Gallipolli and the Dardanelle Straits

Trip Start Apr 25, 2007
Trip End Jun 20, 2007

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Thursday, May 31, 2007

The Dardanelles are a beautiful passage of water and still mostly rural farmland.  We took the bus from Selcuk to Canakkale where we would stay for our last leg of our Turkey Unplugged tour before returning to Istanbul.  Before we left Selcuk, I had bagged lunch which turned out to be the BEST Tavuk Durum I have ever tasted and it comes with the little green chilly peppers too.  Right across from Jimmy's Place with the blue tablecloths, that's the place to go and order one or two or more!  Yum!  Between the pide restaurant and this durum place, and the occasional gozleme out near the Seven Sleepers Cave, I would be quite content to holiday in Selcuk for a while!

Canakkale is significant as from here, we cross over to the peninsular that is European Turkey. It is also here that we will spend tomorrow touring Troy and the war memorials from WWI's Battle of Gallipolli where half a million soldiers died fighting a battle that really in the end did not matter.  On the way to the town, we could see the British memorial and we will be visiting the Australian, NZ and Turkish memorials tomorrow.

Fiona and I decided for the upgrade option to a proper hotel instead of staying at the ANZAC house (hostel).  We were thrilled to be spending at least one night in a modern hotel room as we found out we had to move back to ANZAC house for the second night due to its full occupancy rate.

Dinner and then we watched the Battle of Gallipolli documentary which runs every evening at ANZAC house.  It's almost 2 hours long but well worth watching.   Sherrin decided she could not watch it nor tour Gallipolli as she felt really strongly about the war.  I watched the documentary (which interviewed or read excerpts of letters from both sides of the war of Ottoman soldiers and ANZ and British soldiers) to get a better understanding of the conditions and environment they were fighting under.  I did not stay for the Gallipolli movie after that (starring a very young Mel Gibson).  Not to sound frivolous, instead I attempted to watch some Turkish soaps to get an idea of local current dramas and was surprised to see some of the customs I had heard about being reflected in the storylines.  Core content are the same globally but less Santa Barbara-ish I think.  Definitely less silicon and collagen for one!

Only Jo had opted to go for the Troy tour.  The rest of us slept in or explored the town.  I had my fill of ancient ruins with Ephesus being the highlight I think.  Hellenistic and Byzantine overdose!

A nice leisurely breakfast at the hotel in the morning (which was included) and then it was time for the Gallipolli tour starting at noon.  We met our tour guide at ANZAC house and walked over to the harbour to catch a boat across the dardanelles to the peninsular.  Upon arrival, we had lunch which wasn't too bad even though they were catering for quite a mass of tourists. 

Alex was surprised as later on, there were lots of tourists visiting unlike previous times and even though it was long past ANZAC Day (April 25).  There were also a lot of Turks visiting the sites too as overall, more Ottoman soldiers had died here than the allies fighting this battle.  It is now compulsory for Turkish schoolchildren to visit this site to remember.

Thinking about the numbers were staggering.  Half a million soldiers died here in less than a year, 7 million died at Stalingrad during WW2 and millions more elsewhere...I wonder how many people will die in this war of terror that we are now caught up in? Brainwashed but deliberate suicides attacking civilians instead of soldiers vs. soldiers.

We boarded a large coach to take us to the various war memorials as well as some of the WWI trenches where the soldiers had fought to see how close they literally were to each other and how during the battles, they had gotten to know some of their "enemies" and displayed levels of humanity that seems to have gone completely out the window in today's wars.  We covered the landing sites, memorials where soldiers who died had been buried, memorials for hordes of soldiers who died but bodies were never found.  All I could think of was how peaceful and beautiful the place was in early summer with all the flowers blooming.  The memorial sites are extremely well maintained by the Commonwealth Commission of the Armed Forces as well with the support of the Turkish government.  Attaturk, founding father, displayed in this instance, great generosity by ensuring that all the dead no matter what nationality has a resting place.

On the bus, I sat next to a beautiful American nursing student (who's half Indian and half Italian!) from NYC who was on her summer vacation after spending one semester studying in Madrid with NYU.  She had an amazing story to tell in how she met up with her Turkish friends after losing touch with them.  Apparently, she spent some time in Turkey in another town doing some volunteer work and stayed with a Turkish host family.  She kept in touch with them enough to know they were planning to move to Cannakale to open up a bar as that was their dream, and so that their daughter could attend college (Cannakale is a university town) but live at home.  Well, she flew to Turkey and made it out to Cannakale without having a clue as how to contact them or find them.  As she was sitting by a cafe on the harbour front in her first 3 hours and on the verge of giving up, her former hosts' daughter passed by and recognized her almost immediately!  How cool is that?! And I visited the bar too which is right around the corner from ANZAC House.  They had a live local band playing pretty good Turkish rock music! 

Early night unfortunately as we had to be up by 4:15am to catch the 5am bus back to Istanbul.  It being a Friday, we did not want to get caught in the infamous Istanbul traffic nightmare.  Sherrin's starting to get a little blue as it's nearing the end of a fab holiday...
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