Troy and Gallipoli. Two names of great significance - one has been immortalised in the culture of western civilisation by an ancient Greek epic, the other has been burned into the psyche of the Australian and New Zealand nations. Visiting both in the same day is quite something, let me tell you.
Troy was close to the hotel so we arrived after a short drive. We were the first group there, but our advantage was soon eroded by our guide talking and us asking questions. A couple of large groups overtook us, but still, it was fairly quiet.
It was interesting to hear the Turkish perspective of Heinrich Schliemann, compared to the Greeks. Heinrich’s first attempt at archaeology (which hadn’t been invented yet) resulted in the destruction of many newer layers of Troy, and the Turks consider him to be just a treasure hunter (although is still respected for his passion and belief in an actual city of Troy). The Greeks were more willing to call him the father of archaeology, which I think is because he did not destroy or steal from the site of Mycenae.
The site of Troy is quite fascinating as there are 9
major levels, and 40 sub-levels of settlements on the site. The Troy of the Trojan War is known as Troy VI and was the largest of the settlements. The site seems to have first been occupied since pre-history. I believe the site was home to the city of Illium, founded by the Romans. It’s fascinating to see the different building styles on the one site.
We left the site just as some large bus groups were arriving, which made us glad, and headed into the town of Canakkale. Not much to see, but the Trojan horse made for the movie “Troy” was donated to the city and is sitting down near the water where we caught the ferry over to Gallipoli. It is much more impressive than the crappy horse at the site of Troy.
We had some Turkish tea while waiting for the ferry and soon headed across the Hellespont to Gallipoli. At least, I think that’s what the town on the peninsula is called. First thing we saw in the town was the Crowded House Hotel, which our guide said was intentional. Apparently quite a few of the places have Australian names. We later saw the
Unfortunately the museum was closed for renovations, so we headed straight down to Anzac Cove. The first thing we noticed was “The Sphinx”, a rock outcrop overlooking the cove that was apparently dubbed that by the diggers, reminded of the real Sphinx in Egypt near where they trained beforehand.
It was a sombre occasion, but to be honest, I was not prepared for the feelings that overcame me after reading Ataturk’s speech and walking into the small cemetery at Ari Burnu. Particularly when reading the personalised messages on the gravestones, tears began to flow and I honestly felt unbelievably sad. My heart broke a little with each of the messages I read, particularly those that said things about their beloved sons and brothers.
Moving on to Lone Pine, I found myself crying again at the cemetery there. It was a futile waste, but at the same time it is such an important event for Australians. Words cannot adequately describe what it was like visiting this place. I did not feel anywhere near as affected when visiting the Somme (including plenty of young Australians’ graves), nor at any of the other war memorials and cemeteries I
have visited, although I was moved at all of them. I honestly have no idea what affected me so much at Gallipoli.
We moved on to the Turkish memorials which were also very moving, but did not cause me tears. I did not feel quite right until we left the battlefield though. I’m not one to believe in things like holy ground, but I am tempted to in this case. Regardless, words cannot describe the experience of visiting Gallipoli, so I do not thing I shall try any further. I will repeat Ataturk’s words (he was the Turkish commander and became a Turkish hero) that are enshrined on the site:
“Those heroes that shed their blood and lost their lives… you are now lying in the soil of a friendly country. Therefore rest in peace. There is no difference between the Johnnies and the Mehmets where they lie side by side here in this country of ours… You the mothers who sent their sons from far away countries, wipe away your tears. Your sons are now lying in our bosom and are in peace. Having lost their lives on this land they have become our sons as well.”
Some of the many layers of Troy
They are marked with different colours and the roman numeral corresponding to the settlement they belong to.
(Mustafa Kemal), 1934
We had lunch in the town and headed off for the long drive to Istanbul.
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