This year we remembered ANZAC day in two parts. The first visiting the site of the battles at Gallipoli and the second part in Den Haag (The Hague).

On the 25th April, ANZAC cove is normally full with everyone camping and drinking. Instead, we opted for an earlier visit with a quiet atmosphere. It was surreal having perfect weather, beautiful scenery with no one else around, contemplating the death and destruction that occurred 92 years ago.

Over the years the trees and shrubs have grown back, the trenches have filled up and the bodies of the allies have been buried in graveyards. Unlike the ANZAC's, British, Indian (Gurkhas), French, the Turkish soldiers were buried where they fell. No grave stones, just names on a memorial.

We spent ANZAC day in Den Haag to attend a morning ceremony at the Westduin Cemetery. It's the first time I have seen VIPs at ANZAC day from so many nations. Wreaths were laid by representatives from New Zealand, Australia, Holland, Turkey, Belgium, Canada, Britain and the US.

During the ceremony, retired Dutch soldiers manned the monument and the flags of New Zealand, Australia and Holland. The ambassadors from New Zealand, Australia and Turkey all spoke along with the usual prayers, "Ode of Remembrance", "Last Post" and national anthems.

I was mainly expats living in the Holland but a few travellers passing through also came along.

After the ceremony we headed back to the NZ Ambassadors residence for breakfast. Rachel Fry (the NZ Ambassador) was appointed at the end of last year and her Dutch sounded great.

How did WWI actually start?

We all know about ANZAC day but what started it all? I probably learnt this at school but I had forgotten.

An Austrian duke was assassinated in Serbia and Serbia refused to hand over the assassin. Austria declared war on Serbia and sent in troops and from there it was a domino effect. Russia then joined in to help Serbia, Germany to help Austria, France to help Russia, Britain to protect Belgium and France therefore including the rest of the British empire. The US stayed neutral until German submarines threaten their commercial shipping.

WWI helped define New Zealand and Australia as independent nations and was the pre-cursor to Turkey becoming an independent state. Even the communist revolution may have never occurred.

I'll leave you with a quote from the father of modern day Turkey.

Those heroes that shed their blood and lost their lives... You are now lying in the soil of a friendly country, therefore ret in peace. There is no difference between the Jonnies 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. - Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, 1934


Istanbul and Troy, Turkey 2007

You will need to check with Renate but I probably still smell like Turkish cigarettes. We arrived under the cover of darkness and quick settled into our hotel for the night. We arrived late to our hotel room. It was on the 1st floor next to the lift so we heard everything (I bought earplugs the next morning).

Our first sight was the impressive nature of the eyebrows and moustaches putting Movember to shame (women too, just kidding). As we walked into the centre of the old city we could see the mix of old and new. A modern light rail system snakes its way through the Roman ruins, mosques and modern shops. Parks with trees and gardens full of Tulips make it a very green city to visit. Do you know Tulips actually come from Turkey and not Holland? (Holland is full of Daffodils at the moment, not Tulips).

We saw most of the sights in the first day including the Sultan Ahmet Camii (The Blue Mosque), Hagia Sophia, Yerebatan Saray Sarni├ži (Basilica Cistern) and Kapali Carsi (Grand Bazaar) managing to escape without spending a cent. Disney must have been inspired by the Mosques of Istanbul when he came up with the famous Cinderella Castle.

Walking through the Grand Bazaar there was the usual cheap souvenirs, fake goods (Levis, Prada, Versace) but also high quality items such as hand carved chess sets, light fittings and of course carpets. Unfortunately I don't need a belly dancing outfit right now. In an attempt to get passers by to stop they ask the usual "Where are you from?" but in Renate's case they start speaking to her in Dutch before she has opened her mouth (Maybe they can smell the cheese). They thought I was either Spanish, Italian and French (or Dutch). On our last night a waiter bought us two Dutch menus.

Day two started very early being picked up at 6:30am by our little bus and driven around Istanbul picking up the rest of the group. The trip went very fast as our guide Murat educated us on Turkey's history and we arrived in Gallipoli just after lunch (more about that after ANZAC day). That night we had opted to stay in a 3 star hotel as we were told there were only dorm rooms at the hostel. It turned out to be quite a luxurious 4 star place 20kms from Canakkale.

