We have now reached Istanbul and I am basically having an artistic feast. There is so much to see and do here; I am ensnared by gold leaf, Ottoman tiles, mosaics, Roccoco palaces, harems, pashminas, sweet shops, cisterns, bazaars…I may as well be that creepy little girl in The Exorcist, my head is going in every direction at once. It is actually quite intimidating too. The weather has been unseasonably cold in Istanbul, which makes it difficult to draw outside. I’ve set myself the simple task of photographing “nice pattens” so I don’t get overwhelmed trying to remember all the exquisite details. It is frustrating seeing so much original artwork but not having the space in my backpack to carry it all home. If international shipping wasn’t so prohibitive, I would have bought a painting by Nick Merdenyan, a local Turkish artist who have been working in the Grand Bazaar since 1968. He has a really unique method painting on dried leaves and his clients include Hilary Clinton, Laura Bush and Bill Gates. My quick snap really dishonors the actual artwork!

Nick in his studio at the Grand Bazaar, Istanbul
Painting from the wall in the Haga Sofia, Istanbul

Quick copy of a lithograph from a book I bought at Troy.

I have an extended pit stop here before flying down to Athens. It has been tough saying goodbye to all the great people we have met in the Middle East leg of our trip. We are hoping that warmer temperatures and turquoise seas await us in Greece.  




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