Fez Bus Tour - Gallipoli to Cannakkale
Gallipoli Travel Blog› entry 2 of 10 › view all entries
Here is the first of my Turkey tour blogs - insha'allah. It was such an amazing experience and we saw so much that I can't hope to remember all of it, so this is my best way of remembering all the little details that made the trip so unforgettable.
If you ask the average American to tell you about the battle of Gallipoli in World War, there's a fair chance all you'll get is a shoulder shrug or a well-articulated "Huh? Gallipo-wha?" Some may recall it as a footnote in Mel Gibson's early career before he went crazy and became a raging anti-Semite. However, if you ask an Aussie or Kiwi, you'll not only get a resounding "of course!" but also a story about the defining event of their countries' history. A Turk will start speaking in a reverenced tone about a young general named Mustafa Kemal, later known only as Ataturk and the founder of modern Turkey.
While today the Turks still have much animosity towards those they have fought in recent memory (i.e., the Greeks), the feeling towards the ANZAC (Australian and New Zealand Armed Corps) forces is quite an anomaly. Rather than harboring any sort of ill-feeling or disdain for those who sought to invade their country, there is an amazing camaraderie between them.
The battle of Gallipoli was one of the bloodiest of the First World War. This was partly because of a rather large mistake on the part of the British. The ANZAC troops were supposed to land at an easily-accessible place where they could fight their way to the high ground with minimal difficulty. Unfortunately for them, something went wrong and they landed at one of the most impenetrable coasts in the entire region. The area wasn't even well-guarded because it was a natural defensive point with high cliffs that would prove tricky for a modern-day rock climber.
The ANZACs and Turks fought for months, with their trenches unbelievably close to each other. They had "gentleman agreements" where the ANZACs would be allowed to go swimming in the nearby cove without fear of being shot at. The respect between the two armies was quite astounding, especially when compared to modern-day warfare. (Imagine an al-Qaeda operative not shooting at an American soldier because he was not on duty!) When the ANZAC troops finally retreated permanently, they encountered no resistance from the Turks, who considered shooting a fleeing enemy as low and degrading. The British simply thought they had outsmarted the Turks and had made a getaway without the Turks catching on.
At the end of it all, Ataturk made a moving speech praising the bravery and fighting spirit of the ANZACs and said that they had become brothers to their Turkish counterparts.
"Those heroes who 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."
Nowadays, Aussies and Kiwis flock to Gallipoli every year to visit this immensely important part of their cultural identity. There's the Anzac Cove where you can see the utter futility of the ANZAC's invasion with its impenetrable cliffs. The Lone Pine now sits among a sea of white grave stones. Monuments are everywhere that praise the bravery of both the Turks and their "enemies" of the battle. The most telling of these is that of a Turkish "Mehmet" carrying a wounded "Johnny" soldier in his arms as a symbol of the brotherhood between their countries.
It was far more interesting to visit this place (as an American) as part of a group of mostly Australian backpackers, and a guide who had lost his grandfather to the battle and was still clearly angry at the British because of this. To see the war through their eyes and experiences helped to bring the history of this picturesque peninsula alive.