Wednesday, 28 August 2013


Although a very scenic drive from Selçuk to Ayvalīk, the route is monopolized by one single bus company. The ticket prices are ludicrously high and the service impeccably shite! Martino copped the worst of the Sabbat service, leaving the bus drenched in Fanta after the young bus steward dropped a freshly opened 2L bottle into his lap, then attempted to apologize by giving him the remnants of the fizzed up drink. After our luggage was tossed off the bus in massive pile of broken possessions, we collected everything, re-packed, then caught the dolmus to our guest house. The place we were staying definitely made up for the crappy bus ride there. It was an old Greek parish house located next to the town's Cathedral. We snoozed for a while then headed off to check out the town. It was a super pretty port town with two islands just off its coast, connected by steel bridges. We walked around for a couple hours before trying the local delicacy: Ayvalik Tost. This was similar to the Turkish jacket potato, except stuffed inside of a specially formulated bread that toasts like a calzone. It was incredible!

We kicked about town until late in the evening, checking out a local seaside market and grabbing three servings of the cheapest baklava in Turkey! We talked to Martino about his life back in Milan and what he planned on doing once he returned. He told us he had undertaken a 3 month internship with UNDP in South-America the previous year, so was hoping to develop upon the project he worked on there. We grabbed some ayran and sat down near the waters edge, chatting til late. When we returned to the guest house we ironically hung out with two UN workers positioned in Ankara. Martino cynically murmured to me when they were engaging Ellen, that he knew they were UN workers as soon as they walked in, as anyone living in Ankara who speaks perfect English and has rasta dreadlocks is definitely a UN worker. They were actually pretty cool people, informing us about the work they do, and the problems faced working within Turkey. After a couple hours we retired to bed.

The next morning Ellen and I decided to head up to Galipoli for a couple days. Martino wanted to check out the islands for another couple days so stuck around Ayvalik. My snail-like paced packing meant we once again got a slightly late start to the day. We were still sticking to our guns and boycotting Sabbat travel, so we attempted to take the five necessary dolmus buses through random towns to arrive in Galipoli by the evening.

Things were going pretty well to begin with. We'd gotten up to our third dolmus ride and were arriving near a place called Küyükküküyüku (no joke...) and the driver asking us where we were trying to get to. We told him and he shook his head, asking the other passengers if they spoke better English so could explain to us that due to it being Sunday, further northern dolmus services weren't running. One woman spoke German so we were able to communicate through her to the driver, to figure out what we could do. When he found out our end location was galipoli he advised that we were able to get a tourist coach there from this Küyükküyüküyü place. We didn't know the German word for "boycotting" but were able to convey that we didn't want to take the Sabbat coach as we didn't trust them. Thankfully there was another company running from there, so we ended up getting on it.

Upon arriving in Çanakkale, we lucked-in with scoring a free private driver from the Otogar to the Ferry. The Ferry across the strait to Eceabat was really gorgeous, except that we were on board with about 5 Serbian Contiki tours, so there were drunk shirtless dudes everywhere. We saw 2 other massive tour groups of drunk bogan Aussies heading off the Ferry in Eceabat. Me and Ellen were extremely grateful they weren't staying at our hotel....until we realized they had just stopped outside this other hotel so two of the girls could vomit, and they were in fact staying at the same hotel we'd booked...FML. It was slightly fortuitous that they were checking in to ours, as it meant the hotel was overbooked so we got upgraded to a pimp private room on a different floor.

We wanted to just rent bikes and cruise around the peninsula, but we couldn't find any rental places so booked a tour instead. It was actually the best idea we'd had. The tour was really informative and super fun. The Turkish tour guide had spent so many years delivering the tour to Aussies he now spoke with a hilarious began Turkish-Aussie-mix accent. He even changed his name from Bular to Bill, to accommodate for the mass of Australian tourists who are too retarded to pronounce simple Turkish names.

