I was lucky enough to visit this special place in 2009 and spend 2 days visiting the Gallipoli area.
On day one we visited this area on foot and while I would not recommend this, it was a good way to get a feel of the area as well as enjoy the stunning views. On day two we got a bit smarter and decided to take a tour - this was definitely a better option. Over the two days we got to see a lot of this area but as a New Zealander, the most poignant memorials would be Anzac Cove/Lone Pine and Chunuk Bair, which are dedicated to the fallen New Zealand soldiers.
The memorial at Chunuk Bair acknowledges how far away from home those who were laid to rest were and reads ‘From the Uttermost Ends of the Earth’. And a memorial at Anzac Cove includes an incredibly beautiful message written by Atatuk in 1934 and reads:
“Those heroes who 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 in this country of ours. You, the mothers who sent their sons from far away countries wipe away your tears, your sons are now lying in our bosoms and are in peace. After having lost their lives on this land they become our sons as well.”
The memorials in Gallipoli add to the beautifully chilling feeling and you really do get a sense of the vast loss that happened here. To think that every memorial and grave represents a young man who was someone’s brother, son, husband, fiancé or friend, really does bring the reality of these tragic events to life especially when you see how young these soldiers were.
The well preserved trenches give you an idea of how close the armies were to each other and the type of conditions that they endured in Gallipoli. The short distance between the armies came to life when we were regaled with wonderful stories of soldiers from opposite sides swapping food and tobacco across the battlefield and even how a truce was called for a brief moment by a Turkish soldier so he could cross no man’s land and return a injured soldier to his comrades.
The mutual respect that the soldiers had for each other despite the circumstance seems to have laid very good ground work and has continued for nearly 100 years, as we were made to feel very welcome and like we were comrades but without the awful situation that our forefathers encountered during 1914/1915.
There is a sense of appreciation from the Turkish residents around this area because the New Zealand, Australian and British visitors provide a tourism industry which employs a lot of people, and delivers a source of income that they would not otherwise have. This appreciation was communicated to us during our stay in Ecabat over this time. Ecabat does not have as many accommodation options as nearby Çanakkale but staying here also means you do not need to catch the ferry over. There are options to make a day trip from Istanbul but this will be a very long day as the drive is approximately 4.5 hours one way.
If you are considering a visit to Gallipoli I would highly recommend it.
Lest we forget.