Published: April 30th 2012April 30th 2012
We arrived at thet pub/hostel Istanbul at around 9pm (after a delayed flight) to a wave of yellow shirts which were already well into party mode. After fighting through the crowd, finding our tour leader and checking into our hotel we joined the party dancing well into the night. It was a great night out with the pub completely packed by all the fanatic tour groups going to Gallipoli. The numbers were in the hundreds, we even met a few people from Townsville. The next day a feeling a little worse for wear we met up with the rest of our tour group and had a tour through some of the major sites of Istanbul. We had seen many of the sites when we were here in January but it was good to do them with a guide and see a few things we hadn’t seen before. The highlights were probably the Topkapi Palace and Mikaela talking down the price on a pair of shoes at the Grand Bazzar, she seems to be very skilled in this area.
The afternoon was spent watching the Fanatics soccer team play a Turkish invitational on the Bosporus with a few drinks. We then
The Last Post
Everyone had lost all composure at this point
took the bus to Tekirdag which is located about halfway between Galipoli and Istanbul to save some driving time the next day. It ended up being a big night for me and a few others as we witnessed an event at the hotel finishing with us spending the night in a Turkish prison giving statements, something I thought I would never get to do...
The next morning as we were leaving Tekirdag the sway bar on the bus decided to snap leaving us stranded for about three hours while the bus was taken to be fixed. It was a bit scary at the time as everyone was worried we wouldn’t make it to Gallipoli early enough to beat the massive crowds. Everyone cheered when the bus returned and we were on our way!
We arrived in Gallipoli late in the afternoon, had some lunch in a near by village and headed off to ANZAC cove, although Mikaela and a few others were struggling with travel sickness we were pretty excited. The bus was parked outside ANZAC cove and we had a few hours to wait on the beach. The weather at first was overcast and a little rainy,
Mikaela and I
we were worried for the long night to come as we had heard it can be freezing on the beach at night especially if it rains. After a few hours however the sun came out and the weather for the rest of our trip was beautiful.
As we were led into ANZAC cove in groups of fifty (to make security less tiresome) you could tell everyone was getting a little nervy, it was an interesting experience. Seeing the cove for the first time takes your breath away. Not in the typical cliché way when you see something beautiful on a large scale. It is the blunt realisation that our troops were actually dropped off on this beach nearly 100 years ago. We have all heard the stories but until you see it you never really believe how small the beach is, how steep the cliffs are and how harsh the terrain would have been.
As the Fanatics were some of the first groups to get into the cove we took over the entire grassed area right at the front, which gave us an amazing view for the night. We set up our sleeping bags on the grass and
The last standing pine tree from the battle
set out exploring until dinner. The night at ANZAC cove was very special. There was an ANZAC band playing all night, two large TV screens which played different ANZAC documentaries and an emcee who had a talent for silencing a room every time he spoke. This got everyone in the spirit ready for the dawn service. We were even able to get an hour or two sleep in after the big night before.
As the sun came up the dawn service began. Information on fallen soldiers were read out and their pictures appeared on the big screen, some as young as 14 years old. There were then speakers from Turkey, New Zealand and Australia. Julia Gillard was amazing. By the time the anthem and last post came on everyone was in tears. We are not really overly patriotic people but being at ANZAC cove really does give you a sense of being Australian and you become emotional easily. It is one of those things that you can’t really put into words but only tell a fellow Australian that it is the one thing as Australians we should all experience.
We then walked up the mountain to Lone Pine
for the Australian service. On the way we passed many grave sites of soldiers from all sides, it was a beautiful walk. As we stopped off at our Lone Pine we bid the Kiwis farewell as they had another 3.7kms hike up to Chunuk Bair for their own service. I won’t go into the Australian service but it was just as emotional as the dawn service, with many stories told and some great guest speakers. The highlight for me was when probably when veterans’ in the crowd were asked to stand, it was amazing to see the pride they had and the respect of everyone in the crowd. The choir sang ‘I still call Australia home’ which was also a tear jerker.
I think it is also important to mention how special it is that the Turkish people continue to allow Australians and New Zelanders to come to this site every year. We often forget that it was us who invaded their country and that the site is equally important to them as a nation post Ottomon Empire. The Turkish side of the war is just as tragic and should be recognised more in Australia.
After this we
made our way up to Chunuk Bair to meet up with the Kiwis and check out the Turkish memorial site as well. The walk was beautiful but we were all pretty tired when we had made it to the end (in total we walked about 9km).
The bus trip from Gallipoli to Kusadasi
was a quiet one, after an event like that there isn’t much else for anyone to do but ponder.
There are more photos below