As continued from my pervious post on Canakkale and Troy.
Gallipoli Peninsula and the ANZAC Battlefields
So after my tour of Troy I crossed the Dardanelles to Eceabat to have lunch and meet my Gallipoli tour at the Crowded House Hotel, where Crowded House Tours is stationed. Now, before that, on the promenade of Eceabat there is a small war memorial park that includes a to scale replica of the trenches and soldiers from both sides, a map of the Dardanelles and the Peninsula indicating who occupied where, and a sculpture which consists of miniature versions of the famous sculptures along the Peninsula commemorating the various aspects of the Gallipoli Campaign.
The lunch at Crowded House was rather tasty, but it was a quick one before we boarded the bus to the ANZAC Battlefields. To actually tour the entire Peninsula requires a full day as it takes half a day for the ANZAC Battlefields and another half day for the Helles side of the peninsula where the British, French and Turkish memorials are. I decided to do the ANZAC Battlefields tour because I had heard about ANZAC Day from my many Aussie and Kiwi friends, but was very unaware that it was a day to commemorate the heroes of the Gallipoli Campaign which occurred in Turkey. When deciding which tour to choose I did a quick research and found out that Ataturk, who at the time was known by his name: Mustafa Kemal, was a commander during the campaign who lead the Turks to defeat the ANZAC forces. This in turn lead to his eventual rise as the father of the Turkish Republic. So I wanted to go see the place that gave rise to a strong national identity in three countries, Turkey, Australia and New Zealand.
The Gallipoli Campaign happened during World War I, from April 25, 2915 to January 9, 1916. The goal for the joint French and British forces was to eventually capture Constantinople (Istanbul) and secure control of the seaway to Russia. They first attempted to capture the Dardanelles by sea but failed and then went on to attempt to capture by land, after months of bloodshed the Ottomans were victorious. The ANZAC (Australian New Zealand Army Corps) troops were sent to capture the highest point of the Peninsula, Chunuk Bair. On April 25, 1915, the ANZAC troops landed on the coast, though in the wrong place, they were meant to land in Brighton Beach but instead landed a bit more north in what is now known as ANZAC Cove. Both sides dug trenches and fought/ climbed through steep mountainsides and forests. In August, the ANZAC Troops were successfully captured the hill for 2 days, but under Ataturk’s leadership and command, the Turkish army regained final control of the hill. During this reclaiming of the hill, Ataturk was shot in the heart, but was saved by his pocket watch which took the hit, indeed it is a watch that saved a nation and changed history forever. During the battle of Gallipoli, many lives from lost from both sides, but it was the first significant loss of life for Australians and New Zealanders in the war which lead to a newfound national consciousness and pride, which is a reason why ANZAC day is such an important day in the two countries, with thousands pacing the ANZAC Battlefields annually on April 25, to commemorate this day and this battle.
Ataturk’s Speech on the Gallipoli Campaign and commemorating the fallen:
“Those heroes that shed their blood and lost their lives…you are now lying in the soil of a friendly country. Therefore rest in peace. There is no difference between the Johnnies and the Mehmets to us where they lie side by side here in this country of ours… you, the mothers, who sent their sons from far away countries wipe away your tears, your sons are now lying in our bosom and are in peace. After having lost their lives on this land they have become our sons as well.” – Ataturk 1934.
I found this to be a very moving, honest, and inspirational speech that reflects the notion that World War I was “The Last Gentleman’s War.” It also reflects Ataturk as a person and as a leader/ founding father of a Republic.
As noted in the picture above, many called World War I and the Gallipoli Campaign as “The Last Gentleman’s War.” It was called this for reasons such as the incident shown in the sculpture, a Turkish soldier waved his white flag and stopped all fighting, ran out of Turkish trenches to carry a wounded Australian soldier in the no man’s land and brought him back to the ANZAC trenches to be treated for his wounds, then climbed back into Turkish trenches before the fighting carried on. Fighting also stopped on Christmas and troops from both sides celebrated together, exchanged food/ drinks and had conversations before heading back to battle the next day. It was indeed a gentleman’s war.
