In April 2017 I got the chance to do something I had wanted to do ever since I was young. I remember discovering about the Australian and New Zealand soldiers that had sacrificed so much for others who they never knew way back in high (secondary) school and have always wanted to visit the site where the famous ANZAC Cove battle had taken place. April 2017 was the year I got to make this dream a reality after I booked a tour with “G Adventures”.
I was living in London at the time, in my last year of a 2-year working visa and had a close friend from school that was also living there at the time. We decided it was time to pay our respects to the fallen “diggers” in Turkey and started looking into tours that would be able to provide us with the most sobering and respectful experience possible. The one that stood out to us was with “G Adventures” and allowed us to attend the ANZAC Cove dawn service as well as allow us to sleep out in ANZAC cove just as the fallen had done so many years ago.
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We had separate flights to get to Istanbul and for some ridiculous reason, we decided the night before our early morning flights we would go out and enjoy a few beers at a London pub. A few beers turned into whiskey and before we knew it our phone alarms (4 am) were going off in the nightclub and it was the scheduled time for my mate to be “waking up” and making the trek to Heathrow airport. We quickly returned back to my apartment, he grabs his bags and gets on his way via the tube line. Luckily my flight was scheduled for 11 am not 7 like his so I got to enjoy a quick couple of hours of sleep before needing to make the same trip to the airport.
This is when panic stations hit my hungover lifeless body
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When I arrive at the airport I notice my flight is nowhere to be seen on the flight screens, I quickly make my way to the check-in desk and show them my flight number and booking. Unfortunately, my flight had been cancelled and I was actually scheduled to fly on the same flight as my mate had just flown on. As I had not received any notification of the flight being cancelled I was placed on the next available flight and didn’t lose much time at all.
Once I arrived in Istanbul I made my way to the hotel where the tour was scheduled to start the next day. I again met up with my mate and we decided it was time to try some of the local cuisines. Of course, we were both very excited to try all the amazing meats and the famous Turkish doner kebabs. We found a place we liked the look of and ordered a mixture of dishes to share. The meat was spiced beautifully and was some of the most tender I can remember eating.
Once full and satisfied we left and went for a stroll through some of the streets and began to get a feel for life in Istanbul. We talked to a few shop owners who spoke good English and they informed us how much the city was struggling with low tourist numbers in recent years taking its toll. It was sad to hear, as since we had arrived the local people had been nothing but friendly and helpful and the city overall had been a pleasure to visit and I wouldn’t hesitate in recommending people make Istanbul a part of their holiday plans. A
Before heading to bed that evening we finished the night off by sampling some of the local Turkish delights and yep you guessed it, we left the store having brought and sampled far too much of the local sugary treat. When we got back to our hotel there was a flyer on the reception desk giving us all the information we needed to make sure we were on time for the tour to start and meet our guides in the morning.
The next morning after a very comfortable sleep we were again up early and headed to the dining area for the included breakfast in the hotel. It was a very nice spread and we made sure we took advantage of all that was on offer, the breakfast included a good selection of hot and cold meats, cheeses and other fresh produce. After breakfast, we checked out of our room and headed down to the hotel reception at 7.30am. We got introduced to our leaders and other travel members on the trip, loaded our bags into the minivan and then hit the road to begin our 6-hour drive to ANZAC Cove.
The drive itself went very quickly, as we were all busy getting to know the fellow travellers and talking away to each other. On the way, the guide reminded us of the battle that took place in ANZAC Cove and the history and significance of the area. Arriving in ANZAC cove was one of the most surreal feeling I had ever encountered. The whole group went quiet and it was like you could feel the energy and stories of the place as you realised you were standing in the exact spot such an important battle had taken place so many years ago. It was a very moving experience and as I found out later it was just the beginning. While having the afternoon to explore Lone Pine and surrounding areas we read over private gravesites and visited the war cemeteries. This is where it really hit home just how many soldiers had lost their lives and how young so many of them were. There were camera crews from Australian TV stations there and both my friend and I were interviewed on WIN TV that was broadcast back home in Australia.