The next morning we spent at Troy which was one of those famous treasure hunts of all time (Machu Picchu, King Tut's Tomb and Titanic). At a time when people thought the city only existed in legends Heinrich Schliemann dedicated a large portion of his life reading literature on the legend then finally discovering Troy. Of course after that he took all the riches and escaped to Germany. The Russians now have them all after capturing them in Berlin at the end of WWII.

The site itself was pretty old as you might expect dating back to 3000BC. What makes Troy unique is that the same site was used until the 1st century BC so it has more layers than a Sarah Lee Danish each unique and identifiable. Who knows if the stories of Homer are fact or fiction but they have certainly made it into modern times.

For the last couple of days exploring the new city walking up the Bosphorus river, checking our Taksim and the spice market back in the old city. I was also due for a haircut so its always fun to experiment in a new city or is it?

We had a great time and thank you to the Turkish people for their hospitality. Just remember to put your rubbish in a bin rather than throwing it over the side of a boat or into the street.


Easter 2007

We have both been quite restrained with our chocolate intake. Except for the chocolate cereal (real lumps of chocolate), the only chocolate we've bought is a small box of Bon Bons from Belgium and we are only two thirds of the way through them.

Easter was spent doing a few bits with Renate's family and since Renate had to work on the Sunday and Monday I did the same. We spent Saturday at Renate's parents and had a Gourmetten meal. You cook yourself from all the bits on the table. Very cool like a Steam Boat.

On the Sunday night we had a couple of Renate's friends Maaike and Jelle over for green curry as they were in Holland instead of their home in gay Paris (mmmm, Dutch people can't take hot food).

It was probably the limited exposure to chocolate up until that point but I felt the need to stuff a chocolate Easter bunny "Browny" (a gift from Marjan) with Australian branded Belgium chocolate ice cream. Browny was quickly beheaded allowing the chocolate ice cream to flow (the Doctors loved this).

This weekend we'll take the days we worked from Easter and head to Istanbul, Turkey. We'll also take a side trip to Troy and pay our respects at ANZAC cove in Gallipoli.

Congratulations are in order for everyone who popped over the weekend. Simon & Cara with Sydney, Gavin and Erica with Oscar and Rob and Barbara with Darcy. Congratulations also to Brent and his Irish bride Mary who tied the knot this weekend and Geoff and Leigh who will tie the knot this weekend.


Stone Marten (Martes foina)

Related to the Weasel and Stoat the Marten is a curious little creature that lives in the wooded areas and forests of Europe. They grow to between 40 and 50cms in length and have a large bushy tail.

Marten's are omnivores, their diet includes worms, eggs, fruit, other smaller mammals and high-tension leads in car engines.

As in the case of Renate's little Renault Clio the Marten completely ate through the lead for the number 1 cylinder. Probably a mid-night snack after finding a nice warm spot to sleep for the day.

This guy must have had good taste as he picked the most extensive cable at 70 euro.


Spring is here

Since my previous post about the weather, it has certainly improved. The sun has been shining and the sky's are clear staying warm late into the evening.

Most of the smaller trees are blossoming but there is still no sign of life in the larger trees. The animals are getting frisky so it must be spring.

With all the good weather the mercury has risen and its now hotter in the day in the Netherlands than it is during the night in New Zealand.... but only just :-)

Everyone is out and about walking, biking and inline skating (which I have not ventured into yet). Thanks again Wim for the inline skates, I'll put them to good use soon.

At the moment I'm sitting here in a t-shirt with the balcony door open at 7:30pm. I've spent the day biking in the forest with a couple of biking/climbing friends making it to Germany for lunch. Most of the mud in the forest has dried up and other trails are dusty making for some great riding. Renate has night shifts at the moment so unfortunately she was sleeping today and I've just seen her off to work for the night.

When we are both home lunch is normally on the balcony after which Renate likes to relax in her hammock 4 stories up soaking up the suns rays whilst I get back to work.