This year was the 100th anniversary of the Gallipoli Campaign. Admittedly, I didn’t know much about what happened on the Gallipoli Peninsula during WWI so it was a very educational visit for me. It was also quite interesting because I traveled to Canakkale with a local Turk and a handful of Aussies and Kiwis so I got to hear various perspectives on the battle.
The objective of the Gallipoli Campaign was to secure the Dardanelles Strait and capture Constantinople to open a channel to Russia for the Allied Powers. With the help of Australian, New Zealander and Irish troops, the British executed a land and naval attack on the Gallipoli peninsula against the Ottoman Turks.
The Battle of Gallipoli is considered a huge victory for the Ottoman Turks because after 8 months of fighting, the Allied Powers abandoned the campaign and withdrew. Lieutenant Colonel Mustafa Kemal was named the founder of the Republic of Turkey because he led the Turks to victory.
58,000 allied soldiers (from Britain, Ireland, Australia and New Zealand) and 87,000 Ottoman Turkish soldiers died during those 8 months. Hundreds of thousands were wounded.
Before visiting Gallipoli, I watched The Water Diviner, an Australian movie about an Aussie father on a mission to bring back and properly bury the bodies of his three sons who died fighting in the Battle of Gallipoli. The film was released a few months before the 100th anniversary of the Gallipoli Campaign. I felt like the film offered a reasonably unbiased depiction of the motives and sentiments of both the Anzac and Turkish soldiers. It wasn’t a film intended to victimize or heroize any side in particular – it was a tragedy no matter how you see it.
The views from the peninsula are just gorgeous. The memorial sites and graves of all the fallen soldiers are beautiful cared for as well. It was a very tragic event in which many lives were lost. I thought the Memorial at Anzac Cove by Ataturk was written beautifully as well:
Those heroes that shed their blood and lost their lives…
You are now lying in the soil of a friendly country. Therefore rest in peace. There is no difference between the Johnnies and the Mehmets to us where they lie side by side here in this country of ours…
You, the mothers, who sent their sons from faraway countries wipe away your tears; your sons are now lying in our bosom and are in peace, after having lost their lives on this land they have become our sons as well.
Ephesus was a key commercial port city and metropolis in Ancient Greek times, and oh.my.god the ruins are stunning.
Less than 20% of Ephesus has been excavated. I paid a separate entrance fee to view The Terrance Houses, a huge excavation/restoration project of some ancient Greek/Roman homes. Very recommendable! I never put much thought into how much work goes into excavation/restoration initiatives. It’s basically solving a gigantic puzzle with millions of pieces except you have to account for a ton of missing and broken pieces which complicates the entire process.
My favorite ruin at Ephesus was the famous Library of Celsus. Can you imagine sitting and reading a book here back in the Roman or Byzantine Period?
We all know about the Trojan War and the famous Trojan Horse from Homer’s ’The Iliad’. The archaeological site of Troy, located near Canakkale in Hisarlik, has been on the UNESCO World Heritage list since 1998. I went with a guide and he warned me beforehand that Troy may be extremely underwhelming compared to Ephesus. He was right. The key here is that you are visiting the ruins of a once-great city, but there really isn’t much to see now. The guide was worth it for the rich history lesson, but honestly I could have skipped Troy and it would have been fine.
Final Notes/Thoughts on Turkey
Stray Cats and Dogs in Turkey
There are a TON of strays all over Turkey. Street dogs are spayed/neutered and then tagged/documented in Istanbul in an effort to better manage the large population of strays. For the most part, the strays are accustomed to people and won’t bother you. Many people put out food for the animals. I even spotted this really cool recycling contraption in Canakkale where you put in your empty water and juice bottles and it dispenses dog or cat food for the strays. Love.
Did I feel safe in Turkey?
Yes, but I also played it safe and wasn’t alone much. If I wasn’t on a tour or hanging out with other travelers, I was with my good friends Ceyda and Chris. I didn’t walk the streets alone after dark. I felt completely safe traveling through Turkey, but I didn’t go to anywhere near the Syrian border or to Ankara.
I fell in love with Turkey. It’s so rich and diverse – the people, the art and culture, all the different biomes and natural environments (beaches, deserts, mountains), the FOOD, the religious beliefs and customs…. And it’s cheap – the dollar is strong against the Lira. It’s definitely one of the top places I have ever visited. Everyone should go.