The first taste of Gallipoli - 2012
Today we left the charms of the beautiful old city of Istanbul .... and yes the allure of the Bazaar....... and headed to Gallipoli to see the real reason for our journey for the first time. The feeling as we travelled down was exciting, exciting for the kids to see something so new and so meaningful and exciting for me to finally get my chance to hopefully inspire these fine young people as I had been inspired by the War Memorial and then at the peninsula. The trip seemed to fly by pretty quickly. We checked into the Kum Hotel and eagerly awaited our chance to start the journey. we scoffed down lunch and for the first time the whole group was waiting at the bus before the driver and our Turkish guide. Driving the short trip along the coast to the first cemetery of the visit was amazing and the kids chattered away in the back of the bus awaiting this special moment. For me the site never fails to impress and as we stepped onto beach cemetery I saw the emotion and sheer enormity of the whole experience written on the faces of all of the students. I know the feeling of that first impact and it is unforgettable.
Soppy love songs from Stu, and Turkish rap from Ozgur were the main forms of entertainmnet during our 4 hour journey from Istanbul to Gallipoli, and the bundle of emotions we were all experiencing were overwhelming, to say the least. The feeling of excitement, nerves and anticipation for what was to come, were expressed via numerous means, whether by excercising our vocal cords, dabbling with interpretive Turkish Dance or cheerfully waving to every passerby...
Although the roadtrip proved to be amusing and a great source of Stu jokes, as well as much needed rest, in this scenario it was the destination, not the journey, that mattered most.
Arriving at Beach Cemerty, all voices dropped to a whisper and we all waited eagerly to "debus", as Ozgur would say, and confront first hand, an aspect of a campaign we had been learning about for years. It was breath taking really, and it was only when looking at each individual grave, that we were all finally able to understand the impact that, not just the Gallipoli Campaign, but war in its entirety, has on mankind generation after generation. The experience was dampened only slightly by the media who were desperate for a story. It was emotion they were after, and emotion they would get, as they certainly didn't hesitate to ask the most confronting of questions.
Having seen Beach Cemetery, walking through Shrapnel Valley and up
Pluggee's was like participating in a story when you already knew the ending (props to Philli). The looming cliff faces, the unforgiving bush... It was almost textbook perfect... Yet where we encountered scratches they (ANZACS) encountered death, and the full meaning of this was incredibly hard to grasp. So hard was it to not take our guides for granted, to not complain about the steepiness of a hill or the whipping of the wind...In 1915, when the ANZACS first arrived, they had no clearly signed paths to follow, no informative and well-educated guides, and certainliy no protection from the wind, and it was this aspect that did not appear as strongly as others.
Today proved to be a magnificent introduction to the actual Gallipoli Campaign, a very moving experience also. Speaking on behalf of the group, I can't wait to see what is still to come.
En sevdigim hayvan maymundur.