I think its a bit of a right of passage for Australians visiting Turkey to see Gallilpoli and pay their respects to the fallen soldiers. Indeed, tourism in Turkey thinks the same and the question you’ll get straight after saying you’re Australian is “So you’re going to Gallipoli?”
Almost every single travel agency offers Gallipoli tours so after many questionings by the locals, B and I booked ourselves in and got up at the early hour of 6am to catch the bus to Gallipoli. We were onto our fourth early morning in a row and even though we woke before our alarms, there was a touch of fatigue in our movements and a lack of eagerness in the air. We were told we breakfast and lunch was provided so we left our hotel without eating and was picked up by our tour guide, ready for the four hour journey to Gallipoli. By the time we picked up the other people also doing the Gallipoli tour, the sky had gone from bright blue to a greyish black. We rolled out of Istanbul and towards Eceabat, where we would have lunch before heading the few kilometres out to Anzac Cove.
The rain was pounding down once we reached Eceabat and we had to wait until it passed before being taken down to Gallipoli. Now I admit, my knowledge of Gallipoli and its history is pretty much that ANZAC Day is the 25th of April and it was a horrible battle where thousands of Aussies and Kiwis lost their lives. I had a vague idea of the events that occurred from watching the classic Mel Gibson movie ‘Gallipoli’, and what was long lost in my memory with algebra and other high school facts which I have not used once since I left school. Anyway..
We arrived at Anzac Cove and my first impression was shock in how beautiful the area is. By this time, the rain had cleared and the sun was peeking out from behind the clouds. Cerulean coloured water and green mountains lined the bay. if it wasn’t for the horrific history that occurred in this cove, it would have made a wonderful holiday spot. Our guide gave us a rundown of Anzac Cove and then we were left to wander. It was hard to imagine soldiers running over this grass and up the hills, or them frolicking in the water before the bloodshed occurred.
We were driven up to several cemeteries, walking through the green grass reading headstone after headstone. Most soldiers were in their early 20’s, some even younger. Its hard to comprehend men younger than men volunteered their lives to serve their country. One tombstone that stuck out particularly was of John Simpson Kirkpatrick, or better known as ‘The man with the donkey’. I remember hearing his story of how he saved hundreds of lives from carrying wounded soldiers on his donkey back in primary school. His bravery and compassion (and donkey) had always stuck in my memory.
Our next stop was Lone Pine which is actually named after the one pine tree left standing in the cemetery area. This is where most of the Australian soldiers were buried and is the iconic area for Australians in relation to Anzac Day. We were lucky and only had several other people walking through the cemetery. Our tour guide said that during ANZAC Day, the entire area is filled with thousands of people paying their respects. I still couldn’t get over the beauty of the place. The views from Lone Pine are phenomenal, much too beautiful the events that went down here.
We moved onto the memorial for the 57th Infantry Regiment, where thousands of Turks lost their lives. The Turks were so loyal to their country and obeyed the orders from their leader Mustafa Kemal, where the entire 19th Division was killed. His immortal words were “I do not order you to fight, I order you to die. In the time which passes until we die, other troops and commanders can come forward and take our places”
It wasn’t all sadness however, we had a short ice-cream break and I fell in love with two little puppies that had taken up residence nearby the memorial. I had to laugh at the smarts of the Turks, they were selling Vegemite and cheese toasties by the side of the road. If thats not advertising to a target market than I don’t know what is!
Our final stop was Chunuk Bair where the New Zealand memorial was located. Again, ignorant old me just assumed Lone Pine was the memorial for the Anzacs but I am now aware of all the different memorials surrounding Anzac Cove.
We finished the tour around 6:30pm and headed back to Istanbul. The four hour journey was long and B and I both slept most of the way. It was an interesting and moving day, I was glad to have seen Gallipoli and refreshed my memory on the history of the ANZACs.