For our non-Australian readers, here is a little history of the Gallipoli campaign which explains why visiting this area is almost a rite of passage for Australians:

Map of Allied landing at Gallipoli.
Anzac's landed in the north at Anzac Cove.
Battle for Gallipoli:
February 1915 - January 1916
In early 1915 the Russians found themselves threatened by the Turks in the Caucasus Campaign (Caucasus region is the area north east of Turkey between it and Russia) and appealed for some relief. Aiming to secure a sea route to Russia, the British and French launched a naval campaign to take the Gallipoli Peninsula and force a passage through the Dardanelles. The naval operation included an amphibious landing on the western shore of the Gallipoli Peninsula, to capture the Ottoman capital of Constantinople (Istanbul). By capturing Constantinople, the British hoped to link up with the Russians, knock Turkey out of the war and possibly persuade the Balkan states to join the Allies.

The naval attack began on 19 February. Bad weather caused delays and the attack was abandoned after three battleships had been sunk and three others damaged. Military assistance was required, but by the time troops began to land on 25 April, the Turks had had ample time to prepare adequate fortifications and the defending armies were now six times larger than when the campaign began. It was this landing that was a total disaster and resulted in the mass loss of casualties.
The Anzac landing

While many Australians learn about the Gallipoli campaign in their school days or maybe from a documentary, it didn't hit home quite how disastrous this campaign was until we stood in Anzac cove. You don't need to be a war expert to realise that the narrow, shallow cove would be a stupid spot to carry out any sort of surprise landing. You then turn your head to look where the troops would run from the beach to shake your head again and question what protection were they going to get when the beach runs straight up to a massive hill where the enemy is waiting for you, they might as well have waved to each other on arrival.

The Ottoman's had time to prepare this heavy line of defense.
In addition their resources where located close by.
Against determined opposition, Australian and New Zealand troops won a bridgehead at 'Anzac Cove' on the Aegean side of the peninsula. The British, meanwhile, tried to land at five points around Cape Helles, but established footholds in only three before asking for reinforcements. Thereafter little progress was made, and the Turks took advantage of the British halt to bring as many troops as possible onto the peninsula.

Amid sweltering and disease-ridden conditions, the deadlock dragged on into the summer. In July the British reinforced the bridgehead at Anzac Cove and in early August landed more troops at Suvla Bay further to the north, to seize the Sari Bair heights and cut Turkish communications. The offensive and the landings both proved ineffectual within days, faced with waves of costly counter-attacks.

The War Council remained divided until late 1915 when it was decided to end the campaign. Troops were evacuated in December 1915 and January 1916. Had Gallipoli succeeded, it could have ended Turkey's participation in the war. As it was, the Turks lost some 300,000 men and the Allies around 214,000, achieving only the diversion of Turkish forces from the Russians. Bad leadership, planning and luck, combined with a shortage of shells and inadequate equipment, condemned the Allies to seek a conclusion in the bloody battles of the Western Front.

The massive loss of troops in this campaign was recognised on both sides, but in particular the words of Atatürk that have been forever engraved in the memorial at ANZAC Cove are considered to be the best in the commemoration of this event:
"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 far away 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." — Atatürk 1934

Anzac trenches
The peninsula is very difficult to get around and the war memorials have very little information, so it was awesome to have a tour guide who was able to express the significance of each site. Additionally, we realized our WWI knowledge was pretty rubbish, so having Bular breakdown the chronology of the battles was really helpful to understanding how everything unfolded. It was also great to hear someone talk about the battles from a Turkish perspective. Hearing Bular talk so passionately about how the Turks defended the peninsula, whilst still being sensitive to the ANZAC-bias we all had in our heads, really put in to perspective how the Turks were being used as Pawns by the Germans in the exact same way the ANZAC's were by the Brits.

Memorial at Lone Pine
We also gained massive respect for Mustafa Kemal (Attatürk), both as a soldier and then as the revolutionary political figure he became after the war, to lead Turkey to independence. There's a great monument of Attatürk at the top of the peninsula with a quotation from his diary about when he was shot in the heart by ANZAC troops, but survived as his pocket watch protected him from the bullet. I'm pretty sure the guys from Mythbusters even re-inacted the event and confirmed its plausibility. Here is the story:

We were planning on staying another couple nights, heading to the south of the peninsula and camping near the French and British memorials, but by the end of the tour, we felt pretty content with the WWI closure we'd received, so the next day hopped on a bus up to Istanbul.

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