After what seems a long summer in the UK we are more than ready to get our travelling shoes on again. Although its been pretty good weather and fabulous to have some great friends around, so life has hardly been dull. But when there’s a flight booked and an adventure looming it does become a focus point.
We’re off with our fabulous travelling mates David and Judy so that always means lots of laughs and fun memories being made.
First stop was Sabiha Goeken airport, on the Asian side of Istanbul, picking up the hire car. This time it was David Lines who was keen to do all the driving so that was a real treat for us and I could say that the traffic was nothing like as bad as we’re read about but thats purely from a spectator point of view!!
It was about five hours drive to Canakkale so we broke it with a night in little town of Gebze. An introduction to a basic Turkish breakfast (white bread, olives, cucumber, cheese, boiled egg, and instant coffee) the next morning, courtesy of our hotel, before getting on the road or rather the ferry to head south toward Gallipoli.
Our Airbnb in Canakkale was a great find, thats after we managed to track it down with David, quite by coincidence meeting the niece of our host in a cafe. What a small world it is? Best of all she spoke wonderful English, which wasn’t quite so common here, and escorted us around the block to our home. A great two bedroom apartment with a large sitting room for only £22 a night for the four of us!! We almost had to pinch ourselves.
Canakkale is a great spot to base, its a busy working coastal town with lots of action and a multitude of small fishing boats lining the river mouth, only a good coffee was hard to find!!! The acquiring of a taste for Turkish coffee seems to need more time and effort than we had.
The next day we caught the ferry over the the Dardanelles to the small town of Eceabat and were soon met by memorials, on the waterfront, of a life size recreation of the trenches at Quinn’s post.
The boys main focus for this trip to Turkey was Gallipoli, which pretty much makes sense for any good kiwi or Aussie bloke. We’d all grown up with the stories of the disaster, slaughter and the blood shed and the senseless of the Gallipoli Campaign. David and I both experiencing fathers that fought in the more recent war but who would gather at every Anzac dawn service to commemorate the spirit of those brave soldiers who fought there. So actually travelling to the place, setting foot on Anzac Cove and and seeing the terrain they were expected to fight in, put into perceptive all that we had read and been told. The futility of the campaign was all there laid out in front of us - a total military disaster that occurred 100 years ago taking with it thousands of young lives.
The campaign was conceived by Winston Churchill with the aim to open up the heavy mined Dardanelles strait, capture Constantinople (Istanbul) and thus control the vital link with Russia. But sadly it was poorly planned both on sea and land. The landings of the British troops at the base of the Gallipoli peninsula and the Australian and New Zealand troops at the area known as Anzac Cove were met by fierce and well planned Turkish opposition. At one stage the trenches were dug only eight metres apart and the lifespan for those men in the forward trench was only three minutes. More than 11,000 Australian and New Zealanders, 29,00 British, and over 87,000 Turkish troops died as the fighting continued over a ten month period in suffocating heat, lack of water and surrounded by the stench of rotting corpses and many dying from dysentery.
Having the car meant we could take time to visit all the cemeteries, memorials, landing sites and battlefields and even pick up a delicious lunch and fresh fruit on the way. One day was plenty to see everything we’d hoped for although if the weather had been better we’d probably headed back again the next day with backpacks and walking shoes on to explore a little more of the peninsula. All in all a rewarding but sobering experience being here on the Gallipoli Peninsula, now a national park or more of an open air museum.
Ataturk, the famous Turkish commander and founder of the modern Turkish Republic wrote the following poignant words in 1934 as a tribute to the Anzac's.
"Those heroes that shed their blood and lost their lives.........you are now lying in the soul of a friendly country, therefore rest in peace. There is no difference between the Johnnies and the Mehments to us where they lie side by side. You, their mothers who sent their sons far away from their countries, wipe away your tears. Your sons are now lying in our bosom and are at peace. After having lost their lives on this land, they have become our sons as well."
Troy was on the list to visit as it was only few miles down the coast but huge thunderstorms along the coast line and massive flooding meant only David Lines was brave enough to get out of the car for this shot.
Next day we headed up the coast along the Sea of Marmara. It sounds rather lovely but sadly was a pretty uninteresting drive except for one rather delightful wee coastal village.
Bursa was our next destination, originally the first capital of the Ottoman empire in the 1200 and 1300’s. Its known for its silk filled bazaars, (that sadly were all closed as was so much else because of the Religious holiday) early Ottoman architecture and fruit processing. But nowadays that has all been surpassed by its involvement in the motor vehicle industry -perhaps more aptly described as Turkey’s Detroit.
We were searching for a beach walk as we drove up the coast but this is a close as we got -not all bad!!!