Three days on the peninsula
Stepping on two continents
It's great to see that the concept of quiet Sunday morning traffic exists in other places around the world. Leaving Istanbul was quick and simple, even though we got an idea of just how big a city of 16 million people can be. A drive through green countryside was very pleasant, noting the complete lack of fences and many shepherds with sheep and goats. The boy from Kingaroy has seen plenty of tractors in his time in Australia, but out in the paddocks, not cruising down the road like they do here.
A short ferry ride across the Dardenelles allowed us the treat of visiting two continents during this trip. Our goal was to visit the ruins of Troy which was the oldest man-made thing any of us have ever seen. It was amazing that we were able to explore this historic site, sitting on ancient stone ruins and walking past walls from 2500 BC. Some of us were impressed by the size of the place, others thought it smaller than expected, but all felt it was a great place to visit.
On the way back our Turkish tour guide Gencay took us to the top of a hill to visit a Second World War gun emplacement. The Tugrut Reis battery includes two 15 inch cannons, made in 1893, that were detached from a battle-cruiser of the same name. The guns were ‘awesome', with tunnels and bunkers for the arsenal. At Dardanos battery we talked about the events of 18 March and the failed naval campaign that led to the landing. The trip back across The Narrows was one of those ‘perfect moments' with the sun setting, topped off with a gift of flowers from a truck driver.
Walking the frontline
Today was our first visit to the Anzac area and it was very moving. It felt strange being in this beautiful peaceful place, with warm sun, birds singing and bees buzzing, thinking about the terrible things that happened here all those years ago. We all have a soldier to present at different cemeteries and there is a real sense of uncovering people when we rub soil into the engraving to see their names appear. It's a fitting way to commemorate their loss and even something simple like having a photograph made you feel close to them. Walking up Plugges' Plateau was hot, even in this Spring weather, so we couldn't imagine what it would have been like in summer for the soldiers out on the hillsides.
Lunch at the Kum Hotel was a chance to meet some of the other Australians visiting Gallipoli. But most importantly it created an opportunity to demonstrate beach cricket to our Turkish guide. The inaugural Simpson Prize beach cricket match was improvised with a piece of driftwood and pine cones.
The afternoon walk down from Baby 700 to Lone Pine and then down Artillery Road showed us how short the frontline was and how close to the shore. Again we had presentations on individual soldiers at many of the small cemeteries on the way. It was hard to image Lone Line as it was, now with a very large cemetery and seating in place for the ceremony on Anzac Day.
As we headed back along the beach road, we stopped to give a lift to couple young men, who turned out to be Americans from Washington. Curious as to why they were visiting they explained they had a passion for history and this was an important site to visit. We were impressed by their enthusiasm and Jacinta was impressed by their rugged good looks.
A Turkish perspective
We were joined by Kenan Celik, a Turkish historian who explained how the Gallipoli campaign shaped Turkish national identity as well as Australian. There are many more Turkish visitors to the Anzac area today, with over a million coming to Gallipoli every year. A visit to a Turkish mass grave at the site of a field hospital was a reminder of how costly the campaign was for the Turks. While the Australians were fighting to support the British Empire, Turks were fighting for their homeland.
We visited the village of Bigali and a house where Mustafa Kemal lived for a few weeks before the campaign started. It was the first open-air museum display we had seen. At the village café, some of the more adventurous in our group tried their first Turkish coffee and Kayla became determined to start a home for poor stray dogs.
Lunch at the Kum again was an opportunity to continue the great cricket challenge. Our guide Gencay became a cricket legend. In the morning he went to the town of Eceabat and with the enthusiastic support of the locals, managed to get a carpenter to fashion a bat out of a piece of wood. This was christened the Ecea-bat. Gencay also purchased some tennis balls and with such professional equipment, beach cricket was on again, and this time our bus driver was slogging it out with the best of them.
The afternoon was a spectacular walk down Rhododendron Ridge. It was a reminder of the rugged terrain and steep hills that the fighting took place in. We managed to find a few battlefield relics on the way down as well give our legs a good work-out.