As an Australian we learn about the Anzac’s and Gallipoli Campaign from a very young age and for as long as I can remember I have felt the need to travel to Turkey to understand exactly what happened here, learn just how this shaped our very young nation and to pay my respects to the thousands of Australians and New Zealanders who gave their lives here. During the eight month campaign around 100,000 allied and Turkish soldiers were killed and now lay beneath the today peaceful lands and beautiful sandy shores of the Gallipoli Peninsula. Today the Gallipoli Battlefields are silent and preserved as a national park with marble and bronze monuments dotted throughout it and it is one of the most emotional and moving places I’ve ever travelled to. We are very grateful for Neyzen Travel who helped us to arrange our visit to Gallipoli to pay our respects and for organising us a guide to help us learn and understand the history, not just from the Australian side but also from the Turkish side.
After an incredible few days exploring Istanbul it was time to continue our tour throughout Turkey. After breakfast we met our lovely guide and driver Muge who we’d been in constant contact with the last few months planning all the details of our trip and so it was lovely to finally meet her! We had a four hour drive ahead of us to Gallipoli where we’d be meeting our amazing guide, Erdem (which sounded like Adam) who would be taking us on an in-depth tour of Gallipoli and the World War 1 Battlefields.
After exactly four hours in our nice, comfortable air conditioned car we arrived in Eceabat where we met Erdem. In the town centre next to the ferry dock is Eceabat’s Respect for History Park which has informative displays including a scale model of the Gallipoli Peninsula with the main features and battle sites marked which helps you to appreciate the country and land you’re about to explore on the Gallipoli Peninsula. Next to the model is a life-size recreation of trenches at Quinn’s Post where the ANZAC and Turkish soldiers were literally only a few metres apart and death was a near certainty for these young men.
Once Erdem had explained to us in detail about the Gallipoli Peninsula and the major locations from the war we headed off towards Anzac Cove. On our way we stopped for lunch at a fantastic local restaurant called Dayuranlar which is a family owned restaurant that serves all of their own freshly grown produce! Here we tried a traditional Turkish meal of Gozleme which we learnt was Erdem’s favourite meal! Gozleme is a delicious pastry filled with potato and mince and tasted a little bit like sausage roll but much better! Our gozleme was served with fresh salad along with ayran which is a yoghurt drink that was delicious! The restaurant was very authentic & our lunch tasted fantastic and once we’d all finished lunch we headed out to the car to continue our journey to Anzac Cove.
We stopped at Beach Cemetery which is a small cemetery located at what was known as Hell Spit at the southern end of Anzac Cove on the Gallipoli Peninsula. Erdem explained that Beach Cemetery is one of 34 allied cemeteries located on the Peninsula. In addition there are 55 Turkish Cemeteries and many memorials for both the Allied and Turkish soldiers. The Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) looks after and maintains the allied cemeteries and memorials, preserving these monuments to the fallen in perpetuity.
The Allies landed on the peninsula on 25 April 1915 and Beach Cemetery was used from the day of the landing at Anzac, almost until the evacuation. Many of those who now rest here died of their wounds while receiving medical care or were killed by Ottoman artillery which targeted the beaches. There are 391 Commonwealth servicemen of the First World War buried or commemorated in the cemetery.
It is here in this beautiful, peaceful place that John Simpson Kirkpatrick lies. John Simpson is better known to most Australians as “Simpson and his Donkey” and was a field ambulance stretcher bearer. He landed on the 25th April 1915 along with the rest of the Anzac contingent on Anzac Cove. Simpson found a donkey and over the 24 days he survived in Gallipoli he rescued over 300 men throughout the notorious Monash Valley. His prodigious, heroic feat was accomplished under constant and ferocious attack from artillery, field guns and sniper fire and he has become a true Australian legend and one of the most famous and best-love military heroes.
