Gallipoli - The birthplace of nations

by CameronM Tue, September 30 2003 06:01

We could have stayed longer in Istanbul, as there were still many things we hadn't done, but as time was short, we continued travelling. Tan had decided that our theme song for the trip would be "Don't stop moving..." and I think we both adhered to it pretty well. After a bit of comparison shopping with travel agents and calculating the cost of doing Gallipoli (Gelibolu) on our own, we decided to purchase a tour which included the bus to Gallipoli, a tour of the battlefields, overnight accommodation in Canakkale (Çanakkale) and onward transport to Selcuk (Selçuk).

It wasn't long before we realised the expense was worth it. En-route to Gallipoli, we stopped at a restaurant overlooking the Dardanelles and had a very enjoyable four-course lunch, which was some of the best food we'd had so far in Turkey. In the afternoon Ali, our tour guide, gave a captivating commentary on the failed Gallipoli invasion, highlighting all the key battlefields such as Anzac Cove and Lone Pine.

The tour bus follows the road along Anzac Cove on the same route as the supply road built by NZ soldiers. The cove itself is rather small and, as you may remember, it is surrounded by steep cliffs, which look absolutely impossible to climb, especially with the 40kg pack and equipment each soldier was required to carry. Ali told us how it was the climbing time of 1 hour 10 minutes that allowed the unsuspecting Turks to gain the upper hand in the race for the high ground, with the Anzacs arriving 10 minutes later. The cove and surrounding hillside is so steep that the official Anzac Memorial, the site of annual pilgrimage for tens of thousands on Anzac Day, is located about 5 minutes walk to the north.

For the next 240 days, Anzac and Turks faced each other in trenches barely 20m apart, but neither side could gain absolute victory, with attacks and counter attacks leading to little or no permanent gain in ground. Some of the trenches are still visible, although no longer as deep as they originally were. Some trenches have even been repaired so that visitors can grasp just how close the fighting was.
The Australian War Memorial is located at Lone Pine, a section of high ground located about a kilometre from the shore. This was the scene of one of the bloodiest battles fought between Australian forces and Turks, in which thousands from both sides died in a 4 day and night battle. The small cemetery hides the terrible truth that many thousands lay buried in one of the largest mass graves located directly under the memorial. The tree in the cemetery is a descendant of the "lone pine" that stood on the battlefield at the time of the invasion.

In spite of its bloody history, or maybe because of its history, the Gallipoli Peninsula is a quite and thought provoking site and few leave the area untouched by the events that shaped the future for both the Australia and NZ, as well as the Turkish people, who would gain democracy and radical social changes at the hands of their Gallipoli hero, and future president, Kemal Mustafa.

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Istanbul is a cultural and sensory delight

by CameronM Sun, September 28 2003 05:53

Istanbul is a cultural and sensory delight. It truly is the place where East-meets-West. Where conservative Turkish culture mixes with the latest European fashions.

When we finally arrived at our hostel in Sultanahmet, we were surprised to find many of the inhabitants still in bed even though it was approaching midday. Over the next few nights the reasons for this became painfully clear. The hostel had a very loud and lively bar downstairs that entertained the residents until the wee hours of the morning. On our last day at the hostel in fact, we met a guy in our dorm you had stayed at the hostel for five nights, but had never slept on his bunk, passing out on the roof top terrace every night after a lively social agenda. The worst part was that many of them were Aussies, so no doubt we are again setting a terrible example to the world.

After a shower and a short nap we ventured out into the now bustling streets of Istanbul. The first thing you notice, besides the carpet shops, is Sultanahmet Square, a green oasis complete with a fountain and park benches, where you can relax and watch the world go by, while enjoying stunning vistas to the Blue Mosque and its older and a little more tired Aya Sofia. 
Many a evening over the course of the next few days I would wander down to the square, sit on one of the benches facing the well lit Blue Mosque, enjoying the atmosphere and the architecture, while sipping a cup of tea that I had purchased from the roving sellers, who I figure must be the Muslim equivalent of the beer sellers at football matches. During the day, the area around the square was filled with people, tourists and locals alike, and you could purchase food from street vendors and enjoy the slightly cooler sun Istanbul provided.

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Bodrum to Istanbul (Why I hate buses)

by CameronM Sat, September 27 2003 05:38

Whatever drugs we were taking when we decided to travel on the overnight bus from Bodrum to Istanbul, had obviously worn off by the wee hours of the morning, as I discovered just how few interesting things there are to see in the dark.

We arrived in Istanbul on a Sunday morning, but still the main bus station was crowded. The guidebook says there are in excess of 100 different agents and gates, and looking at the vast complex, I would say they finally got something right.

For no obvious reason, the bus station is situated about 20 minutes from the main city centre, so we boarded the clean and swift Metro rail system, which emptied us out right near a main junction for the tram network. After attempting to gain some sort of understanding into how to catch a tram and failing miserably, we turned to the guidebook for a little advice. Unfortunately either my map reading skills are terrible or the maps that are provided by guidebooks deliberately leave out countless minor roads and appear grossly out of scale.

Whatever the case we decided that Sultanahmet, the area that was the main focus for tourists didn’t seem more that a few blocks away. It actually turned out to be about 2 kilometres. After a long overnight trip on the bus the last thing we felt like was to walk 2k’s carrying fully loaded backpacks, but once you start you find yourself saying, “Oh it must be just around the next corner”.

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