Canakkale Travel Blog› entry 535 of 658 › view all entries
People i met here who contributed to, and improved my trip: Julia (Russia)
The journey from Istanbul to Canakkale took six hours and culminated with a thirty minute ferry ride across the Dardanelles. Almost 94 years ago the Allied forces had tried to steer their naval vessels through this strait, only to strike mines and become incapacitated. This was to be the beginning of a failed campaign on the Gallipoli Peninsula, which had the ultimate aim of catching the Ottoman capital of Constantinople, modern day Istanbul. A lot has gone since then, but still people return in their droves to pay homage to those who fell, both defending and attacking these fabled shores.
It was already dark by the time that we checked into Hotel Efes, which was actually our third choice, but the first two were closed for winter. I find it a strange concept that Hotels close in the off season, as its the first time i can remember coming across it, but thats probably because i travel to countries in season, or to destinations where 'seasons' don't exist to the same degree. An en-suite double room cost 35YTL ($22), which seemed like a fair price and the old lady running the place was really nice, so it wasn't a bad choice. Having checked in, we went out to eat lahmacun and a kebab and then returned to the Hotel to take an early night.
On Wednesday morning we went out for breakfast in a small cafe near our Hotel and then caught the 09.00 ferry to Eceabat.
“Traveller, halt! The soil you heedlessly tread
once witnessed the end of an era.
Listen! In this quiet mound
there once beat the heart of a nation”
Stepping off the ferry we took a brief look around a small museum that was situated next to the dock. Other than a large diorama and statue, there wasn't much to see, so we pushed on to Kilia Bay Information Centre, which was a couple of kilometres to the North. I was a little disappointed with what was on display here, with only a few photos and some general History on the region, whilst the cafe seemed to take up more floor space.
It would have been an 8km walk from here to the Kabatepe Information Centre and Museum, but we were lucky enough to flag down a lift from a minivan, and the driver was kind enough not to charge us. There was a 2.50YTL ($1.50) entrance fee into the Museum, but it was well worth it as the displays were more interesting and personal than the ones at Kilia, at least in my opinion. There were some letters from soldiers, weapons, uniforms, ammunition, bullets that had fused together in mid-air and the skull of a man with a bullet embedded in it.
Having improved our knowledge about the battles, topography and participants, it was time to go and witness first hand where the bloody and heroic encounters had taken place. Whilst the sea battles had commenced in the Dardanelles on 18thMarch 1915, the ground attack began on April 25th1915, from the Aegean coastline.
Following the coastal road from Kabatepe, the mountains gradually became steeper the further North that we progressed, which highlighted the fact that had the Allied troops landed where they were supposed to, then their path inland would have been far less problematic. It wasn't just the terrain that got in the way of the Allied troops, but also the fearless Turkish soldiers, who stood and fought for their motherland.
“I am not ordering you to attack, I am ordering you to die. In the time it takes us to die, other troops and commanders will arrive to take our places”
I'm not sure this motivational speech would work on everyone, but each of his subordinates took the orders with bravery and conviction and fought to the death, with not one soldier remaining alive by the end of the clash. Their lives were not given in vain, as they bravely held their line long enough for reinforcements to arrive, who repelled the Allied fighters back.
The first graves that we reached were at Beach (Hell Spit) Cemetery, where headstones gave some idea of those who perished.
Gallipoli can arguably be seen as the true birth of three nations; Turkey, Australia and New Zealand. Now i know that technically this isn't a Historical fact, but in the hearts of people connected to these countries, i am sure many would agree. The Ottomans as they were then known were defending their own land and developing an insatiable sense of Nation in doing so, whilst our Antipodean brothers were suffering heavy losses at War, for the first time in their History.
The next section of coastline that we came to was Anzac Cove, named in commemoration of the Aussie and Kiwi soldiers who lost their lives here. The Ariburnu cliffs rise sharply, just inland of the beach, and its little wonder that minimal ground was covered by the men who set foot off their boats here. Today, a moving plaque with Ataturks words reads:
“To us there is no difference between the Johnnies and the Mehmets.
To me this typifies the spirit that the War was fought in and the subsequent relationships of the countries once it had all ended. I do find it a little sad though that people always associate the tragedy on these shores as only occurring to the Australian and New Zealand forces, as there were many brave British, French, Indian, Polynesian and of course Turkish troops that perished here too. To me its similar to the myth that the holocaust only happened to Jewish people - something that the Jewish community even claims to be the case - when so many other races and religions perished as a result of Hitlers lethal purges, during the Second World War.
Continuing along he road we came to the Ariburnu Cemetery, Anzac Commemorative Site, Canterbury Cemetery, No 2 Outpost and New Zealand No 2 Outpost. The graves all looked well maintained and all told similar stories of cherished sons dying for their Empire, King, Country, and fellow men. Its hard to fully appreciate what so many of these individuals gave up, for the greater good of the World. I would like to think that the human race has benefited from the Allied forces succeeding in this War and the one that followed 21 years later, which to my mind can partially justify such catastrophic loss of life.
To head to the monuments inland we had to retrace our steps for a couple of kilometres and cut up a steep path just beyond Plugges Plateau and Shrapnel Valley Cemetery.
An uphill dirt road of 1.5kms brought us to Lone Pine Cemetery, where most of the gravestones read “(insert persons name) is thought to be buried here”. In total over half of the missing soldiers were never identified, and in this segment alone, 4,000 men died on the evening of August 6th1915, when the Allies launched a second major offensive to try and break through the Turkish lines. After three days of fierce fighting there was once again stalemate, with opposing trenches literally metres from each other and neither side giving a quarter.
The next three Allied cemeteries that we came upon were those at Johnston's Jolly, Courtney's & Steele's Post and Quinn's Post. On the opposite side of the road â�� thus the Turkish side - was a memorial to Sergeant Mehmet. The story with this guy goes that he fought with his gun until there was no more ammunition and then picked up stones and began to throw them at the enemy. When Mustafa Kemal heard of this feat of bravery, he instantly applied for Mehmet to receive a medal for bravery.
Another kilometre uphill brought us to 57 Alay (57thRegiment) Cemetery, which had a monument of a soldier with a gun on the left of the road and the cemetery and monument for the officers and soldiers on the right. This was the regiment that Ataturk commanded and who i mentioned in an earlier paragraph.
In the evening we went to see a Trojan Horse that was located on the waterfront and then took a walk to the bus station to find out the timetable for buses to Behramkale the following day. Kebab and Gozleme was on the menu for Dinner and we were in bed by 23.00, as it had been a long, tiring, emotion filled day.