We then visited Anzac Cove which was the landing point of Anzacs on the 25th April 1915. Anzac Cove was not the intended landing point for the allies and it was the much gentler, more accessible Brighton Beach that was their intended landing point. The Anzacs were met with steep cliffs and impossible terrain as well as the Turks holding the higher ground. Erdem was a fantastic guide and was very neutral, not once did he blame the allies or the Turks and just gave us all the facts as it happened. We learnt all about the Gallipoli campaign from a young age at school and it was a very surreal experience to see it all with our own eyes and it was so difficult to believe that such horrible events occurred here where so many young people from countries who are now at peace lost their lives.
From Anzac Cove we walked around to Ari Burnu Cemetery which stands on the promontory at the northern end of Anzac Cove where men of the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps came ashore at dawn on 25 April 1915. It was created shortly after the landings and was used throughout the campaign. From here we could also see the rocky outcrop above the beach that the Anzac troops named ‘The Sphinx’ as it reminded them of the Sphinx in Egypt where the Anzacs had trained before they came to Gallipoli.
The Anzac commemorative site sits above North Beach, Gallipoli with the islands of Imbros and Samothrace on the horizon. The site was created as a joint effort of the New Zealand and Australian governments in cooperation with the Turkish government. It was dedicated by the New Zealand Prime Minister, Helen Clark, her Australian counterpart John Howard, and the Turkish Minister of Forestry on Anzac Day 2000. They unveiled a plaque stating that the Gallipoli Peninsula Peace Park is dedicated to the pursuit of peace, harmony, freedom and understanding. It is here that Anzac Day commemorations are held every April 25th which see thousands of Australian and New Zealanders travel to Turkey every year.
Early in the Gallipoli campaign, a solitary pine tree stood out on a plateau and the area soon became known as Lone Pine. On the 6th August 1915, Anzac forces attacked Ottoman trenches on the ground to begin the battle of Lone Pine. Fierce fighting and Ottoman counter-attacks continued for five days and over 12,000 men lost their lives during this time. Today the Lone Pine Memorial stands on the site of the fiercest fighting and commemorates more than 4,900 Australian and New Zealand servicemen who died in the Anzac area whose graves are now known. Others named on the memorial died at sea and were buried in Gallipoli waters.
There are still a number of trenches left from the war and Erdem took us to visit them. It was very surreal to see just how close the trenches were between the two sides and to imagine how horrific the conditions would have been for all these men.
We then visited The Nek where on the 7th August 1915 the men of the Australian Light Horse attacked Ottoman lines over this narrow strip of land known as ‘the Nek’. Of the 600 Australians of the 3rd Light Horse Brigade that took part, over 230 were killed and almost 150 wounded in less than two hours. The cemetery was built on what was once no-man’s land, where many of the fallen lay until the Allies return here after the end of the war.
Erdem explained that whilst the burial places of unidentified casualties are marked on cemetery plans, unlike cemeteries on the Western Front their graves are not marked on the ground. This gives the cemeteries on the peninsula a unique character – with expanses of open ground dotted with just a few grave markers.
From The Nek we could also had a panoramic view of the entire Anzac part of the peninsula and Erdem took the time to point out each of the places we’d visited throughout the day as well as other major places where battles took place or where memorials are now located, both Turkish and Anzac.
To finish our day at Gallipoli we visited one of the Turkish memorials and cemeteries which is known as Alay Sehitligi and paid our respects to the Turkish soldiers who lost their lives for their country. We then continued onto Conkbayiri to visit Chunuk Bair Cemetery and the New Zealand Memorial where more than 630 servicemen lie. A memorial above the cemetery commemorates more than 850 New Zealand soldiers whose graves are not known, similar to Lone Pine for Australians.