I wont go into further details of the battles and the campaign itself, but I will say that the Peninsula is very much worth a visit, and if you have time definitely do a full day tour to see all the battlefields and memorials from all nations (Turkey’s tallest flagpole and largest flag is at the Turkish Memorial on the Helles side, which I think is worth seeing, as it is a reflection of the Turkish nationalism). But if you can only choose one, I’d go with the ANZAC one, as it bears more significance for three nations, and is where the course of Turkey’s history and nationalism was changed forever. After all, had that pocket watch not been in Ataturk’s pocket, who knows, there might not have been a Turkish Republic, I might be writing this in the Ottoman Kingdom still (not likely but still, just imagine if I was in the Ottoman kingdom now, how cool would that be). In fact, over 95% of the tour I was on consisted of Australians, Australian and New Zealand universities take students on trips just to visit the Peninsula, local Turkish tours visit with masses of people and the tour guides explain the history and battles with great nationalistic fervor and pride. Crowded House’s guide was not bias, and gave a very balanced and neutral stance on the battles, and gave equal amounts of emphasis for both sides. (Note: this is not to say this battle was not significant for the British or the French, but it helped shape and define Turkish nationalism as it lead to the revolution, and it gave rise to a newfound national consciousness in Australia and New Zealand).
On my tour I was fortunate enough to meet an Australian family, the dad was an Aussie Turk born in Turkey but raised in Australia (though he did live in Turkey for a while as he was very fluent in Turkish). The dad, Mike, was very knowledgable about Turkish history, the history of Gallipoli and the Turkish culture/ language. I had some good conversations with him and his family, who seemed to be just as interested in history and culture as he was. It was Mike that told me about the legend of the Captain who risked his life to carry the heavy bomb across the battlefields in a final attempt to sink a British ship, he was successful in doing so. I was also fortunate enough to meet a very friendly older South African couple, Augusta and Peter, who were on a trip through Turkey and Europe.
After the tour, we sailed back to Canakkale where I had dinner at a seafood restaurant called Yalova. The restaurant serves up fresh fish, grilled or lightly fried. I ordered some fried Red Mullet, the guy gave me one extra for a total of 6 red mullets for 25 TL (USD $13)! I also ordered some yogurt, chili paste, an eggplant appetizer and fried calamari (these were delicious, the squid was fresh and sweet and it was fried to crunchy perfection). The fish was equally fresh, juicy and sweet, and the lightly fried outer skin was not overly oily and gave the fish an added crunch. Well worth the money, and indeed it was great to sit in the outdoor area and eat the fresh fish by the sea on the promenade and watch the sun set. It was also nice to see the waiters of Yalova not waste the fish bones, they fed the bones to the stray cats (in Turkey stray cats and dogs roam about the streets, and they are respected and well taken care of). Afterwards I had to go eat Peynir helvasi one last time.
Finally I boarded my bus at the ferry terminal (well actually I boarded on the ferry), for an overnight bus back to Istanbul. At the ferry station a young boy walked by with his family and said hi and then approached me to ask where I was from. Then as our ferry pulled away, he and his sister (Yassid and Melissa are their names), came up to me, he asked where I was going and I said back to Istanbul and that I was studying at Bogazici, he said he was headed back to Beyoglu (I think thats what he said), he then said his English wasnt very good but I told him it was great, considering his young age, and he and his sister rejoined their family before we parted ways. It was just a very friendly and innocent and curious moment as I sat alone in a corner on the Ferry, but it is also a reflection of the innate kindness of the Turkish people, regardless of what stereotypes there might be of them out there.
So as I have said in my previous post, Canakkale and the Gallipoli Peninsula are well worth a visit. If you cant stay overnight, no worries most tour operators like Crowded House do day tours that depart from Istanbul, but I’d encourage you to try to stay at least one night in Canakkale and just relax in its seaside Turkish charm.
Crowded House Tours
You can contact Ramazan, the tour manager for Crowded House, a very friendly guy who speaks very good English.