Çanakkale: On Gallipoli Campaign’s trail

Çanakkale: On Gallipoli Campaign’s trail

Melih Uslu
Çanakkale: On Gallipoli Campaign’s trail

Each year thousands of Australians, New Zealanders, British, Indian and French citizens visit Gallipoli to commemorate their ancestors who lost their lives in the Gallipoli Campaign of 1915. After the Battle of Gallipoli in 1915, the peace and friendship bridge established between Turkey, Australia and New Zealand strengthens. Like every year, there is great excitement also this year in countries that fought in Turkey. The Anzacs, an abbreviation for the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps, prepare meticulously for the memorial events and make intense efforts for the unforgettable ceremonies to be held on April 24-25 on the Çanakkale Peninsula. April 25, the beginning date of the Gallipoli Land Campaign, is a national holiday in Australia and New Zealand. Every year on this date, acknowledge by Anzacs as the beginning of the process of becoming a nation, tens of thousands of Australians and New Zealanders visit Gallipoli. The visitors gathered at Anzac Bay spend the night connecting April 24 to the following day, here. They are here at around 4:30 a.m. to commemorate the beginning of the military landing. Both Australia and New Zealand media closely follow the ceremonies. Australia officially requested Turkey to increase the capacity of the ceremonial ground in the Anzac bay, located in the Gallipoli Peninsula National Park.

Honour and respect

Expressing that they are grateful to Turkey for the friendship and hospitality shown in memorial events held in Gallipoli to date, the Australian government declared 2015 as "Turkey Year in Australia." Australians and New Zealanders plan to organize a number of events again this year on Gallipoli Campaign Honour and Respect Day. For example, teams from numerous countries are expected to participate in the rowing contest planned to be held in the Dardanelles Strait. Numerous celebrities were invited to the ceremonies. Rehearsals for the 2019 Gallipoli Campaign Memorial Ceremonies have already begun. It is known that commissioned groups held feasibility studies in Gallipoli for this purpose. After this short briefing, let's try to explain what the Gallipoli Campaign means for the Anzacs with a short story.

It was about 10 years ago. As a young reporter, I visited the historical battlefields in the region with a photographer colleague. I met Kerry Brain there. Brain, a history teacher from Melbourne, was lying face down on a small grave completely still. I wanted to help her, thinking she was unwell. Later I found out that Madame Brain found the grave of her grandfather, she had been searching for a long time. I left her alone with her grandfather in these emotional moments. It was indeed very sentimental.

Battlefields’ route 

Now let's explore the region where the Gallipoli Campaign took place. The Gallipoli Peninsula has been civilizations' gateway to the European continent which inhabited Anatolia since the early ages. There are a total of 32 ancient cities on the peninsula including Troy. Gallipoli, one of the most important historical settlements on the peninsula, became the first land Ottomans conquered in Europe in 1354. As Turks began to rapidly spread across Europe, the income from spoils of the war began to flow to Gallipoli. As the city became wealthier, scholars, poets and clergy from all around Anatolia came to the region. Gallipoli became the most important Ottoman city after Istanbul, Bursa and Edirne in the 15th century. Piri Reis (an Ottoman Cartographer and Navigator) drew the first world map that evoked admiration worldwide in Gallipoli in 1513. Most of the tombs and sanctuaries in the area that still stand date back to that period. The Gallipoli Peninsula National Park, an open-air museum with traces of the Gallipoli Campaigns, is a must-see. There are about 70 monuments and hundreds of tombs built in the park in memory of Turkish, Australian, French, British and New Zealander soldiers. If you plan to tour the area by car, it is suggested that you start the tour near Akbaş district on the coastal road to Eceabat. After Bigali village, where the house-turned-museum of modern Turkey founder Mustafa Kemal Atatürk is located, you can visit the area between Conkbayırı and Arıburnu where the battle was most intense. Known as the place where Anzacs gave the biggest casualties in the Gallipoli Campaign, Kanlısırt is considered sacred by Australians and New Zealanders. The Lone Pine Monument in Kanlısırt bears the memories of more than 5,000 Anzac soldiers. The pine tree brought from Australia and planted here by the monument expresses the loneliness of soldiers who lost their lives in these lands. The route through Anzac Bay, Kabatepe and Açıtepe ends with the colossal Victory Monument rising at Hisarlık Cape.

Stop and taste 

No visit to Çanakkale is complete without a stop at the fish restaurants along the esplanade or without a taste of the famous “cheese halvah” sold in the shops around İskele Meydan, the square at the boat landing. Its iconic four-story clock tower, built in 1897, offers one of the best vantage points for viewing the texture of the old town and its century-old houses stretching from the tower to Çimenlik Castle. And the streets immediately behind the Clock Tower are a virtual culture center with their historic hans, secondhand bookshops, art studios and music clubs. The historic Yalı Han, described in İlhami Algör’s book, “The Yalı Han and Its Residents,” hosts exhibitions, interviews and films all year round. On the other hand, Çanakkale is a nature lover’s paradise with its mountains and forests that have inspired artists. You will derive untold pleasure from roaming around these natural areas and fishing towns perched on the westernmost tip of Anatolia and the entire Asian continent. Ida Mountains (Kaz Dağları) natural area, said to have hosted the first beauty contest in history, was declared a national park in 1993. Its boutique hotels in the foothills of the mountains at the edge of the sea are used today for occasions galore all the way from honeymoons to cooking classes and philosophy days. The most popular of the countless hiking trails in this region noteworthy for its rich flora are Hasanboğuldu and Sutüven Falls, which inspired Turkish writer Sabahattin Ali and poet Mustafa Seyit Sutüven.

Underwater paradise 

What other interesting things are there to see? First of all, a popular place for swimming, sunbathing, surfing and camping, Saros Gulf is one of Turkey’s leading scuba diving sites. More than 240 species of sea creatures have been identified in its waters, which have been dubbed a natural aquarium by diving enthusiasts. The area off the coasts of Mecidiye and Erikli, which offer divers continuous, clear visibility thanks to their currents, are the gulf’s best scuba diving zones. The Minnoş rock formations 20 meters off the coast of Kömür Limanı are well-suited to wall diving. And you can see giant corals at Toplar Burnu, a headland named for the historic cannon balls that lie on the sea-floor here. 

Do not miss the lovely museum, an educative and entertaining venue where you can see the production stages of olive oil: Adatepe Olive Oil Museum. The museum in a renovated factory where tools, instruments and accessories used for olive, olive oil and soap production are displayed. After all this is the last question: How to go there? Some 330 kilometres from Istanbul, Çanakkale is at a four-hour driving distance. You can rent a car at prices starting from 185 Turkish liras (around $35) per day from Çanakkale and explore the region.

Visitors flock to Gallipoli to mark the Battle of Çanakkale
Visitors flock to Gallipoli to mark the Battle of Çanakkale