A Journey To Gallipoli

I am often on the road travelling to different parts of Turkey as a tour guide . This time I am travelling with two Australian couples to Gallipoli where one of the most bitter trench warfare of WWI took place. We are departing for Gallipoli early in the morning around 07:00 PM to avoid the morning traffic.

Gallipoli is on the other end of European Turkey by the Aegean Sea. About 5% percent of Turkey is in Europe and we are going to drive across this part of the country from one side to the other side for about 5 hours to Gallipoli. European Turkey is called Trakya in Turkish which is Thrace. It is mainly farmland where farmers grow sunflowers for cooking oil. This part of Turkey also has recently become an important boutique wine region blending local grapes with French grapes.

After five hours journey, we arrived in Gallipoli which is a tiny long peninsula between Dardanelles strait and Aegean Sea. The town of Gallipoli is right by the Dardanelles and it is about 40 km away from the WWI battle sites. Gallipoli is Gelibolu in Turkish. It comes from Greek word Kallipolis which means the beautiful town. This town is a great choice for a lunch break on the way to Gallipoli from Istanbul.

We drove along the Dardanelles and we could clearly see the mountains on the other side of Dardanelles which is in Asia. Dardanelles along with Bosporus strait in Istanbul is a geographical boundary in between Europe and Asia. Many historic figures had crossed their armies across this legendary water way such as Xerxes of Persian Empire and Alexander the Great. This is also the water related to the ancient Greek legend of Phrixus and Helle, thus known also as Hellespont “the sea of Helle”.

We drove straight to the Anzac front where Australian and New Zealander soldiers fought bravely against Turkish troops. Gallipoli campaign takes a huge part in modern Australian and New Zealander history due to heavy casualties both countries suffered. It is also an important historic turning point for modern Turkey where the seeds of a modern Turkish identity laid. Mustafa Kemal Ataturk who was then a colonel of Ottoman Army became known for the first time in the history due to his successful military defense of Gallipoli Peninsula at ANZAC front and appeared as one of the important Turkish military figure and leader that eased his position as a leader in the Turkish war of independence after WWI.

Our first stop is the Beach cemetery at Anzac cove where Australian troops first landed. Here we spotted the tombstone of Paramedic John Simpson Kirkpatrick with nick name the man with donkey who heroically used to carry wounded soldiers on donkey back under fire. We continued to the ceremonial site where every year at Anzac day, the down service takes place in order to commemorate the landing of Australian soldiers on the 15th April 1915. Every year thousands of Australian, New Zealanders and Turks come together on 25th April for the commemoration.

Further halfway up the hill is the Lone Pine Memorials, another important Australian memorial where Australian ceremony takes place on Anzac day. We also stopped at Turkish memorial which is dedicated to the 57th Regiment that was wiped out in Gallipoli war.

Our last stop was Chunuk Bair which is the top hill where New Zealander memorial is. You can still see trenches with supporting logs all around this hill. The trenches were restored in order to give a better idea to visitors. Before heading to ferry to cross Dardanelles to Canakkale on the Asian side we had a stop at the war museum where we saw the remains of Gallipoli war along with visual materials, uniforms, weapons, medical utensils etc.

Gallipoli tours from Istanbul can be done in one or 2 days. For one day tour you can depart Istanbul early in the morning and return to Istanbul in the late evening. For 2 days tour you can depart Istanbul in the morning and after visiting Gallipoli you can stay in Canakkale, a nice town on the Asian shore of Dardanelles for overnight. Next day in the morning you can visit legendary Troy and drive back to Istanbul. If you have a week or 2, you can continue along the Aegean coast to Mediterranean coast with lots of ancient sites and beautiful coastline and beaches along the way to explore and enjoy in.