Trip Start Aug 25, 2006
Trip End Dec 15, 2006

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Tuesday, December 5, 2006

Doing the standard thing for a visit to Turkey, Luke and I ventured down to the Gallipoli peninsula for a visit the WW1 battlefields. We had priced doing an organised tour from Istanbul and hiring a car, but in the end due to a number of reasons we decided to guide ourselves using the bus system. After our experiences of doing a similar thing in Morocco I was initially dubious of long distance busses. How wrong I was to worry. Getting to the bus station in a town of 15 odd million people was without hassle.

It was probably the biggest bus station I've seen so far anywhere in Europe. The number of ticket agencies too was unbelievable. It seems there are over a hundred different companies running busses to each part of the country, and as per usual anywhere there's the big names and the small operators. Seeing as we're taking a pretty well trodden route the bus to Ecebat (actually going to Cannakale but we got off just before the bus gets on a ferry across the Dardanelles) was run often by one of the big name companies. Buying the ticket was almost too simple and easy and leaving our luggage for no cost was one of a series of pleasantly surprising aspects of bus travel here in Turkey. We had maybe half an hour to kill before the bus and decided to hunt down some corba (an awesome Turkish lentil soup) and turkish delight before setting off on the 6 hour journey. Inside the main terminal we not only found that but more - ripoff clothes stores, about 80 kebab joints, and a store selling guns, beer, tobacco and mobile phones - all the essentials for life outside of Istanbul.

The bus was very modern and comfortable. The unexpected surprises started with an aromatic alcohol that they provide for you to rub on your hands immediately after departure. It smelled sort of like dish washing liquid or laundry soap and we noticed the experienced campaigners who had their own little stash of the boutique versions smelling a little more pleasant. Next was the free tea or coffee and cake. The roads south were fine and we even got to stop for lunch at a roadside and get more Turkish delight. We arrived at Ecebat on nightfall and checked into the Aussie run hostel, TJs who are probably one of the more famous hostels who run tours of the peninsula. They run that Gallipoli movie with Mel Gibson every night if you ask for it and the Fatal Shores documentary before you head off on the tour.

We visited the original landing site of April 25th 1915 and were filled in of the history of the entire 9 month campaign and visited all the major sites and war memorials. The guide seemed very knowledgeable and pretty genuine about his enthusiasm for the history. Some of the larger trenches still exist in some form although are little more than small ditches now. The original Anzac cove has been pretty much filled in by a road that now runs through it. The no-mans land is marked by an asphalt road that runs along it to the major monuments in the area. There are apparently like 40 Commonwealth war graves sites along the peninsula and in recent years the Turks who have been visiting in increasing numbers have seen what the Commonwealth have done and have been lobbying their own government for a similar setup. Currently there is only one. There's some scary stuff there too - plaques with things like 'I give my life in the hope that Allah brings me back so I can be martyred again'. They love Mustafa Kemal Ataturk who commanded the 57th Regiment against the Anzacs in the region. He was on the only survivor of the group and went on to pretty much revolutionise Turkey less than 10 years later and beat off the Greeks in the north west. He died in 1938 though of cırrhosıs of the liver after smacking too much of Turkey's aniseed spirit Raki apparently. There's pictures and statues of the guy everywhere in Istanbul and the Gallipoli fields are no different. Right next to the monument of the highest point of the peninsula the kiwis captured for 2 nights is a monument just as high of Ataturk. It was during the recapture of the hill from the Kiwis that Ataturk copped a bit of shrapnel to the chest but was saved from it being fatal by his watch. Yeah, they love him here, and it's a crime punishable by jail time to slander him or the Turkish republic Lonely Planet reckons. I'm not too keen to try that claim out. In all the entire Gallipoli peninsula is littered with sites containing explanations of what went on and plenty of graves and memorials. We heard stories of the trouble that goes on each year on Anzac day - the crowds and the banning of alcohol in the last few years. I can imagine the area pretty much lives for that one day in April.

We we're pretty lucky with our departure out of Ecebal. We literally got off the bus back at the hostel, grabbed our bags and were on the next departing ferry across the river 2 minutes later.

On the ferry was a bus to Izmil that we were able to buy a ticket for and get on while it was still on the ferry. Again another tick in the Turksih busses experience column. So now we're in Izmil waiting for a 1am bus to Secuk where we intend to visit Ephesus before heading onto Cappadocia for a few days.
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