Lest We Forget
24.04.2011 - 25.04.2011 0 °C
DW - Being at Gallipoli on Anzac Day was something I've been wanting to do for some years and it's the main reason we came to Turkey. Now it's ticked off the list I can say that it is everything I expected and more.
Gallipoli is about 300km from Istanbul and we were on the bus with our tour group. It's incredible how quickly the countryside changes once you get out of Istanbul - so much green, lots of space, and beautiful blue water. We had a couple of stops along the way:
1. Bathroom Stop - the most disgusting pubic toilets ever and they cost 1 Turkish Lira to use. You could smell these toilets from a mile away but there was no option other than to hold it in. Public toilets in Turkey are quite different to what we're used to; essentially they are holes in the ground with a bin next to them (that's where you put the toilet paper)... There's no seat, you just squat over these smelly disgusting holes while holding your breath, do your business, and get the hell out of there ASAP!
2. Groceries Stop - in the middle of nowhere there is a huge supermarket surrounded by some factory outlets. There would've been about 25 buses stopped here and Aussies/Kiwis were everywhere, stocking up on last-minute supplies (snacks, blankets, roll-out mattresses etc). I bought a thermometer that doubled as a 2-up thrower when flipped, nice.
3. Lunch Stop - somewhere by the water we stopped for a Turkish BBQ lunch; nice kebabs and chips.
Once we were close to Gallipoli it became a strategic challenge for the bus-driver to try and get us in the gates as early as possible (there are hundreds upon hundreds of buses that go to Gallipoli for Anzac Day and it's a race to get in early so punters can get the best spot). When we arrived at the main gate we found it to be closed (not opening for a couple of hours) so we travelled a further halfa headed for the back gate; closed. We soon waited outside the gate and were one of the first buses allowed through, booya!
Once on the road we thought the work was done until we ended up behind about 30 other buses (they'd come from another gate) and we weren't moving. We all hopped off the bus; some threw a footy around, we played cards amongst ourselves until the Turkish bus-driver and his apprentice took the cards and started playing their own game. It was kinda weird but all in good fun - we had no idea what they were playing and they could only speak Turkish. Loz tried to play them at their own game but they seemed to win (I think they made up the rules as they went just to beat her). Back on the bus, movement...
We were headed for the North gate (turns out there were more gates to get through) until our tour-guide got a tip-off that the South gate was the go. A quick detour and we arrived at the South gate which was just opening. We were the 26th bus through and life was good again - we pictured ourselves in poll position at Anzac Cove. 5 minutes later we were behind more buses and playing the waiting game yet again... Eventually we got there (about 11 hours after leaving Istanbul) for a short walk to Anzac Cove. Once through security we grabbed some seats (we were with Christian, Di, Chris, and Tracy) in a stand and plonked our spot for the long night ahead.
Gallipoli and Anzac Cove are incredibly beautiful and picturesque - it's really difficult to picture the bloodshed that occurred here 96 years ago because it seems like such a peaceful setting. There are incredible foresty hills almost right up to the waters' edge, and on a nice day (like the day we arrived) you could get some amazing photos.
Anyway, we watched the place fill up as the night progressed (the lawn areas were already filled by the time we arrived) and sat patiently as time went by ever so slowly. I swear the temperature dropped about 15 degrees in the first hour we were there - we went from wearing a couple of layers, to fully layered and in sleeping bags. The sleeping bags turned ut to be a great purchase but it was still incredibly cold, and got colder as the night went on. I'm certain there were others a lot colder than us though, those who has just blankets from the markets or supermarket.
Throughout the night they had varying levels of entertainment; Gallipoli documentaries, Navy bands playing, messages from PMs etc. At times we tried to sleep but it proved to be quite the task given the cold weather and general riff-raff going on around you (about 6,000 people I think).
Time went by and before we knew it, it was 4:30am and time for the dawn service. Strugging to keep our eyes open, it was a good ceremony. It really sent shivers when you hear the sound of just a few birds chirping and think about how young the Anzacs were when they arrived here. To be honest I never paid a great amount of attention in Australian History at school and it hadn't struck me until now that this was a needless battle and a suicide mission for the Anzacs.
Once the ceremony was complete we walked about 3km uphill to Lone Pine for the all-Australian service. Along the way were a number of cemeteries - most headstones showed the age of the soldiers and it's eery when you see that most of them were not even 25, many not even 20. All dead for no good reason, sent to an unwinable battle.
The Lone Pine ceremony was quite good (it was still bloody cold) and felt a bit more personal given it was just Aussies. I hadn't realised prevously that Lone Pine is where many Aussies and Turks also died in what was described as some of the most brutal fighting of WW1. Apparently most of the fighting was in trenches using the end of guns (can't think what it's called, that sword thing), explosives, and fists. When I think of war, I don't think of fist-fighting but apparently that's how it was. There is one single pine-tree on the site (if you haven't figured, that's why it's called Lone Pine) and apparently thousands of Aussie and Turkish bodies buried beneath.
After Lone Pine we grabbed some food (stalls were selling kebabs, coffee, and some meat pies lol) and headed for where our bus was going to pick us up at the Kiwi memorial. This was another 3km uphill walk and quite demanding given we were sick, tired, and hadn't eaten much. Once we arrived we had to wait a couple of hours for the bus, we were freezing (it was still cold) so pulled out the sleeping bags yet again.
When the bus arrived our group were like fat kids in a candy store - we were so happy to be back in warm conditions and ready to lay our heads for some hard-earned sleep on the way back to Istanbul.
Gallipoli was a truly amazing experience and we couldn't be happier that we've been there, learnt a lot, and really grown so much more appreciation for the Anzacs. We complain about the cold and the steep hills to walk on, but these are totally unjustified when you think what our soldiers went through. On top of these conditions they had less clothing and warmth, no tracks to walk on (just scrub), dead bodies around them spreading disease (they say near as many died at Gallipoli from disease as did from gunfire), and gunfire every 11 seconds. One can only imagine how horrible it must have been to be here 96 years ago.