After the emotion of the afternoon, we got back in the minibus and headed to Canakkale where we were spending the night. This was a much quicker drive, which included catching a ferry with the minivan. As we departed the ferry we were advised we were now on the Asia side of Turkey, not a bad achievement to manage to visit 2 continents in one day via car. The guides took us out for dinner at a lovely typical Turkish restaurant and one of them even brought his Mum out for tea with us, as this was his hometown. It was a very nice touch and made the evening feel very personal. We enjoyed seafood and meat dishes that were full of favour and a pleasure to eat. After dinner, the guides took us to one of their favourite pubs and we enjoyed some local beers and a bit of social time engaging with the group.
The next morning, we had another fantastic breakfast at the hotel and then headed off to visit the town of Troy. We learnt more about this ancient site, that is regarded as one of the most famous archaeological sites in the world and got to explore some of the ruins that were still there. The authenticity of the site is high with minimal reconstructions having been made throughout the area. After the recent research and excavation work, it has been determined that Troy had been occupied for around 8,000 years, with remains from all periods being discovered and on display to see. After that, we headed back to Canakkale and had the chance to further explore the town for a few hours.
The town itself is a small but friendly one built on the banks of the Dardanelles river, with the main reason for people visiting the area being that it is close to the ancient site of Troy. You can visit the main parts of interest throughout the city in a day and I wouldn’t recommend planning to spend large amounts of time here. The population itself has a large number of students thanks to the highly regarded Çanakkale Onsekiz Mart University and as such has plenty of places to grab a bite of typical Turkish cuisine or enjoy a cold drink or two. For the interested, the area around the clock tower and the waterfront promenade are your best areas to try. As with most cities with high student numbers, there are also plenty of areas to party until the early hours of the morning if that is your style. I visited the horse statue of Troy that was used in the famous Hollywood movie. I also got the chance to enjoy another Turkish kebab and it was just what I needed after enjoying one too many of the local beers with the guides the night before. Certainly, the best place in Turkey that I tasted one of these famous wraps.
As the evening got closer we checked out of our hotel and boarded the minivan again to head back to ANZAC cove where we were scheduled to spend the night in sleeping bags under the stars and wake to the morning memorial service at the exact spot the soldiers had landed in 1915. The security was high as you would suspect, the terror threat level had been raised to high and tourists were being advised to cancel trips to the service. As a result visitor numbers were down a little to previous years but plenty had still turned out to pay their respects. The night was quiet cold and very little sleep was possible but it was to be expected and you kept reminding yourself that this was nothing compared to what the “diggers” went through. They showed video clips of interviews and stories as well as footage of the war throughout the night that really tugged at the heart strings and made you realise exactly what these brave men were really up against when they landed at Turkey in the pitch black dark so many years ago. Once morning arrived we were woken to the last post playing and the realisation set in that at this very moment so many years ago a blood bath was about to begin. The service was moving and afterwards, we enjoyed a nice hot coffee to try and warm ourselves up. We then started the climb from the shore to the hills on our way to Lone Pine.
When climbing our way up along the pathway we discovered that all throughout the night while we were down on the shoreline sleeping there had been sniper soldiers situated up in the hills incase a security breach was to occur. Again, this was another interesting feeling seeing them come out from the thick scrub as we made our way up along the beachhead as so many soldiers had done in 1915. Once we attended the Lone Pine service and the Turkish Service we returned to our transport and back to Istanbul.
This is not a trip full of amazing beach scenery or the worlds most desirable cities, although Istanbul and Canakkale certainly have their own amazing charm. However, it was a very special trip for me due to the significance of this area in my countries history and one I’m sure I will remember for many years to come. I would highly recommend any Australian or New Zealander undertakes the trip to ANZAC cove at least once in their life. The trip itself was run very smoothly and the whole time we were able to enjoy and appreciate exactly where we were in the world, while the guides looked after everything else. Any question a member of the group had was answered and the passion they had for their country was lovely to see. I would highly recommend this tour and “G Adventures” to anyone wishing to visit Turkey or attend the ANZAC service.
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Happy Travels, Brodie
#Adventure and outdoor Lover
#Backpacker and unique travel hunter
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