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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