Today is the final full day of the Topdeck Turkey Explored Tour, this morning we depart the city of Canakkale and catch the ferry back to the European side of Turkey to the Gallipoli Peninsula to the site where the ANZAC legend was born back in 1915 during World War I. Once we have experienced a history lesson that resonates close to most of us on this tour, we head back on the coach for the long drive back to where it all started 11 days ago, Istanbul.
17 September, 2013 – Canakkale to Istanbul
Today was an early start to the morning as we boarded our coach and took the long drive, well it wasn’t exactly a long drive, it was a drive that was a couple of hundred metres from the hotel to the ferry terminal in Canakkale. Here we waited for our ferry to arrive along with the other tour busses and other cars waiting to disembark on the European side.
The name of the town we arrived at was Eceabat. This is the town I stayed in over a year ago when I last travelled with Topdeck on the Mega European Tour, you can read about the Gallipoli portion of that trip here to compare that experience with the one being experienced today.
Our first stop was a place we did not visit on my last trip to Gallipoli, that was the site of where the ANZAC troops should have landed according to the original battle plans. The site has very flat terrain and certainly would have been a lot easier to land at than where the now named ANZAC Cove is located, which has very hilly terrain.
Much debate has continued over the decades over whether the ANZAC troops landed in the correct spot or not with many believing from an ANZAC perspective that they did land in the correct position whilst the Turkish side of the argument is that they did not land in the spot they intended to. However, the evidence itself and from a few documentaries I have personally watched on this very topic seems to point to the conclusion that the ANZAC troops did indeed land in the incorrect position, but you can also draw your own conclusions on the topic too.
Next we were taken to the main beach landing site of ANZAC Cove, although not the actual Cove itself, we were taken to where the ANZAC Day commemorations take place every 25th April. The actual ANZAC Cove is just around the bend from here. The reason the ceremony is held in this location is because there is more room to house all the people coming to the ceremony, the actual site is very narrow and the road pretty much runs along the beach with hills on the other side.
While here we all gathered for our final group photo together and spent some time looking at the hilly terrain that would have confronted the troops when they landed at the site. We then moved onto the Australian memorial up at Lone Pine. From up here at this vantage point we can see where we were previously standing and gain a perspective of what the Turkish soldiers were confronted with when the ANZAC troops landed.
We then drove past the large Turkish monument, a disappointing aspect of this visit to Gallipoli is that that tour of the area was more focused on the ANZAC side of the battle given that most people on this tour and assumably all Turkey Explored Tours are from Australia and New Zealand, which is understandable.
However, when coming to a place like this it is also very important to get the perspective of the other side of the battle and this is what we missed out on by not stopping at the Turkish monuments and learning more about the struggles of the Turkish troops, after all we (ANZACs) were the ones invading this country.
Our final stop in the Gallipoli National Park was Chunuk Bair which is where the monument to the New Zealand troops is located. Just behind this monument, up on the hill, is a large statue of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk as an Army officer in the Turkish Army (or Ottoman Army as it would have been known back then), he of course later became the first president of the Turkish Republic.
After exploring the Gallipoli memorial region it was then time to jump back onto the coach for the final time and head back to Turkey’s largest city, Istanbul where we say goodbye to our bus driver and half the group check into the And Hotel while the other half of us who stayed in that hotel at the start of the tour, stayed the night at The Istanbul Hotel a couple of doors down the road.
Tonight we had our final dinner together as a group and we got to have dinner at one of my favourite places on my last trip to Istanbul over a year ago, it was where I saw the famous Whirling Dervishes at the Alemdar Restaurant which can be read about here.
This was also the final time that we would see our guide Tarik Saylan who has been with us from day 1 and has made this tour one of the greatest experiences possible with his knowledge and enthusiasm for all things Turkey. Tarik also runs his own tour company and organises private tours around Turkey through his website Simply Turkey. Check out the site for many other touring ideas around Turkey which can be useful even if you are only there for a short amount of time, including day trips around Istanbul.
Tonight we also said our goodbyes to each other as some people were leaving first thing in the morning, others were leaving in the afternoon and some were spending more time in Istanbul. Some of us made plans to meet up tomorrow and explore the city and some of us were here for a few days extra so plans were made to go exploring the Princess Islands off the coast of Istanbul.
Although our tour doesn’t officially end until tomorrow morning, tonight was the spiritual end of the journey and it was one that all of us would not forget from seeing the capital Ankara, Hot Air Ballooning in Capadoccia, cruising the waters of Fethiye, seeing Ephesus and Troy to experiencing Gallipoli it has been a trip to remember and is highly recommended for anyone wanting to visit Turkey. Even if you do not feel that you want to join a Topdeck tour, visiting Turkey is a must do and should be on every bucket list.