The New Zealand National Memorial is not the only memorial on Conkbayiri. Within metres of it is a large bronze statue of the Turkish military hero, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk in the uniform of an officer of the army of the Ottoman Empire. Turkey became a republic in 1923 and Kemal became the first president and during his 15-year rule, many sweeping changes were introduced to the political, legal and socioeconomic fields. He was an immortal hero to his people and an extraordinary leader and peacemaker. Kemal said in 1933, “I look to the world with an open heart full of pure feelings and friendship“. In 1934, he accepted the title “Atatürk” (father of the Turks). It was a very special experience to learn about the war from both sides from Erdem and we can’t thank him and Neyzen enough for a very moving day where we learnt so much and it was a day that I know we will both never forget.
Visiting Gallipoli was one of the toughest and most moving places I’ve ever visited in all my travels. I felt I learnt more from Erdem during our half day tour of the Peninsula then I learnt in all my years at school learning about the war and the Gallipoli campaign. It is hard to describe the exact feeling visiting a place such as this evokes and I am sure that anyone who has been to Gallipoli will agree with me that it is hard to believe that such heavy fighting and huge loss of life occurred here in what is today a beautiful location. Those who lost their lives defending their countries are now truly at peace, buried in one of the most quiet and peaceful places you could possibly imagine.
From our experience we highly recommend visiting Gallipoli with a guide as there are many points of interest that could easily be missed otherwise, and sites are some distances from each other. The history of the area is complex and sensitive, and knowing what happened here is essential to understanding the experience of being here. Erdem was an incredible guide, he was extremely neutral, knowledgeable and very easy to speak with and ask questions, we could not have asked for a better guide to help us to understand what happened here 101 years ago.
LEST WE FORGET
One of the most emotive places in Gallipoli for me was the quote from Turkish general, Ataturk who went on to become the leader of Turkey which is displayed between Ari Burnu Cemetary and Anzac Cove.
“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.”
We were staying in a nearby town called Eceabat at the charming Hotel Casa Villa. Hotel Casa Villa is a gorgeous, small boutique hotel with 9 stylish rooms that has quiet and peaceful surroundings with sea view rooms and lush gardens. The hotel has three economical rooms, three standard rooms and three deluxe rooms all of which are decorated in different shades of colours. We were staying in their beautiful White Deluxe Double Room which was spacious, spotlessly clean, comfortable and beautifully decorated. Our room had a comfortable king sized bed with deluxe linens, a modern, spotlessly clean bathroom, beautiful countryside and sea views, air conditioning and free high speed wireless internet. Our room was beautiful, luxurious and elegantly decorated and we slept soundly!
Hotel Casa Villa is ideally located to explore the battlefields of the Gallipoli Peninsula. The hotel has beautiful terraces and landscaped gardens that are perfect to relax in and we had a delightful breakfast in the garden. It was by far the best buffet breakfast selection we’ve had so far in Turkey and was an amazing start to the day! The staff at Hotel Casa Villa were warm, friendly and welcomed us into their hotel like it was their home and went above and beyond the ensure every aspect of our stay in their beautiful hotel was perfect. We can’t recommend this lovely hotel any higher for anyone visiting Gallipoli on their future travels.
For dinner Muge took us to an amazing little restaurant on the waterfront in Eceabat, only a few minutes drive from Hotel Casa Villa. We indulged on delicious mezze’s as well as a number of traditional Turkish dishes which were fantastic! We all wanted seafood for dinner and so the waiter called the local fisherman to see what he had caught that day which was amazing! He’d caught a 1kg seabass and so we all decided to share it and it was absolutely INCREDIBLE! One of the freshest and most delicious fish I’ve ever eaten and the entire meal was also very reasonably priced. We all had a fantastic night and it was so peaceful and beautiful sitting by the sea as the sun went down. It was the perfect place to relax and reflect on all that we’d seen and learnt that day.
After breakfast we headed off towards the ancient city of Troy and we literally got a few hundred metres down the road and saw this little baby turtle crawling across the road! He didn’t want to leave the road and we were pretty worried he may get run over so we picked him up and moved him off the street. He was adorable and it was a great way to start what we were sure would be another amazing day exploring Turkey with Neyzen!