This morning we started the day off with another early morning as we pack our bags for the 20th or so time with our next destination on the Topdeck Mega European Tour being the battlefields of Gallipoli. Today we have a major border crossing leaving the European Union from Greece and heading to Turkey, a painful process that would go away if Turkey were just accepted into the European Union, but this isn’t a blog about politics.
26 May, 2012 – Kavala to Gallipoli
Today we are leaving the costal city of Kavala and are heading straight to the Turkish border, on arrival at the border we needed our passports stamped to exit Greece which was a little exciting as we haven’t needed to get them out since we crossed the English Channel into France. While we waited for customs to clear our passports we were instructed to wait in the duty free shop for which I suspect is the whole reason for a border crossing is to try and get us to shop. We then got back on the bus and crossed the bridge to the Turkish crossing and I noticed a nice little touch when crossing the bridge into Turkey that the Greek half is painted blue, the Turkish half red, a little fun fact to take with you.
In order to enter Turkey depending on your nationality you may need a visa to gain entry, we were told to expect that the Aussies will need to pay €15, Canadians €45 and Kiwis get across for free (damn Kiwis!). Naturally us Aussies were copping flack from the Kiwis and we were then passing that onto the Canadians who would pay more. Except the joke was on us. We were greeted with disappointment when we got to the border to buy our visa, the price had just gone up from €15 to €45, a bit of karma for us and of course this was more ammunition for the Kiwis on the tour.
After crossing the border it was straight off to Gallipoli, before heading over to the memorial site we picked up our local guide who took us around to all the significant monuments and graves around the peninsula. In Turkey you must use local guides, the Topdeck crew are not allowed to guide us around any site in the country and is one of the reasons why the Turkish people would be reluctant to accept membership into the European Union as this practice would be illegal.
Our first stop was the ANZAC Cove where the yearly memorial takes place every 25 April, the location of the memorial isn’t where the troops landed nearly 100 years ago, it is just around the corner as their is more space for people to gather.
From the memorial site it is only a short walk around to the cove where Australian and New Zealand troops landed at dawn on 25 April, 1915 and fought a long and bloody battle with their worthy opponent the Turkish.
A lot of the trenches that were dug in the area still remain today however many are filled in from erosion over time and some have been reconstructed so we can see how close each side were fighting against each other. There are many stories of how both sides had respect for each other often stopping the fighting to mark certain occasions, even allowing the other side to claim their wounded on the battlefield.
After looking around at the ANZAC Cove area we jumped back on the coach and were driven up the hill to Lone Pine, this is the dedicated monument to Australian soldiers, followed by visiting the dedicated New Zealand and British monuments. The busiest attraction in the whole area is however the Turkish monument, a very grand and respectful monument dedicated to the Turkish soldiers who fought to defend there country.
Despite the busy crowds and the many tourist busses this is a place I’ve personally always wanted to come to one day, we hear so much about this place back in Australia and it was a great moment to be able to visit and see it for myself.
The way the Gallipoli memorial is presented back home seems a lot different to what it actually is, I feel back at home we are lead to believe the whole area is dedicated to the ANZAC’s and that ‘ANZAC Spirit’. Yes that is all here, but what we seem to forget is the Turkish side of the battle and that they were defending there own country, we were the invaders and they successfully fought us off. Most of the area is dedicated to that triumph, and they do it very well.
On a lighter note at one of the Turkish monuments I had quiet a funny moment that I will never forget. I’m quiet a tall person and at the time had long mop like hair, this seemed to gain a lot of attention with some of the Turkish tourists also visiting the area. Walking back up the hill I was stopped by two girls asking for a photo. I said sure no problem thinking they wanted me to take a photo of the two of them with the peninsula in the background. I went to take the camera but no, they each wanted a photo with me. Embarrassing!
Following that, walking back to the bus, now feeling a bit insecure and looking around to see all the young girls staring at me and even some following me back to the bus. A strange moment for me and one that was unexpected.
Once we finished looking around the memorial we all met back at the coach and headed back down to the town of Eceabat where we would be staying for the night. Their isn’t much in this town however while staying here it is worth looking at the open air museum which is open all the time located in a park, just walk right in. It has a massive display of the peninsula where each monument is located as well as glass boxes full of items found in the battlefield such as guns and bayonets.
It is literally a two minute walk from the hotel we stayed at with a very Aussie/Kiwi theme called Hotel Crowded House. The place is decked out with pictures of Australia and New Zealand as well as a bar full of Aussie and Kiwi road signs and beverages… Get out that can of Fosters!
Tonight dinner is included behind the hotel, after dinner there isn’t much to do other than sit around and have a drink or go for a walk along the ferry terminal in front of the town. Tomorrow we are off to the best known city in Turkey, Istanbul for three nights, the longest we stay in any one city and I’m really looking forward to this.