Monday 28th September
Woke even before the call the prayer this morning from the nearby mosque. We are being collected by Fez Tours between 6.30 – 7.00 am. Checked out last night before going to bed and organised a breakfast pack with the hotel to keep us going until our first coach stop on the way to Gallipoli.
Tour reps arrived at hotel at 6.45 and we made our way up to the next street to get their shuttle to our main bus along with a number of other tour takers. We duly arrived at our coach in Taksim area and joined a couple of others already on the coach along with our companions on the shuttle. We are going to be a small tour group of 13. Four from USA, 2 from Canada and the rest from Australia/Maureen NZ.
Our tour guide introduced himself as Ḉoḡman (pronounced Sharman) and our driver Gohan (I think) or that is what he is going to be called for the next week!
Sharman (as I will spell it from here) gave us a few facts and figures on Turkey such as its population is 80 million with Istanbul having 15 million of those. No wonder it was crowded over the weekend if they all were out and about for the holiday weekend. The traffic on the freeway out of the city was gridlocked at several spots but it only took about an hour and a half to get to our first roadside stop for a quick refuel, visa purchase for the bus, breakfast for those who needed it and a loo break.
Back on board after a quick heartstarter coffee for John and Maureen especially, Sharman proceeded to give us “History of Turkey 1.01” with the beginnings at Mesopotamia now being confirmed as going back as far as 10,000 years BC. He filled us in on many of the other civilisations that have called Turkey (or Anatolia as it was formerly called) home. I was surprised to learn that the Amazons actually inhabited the present day city of Izmer on the west coast. I had always associated them with Ancient Greece – but then again parts of Turkey were actually within ancient Greece.
The weather started turning nasty on us shortly after leaving the café and it was indeed looking very bleak for our trip to Gallipoli. However, just as we reached near to the town of Eceabat we started to see some slivers of blue sky amongst the grey clouds. I cannot believe the development which is now in Eceabat. It was just a small port town 10 years ago and now has quite an extensive lot of housing, hotels and shops etc.
Eventually made it to Ari Burnu Cemetery which is just before you reach Anzac Cove. I thought we had seen John Kirkpatrick Simpson’s (Simpson and his Donkey fame) here last time, but couldn’t find it at all today. It may well have been another cemetery along Anzac Cove. Next stop was the actual Anzac Cove and even though this is our second visit, it is still hard to realise that this is where thousands of Australian, New Zealand, Indian and some Newfoundlander along with Turkish soldiers perished. With the flat landing areas along Suvla Bay, it is unthinkable that the British generals somehow got it so wrong and landed shiploads of soldiers to what is now known as Anzac Cove. Today it has a small flat area where ceremonies are now held but rising up above that are extremely steep cliffs which were just not climbable by those men. The Turks were placed over the top of those cliffs and the men trying to reach the higher ground were picked off like ducks in a shooting gallery.
When we first pulled up, Sharman showed us a map of the area and the places of activity and the reason why the Dardanelles were so important as a passage through to the Black Sea and Russia. Sharman explained quite rightly that the cause of the ultimate slaughter on both sides was the result of the pure arrogance of the British officers in charge. At this comment, one of the Aussie men who I then found out was a Pom, muttered “bloody propaganda and bullshit” and stormed off to look at something else. From that point he showed no interest really in what we were seeing but just wandered around like a spoilt brat sulking. His wife, an Aussie, decided to ignore him and took part in the tour but the group now have him in their sights I think.
Sharman pointed out the significant areas as we made our way up the hills to the Turkish Memorial with its enormous statue of Mustafa Kamel Attaturk and their war graves. There is also a great statue of the last Turkish veteran who was at Gallipoli holding the hand of his granddaughter. He passed away in the 1990’s sometime. Our grumpy bum Pom didn’t even bother walking through the Turkish memorial! What a spoiled sport. Can’t take any criticism of the great British Imperial system. History is history and what was stated was a matter of real fact – the Poms stuffed up big time at the expense of their colonial troops.
On to Chunuk Bair, we stopped for a look at the New Zealand Memorial and a wander around some of the original WW1 trenches which have now been lined with logs for easy identification. It is such a wonderful view right across the Gallipoli Peninsula from Chunuk Bair, the highest point. No wonder the Allies didn’t stand a chance as the Turks could see them from whichever direction they approached.
Our time at Gallipoli was at an end and once again it was a great experience to actually stand on the beach where so many ANZACS brought forth the spirit that forged our identity in the world from thereon. The Turkish people identify the Australian and New Zealand soldiers as honourable enemies and they are much admired by the people here. Whenever you say you are from Australia they say ANZAC.
Our early day started catching up with a few of us and it was now time to head the bus towards the town of Eceabat and the 4 pm car/bus ferry over to the Asian side town of Canakkale where we will be staying the night. It was a very smooth crossing which took only about 25 minutes. If I thought Eceabat had expanded, it was amazing to see Canakkale close up again. We had to drive maybe 20 minutes through late afternoon traffic before we came to our stop for the night at Iris Hotel. Sharman very quickly had us all checked in, our bags upstairs on our floor and we were free until dinner started at 7pm. Dinner was a veritable feast of Turkish dishes made from produce from their own farm next door. Was a bit dubious when we first pulled up as there were quite a lot of deer and fawns running around the farmyard and I was hoping they weren’t on the menu.
Fortuntely, the main meat was grilled chicken and then multiple vegetable dishes with mixtures of tomatoes, onions, capsicums, okra, eggplant and the inevitable potato in some form – usually chips or wedges. John was also disgusted to find broad beans which he took by mistake thinking they were mushrooms (duh – look nothing alike) but he actually ate some of them. The dessert table was endless with pastries of all shapes, descriptions and flavours dripping with honey or sugar syrup. Needless to say my sweet tooth kicked in big time and I enjoyed every bit of it.
Time to retire to bed and have a good night’s sleep ready for our pick up at 8.15. With an extremely full stomach I waddled into the lift and along the corridor to our room and fell into bed.