Gallipoli (and Pergamon)


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Middle East » Turkey » Marmara » Gallipoli
November 8th 2015
Published: November 10th 2015
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After checking out of our hotel in Selçuk we were dropped off at the station where we eventually boarded a train to Izmir Airport which is about an hour away. At the airport we found our way to the car rental area and picked up the car we’d booked before arriving in Turkey. This car was a whole lot nicer than the previous three we had hired so far in Turkey which was fortunate as we’d be driving from Izmir to Istanbul via Gallipoli; a total of about 700km (excluding wrong turns). We were supposed to be picking up our friends Kat and Rob along the way to Çanakkale and spending the rest of our holiday with them but unfortunately they had to cut their trip short due to illness.

After checking the fuel tank was full (a lot aren’t when you pick the car up in Turkey which means you’re teetering on almost empty the whole time so you don’t pay for more fuel than you need to) we headed off towards Pergamon which is about two hours north of Izmir.

Pergamon, which was added to the UNESCO world heritage list in 2014, was founded in the 3rd century BC as the capital of the Hellenistic Attalid dynasty. The city was passed to the Romans in 133 BC; it then became the capital of the Roman Province of Asia. The ruins in and around the modern town Bergama are from the Hellenistic, Roman, Byzantine and Ottoman empires.

Though there are a number of sites in the area we chose to visit just one, the Bergama Acropolis, which is perched on top of a hill (where else?!) on the outskirts of the town of Bergama. To reach the ruins we caught the cable car up from the lower carpark to (almost) the top of the hill. After hopping out of the cable car and purchasing tickets we set off to explore the huge complex.

The ruins of the Temple of Trajan and the Theatre were the standouts of the site. The Temple of Trajan was a massive marble columned building was built by the Romans. Construction commenced during the Emperor Trajan’s reign (98 – 117 AD) and was completed during the reign of Hadrian (117 – 138 AD). The temple was used to worship both Trajan and Hadrian as well as Zeus.

The Theatre, which was constructed during the Hellenistic period, is perched on the side of the hill. It apparently has the steepest seating of any theatre in the ancient world as the site didn’t enable the theatre to be as circular as Hellenistic theatres normally are so the height was increased in order to achieve a capacity of 10,000 seats.

As the site is on top of a hill the views were quite spectacular; we were able to see the modern town of Bergama, surrounding farms and the Kestel Dam. After exploring for about an hour we headed back down the cable car and continued on our way past the cute little buildings in Bergama and the ruins of the Red Hall Basilica (which was undergoing restoration).

Our GPS took us a slightly different route on the way out of the town; it took us a little while before we’d realised we were going a different way and by that time we figured we were committed. I’m definitely glad we blindly followed the GPS as the scenic (though not much longer) route was definitely more scenic than a freeway! We ended up driving through a pretty valley, up a mountain and then through huge olive groves.

Our next stop was the town of Ayvalık which is on the coast. Lonely Planet had raved about how beautiful the town was, but upon arrival we were quite disappointed. We stopped briefly for borek before continuing on our way.

We veered off the freeway again near the Bay of Edremit and drove through a series of smaller towns. During this section of the drive we saw the most obvious signs of the refugee crisis as a result of the current issues in Syria and surrounding areas. The towns around the Bay of Edremit are the point at which Syrian (and other) refugees, who have crossed overland through, Turkey are hopping into boats and heading to the small Greek island of Lesvos. Lesvos is is only 10km off the coast of Turkey (at the closest point); apparently almost half of all refugee arrivals into Europe are received by the island.

After hopping back on the freeway we headed over the mountains to the coastline along the Dardanelles. We finally made it to our hotel in Çanakkale at about 6pm.

The following morning we got up early, had breakfast, checked out of our hotel and headed for the 8:30(ish) ferry to Eceabat which is on the other side of the Dardanelles from Çanakkale. After about 25 minutes the ferry berthed and we set off towards the Gallipoli Simulation Museum in Kabatepe.

The Simulation Museum consists of a few floors with relics from both sides of the Gallipoli campaign as well as an hour long ‘simulation experience’ telling the story of the campaign. We checked out the traditional museum section first; there were a lot of interesting exhibits, but the way they were presented was a little disappointing; the story didn’t flow as well as it could have and quite a few items were mislabelled.

