Good Morning everyone,
I posted this in GHW last week and figured I would post it here as well. I traveled to Istanbul on a study abroad in the Summer of 2012. I absolutely loved studying in Istanbul (Constantinople) and the amount of history and the scale of the museums in the area were AWESOME! I made it a point to try to see something new every day. Towards the end of the trip our professor asked if anyone wanted to go to the Gallipoli Battlefield. I am not as well versed in WW1 as I am in WW2 history, however I am a history nerd and jumped on the opportunity to go on this excursion.
The group that went to the battlefield was less than half of the class size. We boarded a bus and began our trip to the Canakale region of Turkey. It was roughly an 8 hour bus ride but it was wonderful. The bus we traveled in was actually nicer than the place that we spent 13 hours in on our flight to Turkey. I was able to listen to popular Turkish music as we drove across the gorgeous countryside. It was very similar to the Italian countryside near where a portion of my family lives and the sunflowers were beautiful.
Once we made it to Canakale we moved into the hotel and began exploring the surrounding area. Canakale is a very nice town and at no time did I feel insecure or unsafe. The city had a very western feel to it. While there were a lot of mosques around, at night they actually had different colored lights lighting up the minarets and were playing / partying with popular music outside. The local Turks were very friendly and loved getting to speak to foreigners visiting their country. The food in the area was also extremely good. I was able to get Turkish Manti (Similar to Ravioli with yogurt sauce) and an awesome Lentil Soup.
Now for the fun part... we began our excursion the next morning. Our group started in the museums near the old Turkish positions at the Anafartlar museum. The museum was well maintained and had a lot of very neat exhibits. The fact that the museum was situated at the actual spot where the Turks maintained their positions blew my mind. Unfortunately the pictures that I took at the museum were lost when my previous computer crashed :'( The only picture that I have left is one of the Ottoman Forts protecting the Dardanelles Straight.
After a couple hours at the museum, we began a guided tour of the battlefield. Along the way we stopped by multiple graveyards where some of the initial landings took place and paid our respects to the fallen soldiers. The Turks have made beautiful monuments for both the ANZAC forces and Turkish forces.
Perhaps one of the most moving memorials is a Turkish tribute to the ANZAC soldiers. It says, "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"
Our guide was very knowledgeable of the battlefield and brought us through a lot of different trenches and fighting positions. Seeing key areas such as the "Sphinx" and all the battle positions really but the scale of the battle into perspective. Seeing the type of terrain that these soldiers had to fight in was epic. The temperature and humidity were also brutal while we were there. I could only imagine what it would have been like 100 years ago fighting for my life in this environment.
We finished our tour near the high ground of the battlefield. The Turkish government has done a very good job in rebuilding portions of the trenches and maintaining the battlefield. We were able to climb around the actual fighting positions of the soldiers, see where the tunnels the Australian miners dug, and get a general overview of what took place. It blew my mind how close that some of the Turkish positions were located compared to the Anzac positions. Our tour bus actually drove down a single lane road when our guide informed us that Turkish lines were on the left hand side and the Anzac lines were on the right!
This tour of the Dardanelles Straights and the Gallipoli Battlefield was definitely the highlight of my time in Turkey and I would love to return one day when everything calms down again.... Thanks for reading!