Gallipoli Peninsula – Turkey

Gallipoli Peninsula – Turkey

In 2015 the Turks have commemorated the 100th anniversary of the Gallipoli campaign in 1915.

Essential information:

Population: Province of Çanakkale 502,000

Main town: Çanakkale

Language: Turkish

Major industries: education, tourism, fishing

Unit of currency: Turkish lira (t) but hotels and tours are charged in euros

Cost index: half-day guided battlefields tour €30 (US$42), full-day private walking tour with guide for small group €250 (US$347), 3-star double hotel room €70 (US$98), 0.33c1Efes beer €3 (US$4.50)

Why go ASAP?

Empires, myths and national identities have been forged in this part of the Aegean for millennia. Close to the ancient city of Troy and on the northwestern side of the strategically important Dardanelles Strait, this slender peninsula (known as Gelibolu in Turkish) has seen more than its fair share of invasions, the most recent being the Allied naval attack on the Dardanelles in March 1915 and the landings of Allied troops at multiple locations on the peninsula on 25 April 1915.

Turks see both of these events as important milestones in the development of modern Turkey and are planning plenty of pomp and circumstance to commemorate the 100th anniversary, but this episode of history is perhaps even more important to Australians and New Zealanders, who have been visiting Gallipoli in ever-increasing numbers in recent decades.

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Australian soldiers in the support trenches on Pope’s Hill, Gallipoli Peninsula

It might seem strange that so many people – the vast majority young backpackers – are prepared to cross the world to commemorate an unsuccessful military campaign that occurred long before they were born. But what are being celebrated here are values that the Anzacs are said to have had in spades and that are seen by many Aussies and Kiwis as nation-defining: courage, stamina, laconic humour, mateship and a healthy dose of larrikinism.

It might seem strange that so many people – the vast majority young backpackers – are prepared to cross the world to commemorate an unsuccessful military campaign that occurred long before they were born. But what are being celebrated here are values that the Anzacs are said to have had in spades and that are seen by many Aussies and Kiwis as nation-defining: courage, stamina, laconic humour, mateship and a healthy dose of larrikinism.

British, French and Indian troops also fought valiantly here (over half of the campaign’s 57,000 Allied deaths were British, with the landings at Cape Helles being particularly bloody), but until now, few of their countrymen have made the pilgrimage here. This may of course change in this centenary year, as senior British politicians and members of the royal family will be attending commemoration ceremonies, and events are likely to receive considerable media attention.

Festivals &Events:

Turks commemorate the canakkale naval victory (defeat of the Allied fleet in the Dardanelles) on 18 March.

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Images of commemoration brought at the Anzac Day

Around Anzac Day (25 April) there will be Turkish commemorative services at the Turkish 59th Memorial and at Abideis, as well as a French memorial service at Morto Bay and a Commonwealth memorial service at Cape Helles.

Life-changing experiences:

History buffs will be in their element here. The Troy Archaeological Park and its brand-new museum hold court on one side of the Dardanelles, and memorials and a whizz-bang interactive museum interpret the battlefields on the other.

troy-archaeological-park

Troy Archaeological Park is part of the UNESCO World Heritage list

Both can be visited on half-day guided tours offered by a clutch of local companies, but the battlefields deserve more time (think about taking a day-long walking tour as well). A short ferry ride away is the Aegean island of Gokceada, aka ancient Imbros, where hauntingly beautiful abandoned Greek villages await exploration and expansive beaches attract windsurfers from across Europe – we suggest staying here or in Çanakkale rather than in the ugly town of Eceabat.

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The Trojan horse statue is one of Çanakkale’s biggest attractions

Trending topic:

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Memorial near Anzac Cove – Turkey

Growing interest from Turks, Australians and New Zealanders means that visitor numbers to the battlefields are skyrocketing, and there is growing concern about the adverse impact that crowds are having on the landscape, which is officially protected as the Gallipoli Peninsula Historical National Park. The Turkish memorials in particular can be horrendously crowded on weekends between March and September, and we are sorry to report that tacky souvenir and fast-food stands are imparting an inappropriately carnival atmosphere. Even more concerning has been the widening of roads to accommodate fleets of tour buses, compromising the physical integrity of important sites including Anzac Cove.


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