At 10:20 we joined the Turkish families and tour groups for the simulation experience. The experience involves moving through a series of 11 rooms where you watch short films (some in 3D, some with shaking floors) about the Gallipoli campaign. We eventually got some headphones which enabled us to listen to the English language narrative (the staff initially assumed we were Turkish after seeing Scott). The technology used was quite impressive and it was quite engaging. However it sensationalised the war a little more than I would have liked and it didn’t really mention the horrifying losses suffered by both sides. Still it was interesting and I think it was worth seeing.

From the museum we set off towards North Beach which is the starting point of the Anzac Walk self-guided audio tour prepared by the Australian Department of Veteran Affairs. Whilst researching options for Gallipoli I had stumbled across this walk and audio guide and when I compared it with the available tour options it stacked up pretty well. At each of the 14 spots along the tour (which can be walked or driven) the audio guide provides a detailed description of what happened / the significance of the location as well as stories from the official war correspondent, extracts from letters and descriptions of photos taken at the site.

North Beach is the site at which Australian troops of the 3rd Brigade, 1st Division Australian Imperial Force came ashore some minutes after the first landings at Ari Burnu and Anzac Cove on 25 April 1915. ANZAC is spelt out on a low wall in front of the beach and the Sphinx (named by the Anzacs on that first day) towers over the site. The beach was even narrower than I had expected despite seeing countless photos of the site. I can’t even begin to imagine how terrified the young men (and boys) would have felt coming ashore under fire and facing the imposing cliffs in front of them.

From North Beach we headed on to Ari Burnu Cemetery (which is set back from Ari Burnu beach) contains the remains of 252 Commonwealth servicemen, of which 42 are unidentified. From Ari Burnu we headed Anzac Cove, past the Turkish memorial with the famous words attributed to Mustafa Kemal (Atatürk) “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 to us 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. After having lost their lives on this land, they have become our sons as well.”

From Anzac Cove (which was officially renamed in 1985), we headed to Shrapnel Valley Cemetery which contains the remains of 683 Commonwealth servicemen, of which 85 are unidentified. From Shrapnel we headed to Hell Spit Cemetery (391 servicemen; 22 unidentified) and then on to Brighton Beach.

Brighton Beach is the location that the Anzac landing was originally planned for. The terrain here was much more favourable (wide beach, no imposing cliffs); though it is thought that the casualties might have been even higher had they actually landed here as the Turks had much more firepower available at this location (they hadn’t expected the troops to land at Anzac Cove, Ari Burnu or North Beach due to the terrain).

From Brighton Beach we headed on past Artillery Ridge towards Lone Pine Memorial and Cemetery. The Lone Pine Memorial stands on the site of the fiercest fighting at Lone Pine and overlooks the whole front line of May 1915. Lone Pine is the main memorial for the Australian troops who died during the Gallipoli campaign. There are 1,167 Commonwealth servicemen buried or commemorated in this cemetery. 504 of the burials are unidentified. I was able to find my great great uncle Nicholas Tackaberry name on the memorial wall. Nicholas was a member of the 8th Light Horse, who was killed in action during the Battle of the Nek on 7 August 2015. Nicholas was killed when he was 29 which is the same age I am now.

From Lone Pine we headed on to Johnston’s Jolly which contains the remains of 181 servicemen. Across the road from the cemetery were the remains of some trenches. These trenches were the first real signs we’d seen of the battles which took place on the Gallipoli peninsula; if it wasn’t for all the memorials and cemeteries (and history lessons) you wouldn’t have guessed anything significant had happened there until this point.

From Johnston’s Jolly we headed to Quinn’s Post Cemetery (473 servicemen; 294 unidentified) and then on towards the Turkish Memorial. The Turkish Memorial was very busy as it was Sunday. From the Turkish Memorial we headed to the Nek Cemetery.

The Nek Cemetery contains the remains of 326 Commonwealth servicemen, of which 316 are unidentified. Beside the cemetery are the remains of trenches; it was pretty weird thinking this was likely the spot where my great great uncle was killed along with 233 other Australians and approximately 8 Ottoman soldiers during the disaster that was the Battle of the Nek.

After the Nek Cemetery we decided to skip the next two sites (Walker’s Ridge Cemetery and Walker’s Ridge) as it was about 2:45pm and we still had to drive to Istanbul.

The audio tour was fantastic; based on what we overheard from some guides whilst at Gallipoli I think we were much better off doing the audio tour than joining a group. We both found the trip to Gallipoli very interesting; seeing the terrain in person gives you a slightly better appreciation of just how horrible it must have been in 1915.


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18th November 2015
Pergamon - Temple of Trajan

Nice photo
Congratulations on winning Blogger of the Week.

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