Over the last twenty years Turkey has been a favoured destination for New Zealanders. When planning our trip, previous visitors remarked how friendly thy had found the Turkish people and that possessing a Kiwi passport avoided the need to obtain a visitors visa. Our trip started with two wonderful days in Istanbul (click on for links), previously named Constantinople, before heading off down the west coast of the country. Turkey has the youngest population in Western Europe and one of the fastest growing economies. Mercedes-Benz, for example, has continued to invest in its large coach manufacturing factory in Turkey and is one of many industries establishing new plant in the country. Evidence of the growth in population was seen in the proliferation of new multi-storey accommodation developments along the highway leading out to the Gallipoli peninsula.
Many New Zealanders, young and old, have visited the battle fields of the Gallipoli campaign and I was uncertain of my reactions as we approached the area. The Anzac Lone Pine cemetery stands on high ground overlooking the Sea of Marmara and is a fitting memorial to the soldiers of both countries. The various war cemeteries around the peninsula have a large number of visitors, particularly in summer, and are beautifully maintained. There was a sense of mutual grief and respect for the fallen as one read the accounts of heroism and sacrifice on both sides of the conflict. Particularly poignant were the memorials at Chunuk Bair; at the crest of the hill there stands a statue of the Turkish Commander Mustafa Kemal who was hit in the chest by shrapnel but survived due to his stopwatch cushioning the blow. The memorial to the heroic Turkish troops stands facing the memorial to the many brave New Zealanders who lost their lives capturing, then defending the hill. Many other troops of the British Empire were also slaughtered in the conflict, yet the Turkish losses were even greater. The capture of Chunuk Bair was the only Allied success of the whole campaign, but the hill was only held for 48 hours before an overwhelming Turkish counter attack regained the heights.
At the approaches to ‘Anzac cove’ there stands a memorial to those who suffered following the loss of so many young men during the Gallipoli campaign. Engraved on the memorial are the words spoken in 1934 by the aforementioned Mustafa Kemal (‘Ataturk’) after he became the founder and first President of the Modern Turkish Republic. Healing sentiments from a remarkable leader. Click on the image to enlarge and read his words.
We spent some time walking around ‘Anzac cove’ where the Australian and New Zealand troops first landed before attempting to secure a foothold on the surrounding hills and ravines.
A quiet place to reflect on the momentous events of nearly a century ago, events that helped to shape the identity of Australia and New Zealand as sovereign nations in their own right.
The Turkish people named this conflict the Battle of Canakkale and we finished this memorable day crossing over the narrow passage known as the Dardanelles (Hellespont) to the port of Canakkale. Later in the evening, we watched a ship moving up this historic stretch of water at sunset.