Gallipoli War Memorial Park 70kms
A visit to the Gallipoli War Memorial Park was still pending. I couldn’t leave the area without spending a day discovering the finer detail of this most painful chapter of British history……not just reading about it, but by being physically present in the places where this campaign occurred.
The Park is enormous. I cycled 70kms/45miles, and only visited about half of it. It occupies the whole of the south of the peninsula. The memorials and cemeteries are scattered across the entire area, on the spots where various actions took place. And of course, being on Turkish sovereign territory, the emphasis is on glorifying the martyrs who died for their country. But the tone of reconciliation was established by the great Ataturk himself, when he pronounced the following:
When I found the lofty British and Allied monument at the southernmost point of the peninsula
….commemorating the deaths of more than 20,000 soldiers in the 6 months the campaign lasted in 1915, I noticed several coaches arriving and thought I was about to be joined by several dozens of others. But no, there was a Turkish monument further down the hill
…and several school parties were learning about the military action which resulted in the birth of a new nation, the Turkey we know today.
It wasn’t just Turkey that was transformed….
..this ANZAC cemetery and memorial will testify to the huge sacrifices made by Australian and New Zealand soldiers, so much so that it led to a break with mother country, and both became independent nations, making the date of their landings on the peninsula ANZAC day (April 15th).
In Turkey, the annual day of celebration is March 18th, the date they foiled a naval invasion by the Allies. The chief weapon used to prevent invasion was the mine. The strait is so narrow that once a ship was blown up, it caused confusion amongst the others, and the scramble to back off caused several other ships to be destroyed. Hundreds were killed……a shameful military campaign whose objective was to invade a sovereign nation.
On a different tack, I have noticed that the further south I go, the more conservative the people are. Young girls wearing traditional Islamic dress
…and men constantly fingering their beads
….and out in the countryside, you frequently come across almost biblical scenes like this
…we hailed each other across the vast empty space, but once his 5 words of English, and my 3 words of Turkish, were used up, we said ‘gulegule’ (goodbye).
And to make a great day perfect, I am able to sleep in my tent tonight, right next to the Aegean Sea
…and close by there are hammocks
…..perfect for unwinding from a busy day. You might suspect that I am beginning a gentle wind down from this trek…..you may be right, but there are still a couple of full day rides to do, as I head more directly for Istanbul, some 350kms from where I am now.
Stay with me!