Gallipoli- Being There
It is no mean feat to see the part of the Gallipoli peninsula where the fighting took place. Several factors make it more difficult but the two main ones are people and time. You can drive around to all the places to visit but that means lots of big coaches, small coaches and private cars on relatively narrow roads. The coach drivers - ours was Suleyman - was very able. The know their coaches capability like the back of their hand. So everywhere we stopped there were crowds and if we were lucky, some other buses left before ours and we had a short time there with just us....all 80 of us! Still at Lone Pine, that was nice. At the Turkish memorials there were always lots of people. Apparently Gallipoli is growing in popularity in Turkey as it is in Australia. That gives a nice warm, glowing feeling but we also heard that new myths surrounding the conflict are emerging in Turkey along the lines of it being recognised as Jihad and a Holy War. There is an election happening here soon and there is disquiet in the populace - the current government is quite dictatorial and moving to the right.
Back to our own pilgrimage though. It felt so good to be finally standing on the ground in places I have recently read more about and that we have all heard about. Our first stop at a cemetery was the most contrasting to the tales of the war; the sun was very warm, the blossom was out, the grass was green and there were birds tweeting. Idyllic. We visited several cemeteries and wandered about placing poppies and observing the awful loss of a generation, reading the ages on the gravestones.
I mentioned Hugh Dolan in the last post; Hugh was there and gave us dramatic and enthusiastic (and very well informed) information about the battles. We followed him through bushes to look at strategic points and to hear his vivid description of what went on. He wasn't interested in memorials, he wanted us to really understand what went on, why it ultimately failed and how and where the landings took place. Again, I didn't find it very emotional, I've felt that more at the big war cemeteries we visited in Belgium and France where there are so many thousands of graves. This is a more intimate place and is probably best experienced when it's quieter. I'm not sure if that is even possible these days. We walked through some trenches - not high enough for most of our generation and apparently not always for theirs either. The ground in Spring is already hard and dry and it is hard to imagine what it would have been like to dig in there with their little shovels.
All the seating for Anzac day was still in place so we did have some idea of what it felt like on the day. The main difference was that the 12 who went had to walk from Anzac Cove to Lone Pine and we did it all in buses. It was still a very warm and tiring day for us hopping in and out of buses.
We were back on the boat by 5.30 and are now sailing to Lemnos - we left at about 6.45.