Eceabat and the Gallipoli Penninsula
We caught the morning bus here from Istanbul which took around 7 hours. The bus dropped us off in the tiny town of Eceabat and our hotel was literally 100ms away- stoked. We stayed at The Crowded House Hotel, supposedly an aussie run hotel though we didn’t see anyone who worked there who wasn’t Turkish, no matter. It’s pretty basic but also really cheap.
After sorting out a tour for the next day and a summer midafternoon siesta (a tradition Jono is hoping we can adopt) I went to a cafe for an apple tea and caught up on the news back home. That evening Jono and I went for a walk down around the harbour and we settled on dinner at a very simple restaurant with not a tourist in sight. We shared this delicious meat stew, roasted eggplant, tomato and peppers with pilaf rice and of course some dessert. Ordering things off a google translated menu is always fun and sometimes risky but this turned out alright – quite alright. ‘Sweet round dough’ was these amazing balls of donut soaked in honey and sugary syrup, winning! After dinner we walked up the breakwall and sat and watched the world go by. Beautiful.
Our tour around Gallipoli didn’t start till lunch so we had a cruisey morning. Eceabat is the closest town to the battlefields area and you either have to go on a tour or have your own car because everything to see is pretty spaced out over the peninsula. We were ready and waiting for the tour to start from our hotel when a mini bus rocked up and out climbed about 8 elderly, loud and incredibly irritating khaki clad, Nikon wielding Americans. Chaos ensued when we were all asked to hop into 1of 2 mini buses. They didn’t seem to understand we were all heading to the same destination (lunch) and so they all hopped on and off several times debating which bus to choose and who’s wife was where and who’d left what water bottle on which seat. The rest of us sat patiently waiting while the Turkish tour guide earned an award in patience and tact. I personally would have said ‘get the frick on the bus and shut up’.
The tour guide was a really nice guy who was born on the peninsula and has been running tours for years. He knew a whole lot of facts and info and it was really interesting to hear all about the Turkish side of the ANZAC landing as well as what we learnt at school. The Americans also seemed impressed as they checked what he had said with their pre printed pages of notes and maps and ticked things off. The guides name was Poulant or ‘Bill’. Jono, however, swore he’d said Poo-land and much to his enjoyment he gleefully referred to Bill as this for the entire trip.
He had a funny way of expressing himself involving a lot of questions that he would then answer himself. When he wanted to tell you a number he would say ‘How many?’ This 10000, this one zero thousand. ‘Why?’ Because the dead bodies. ‘Why?’ Because the casualties, you know? ‘How many of them?’ ‘Remember?’ 10… 10,000. Classic.
Jono kept videoing him while I tried to keep a straight face. Here’s a mix of his best…
Seriously though the tour was awesome. It was cool to see the places we’d all learnt about and imagine how crazy hectic the battle must have been. ANZAC cove where the Aussies landed is really tiny and the hills start straight from the beach. There are lots of memorials and cemeteries around the area, which is extremely beautiful land.
The Turks celebrate the Gallipoli battle as a big war victory for them. The commander of the Turkish battalion that was fighting the ANZACs, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, went on to become a national hero and then their first president. He is said to have founded the Republic of Turkey. Turks didn’t have surnames until the law changed in 1934. So when you needed to pick your surname the government named Kemal ‘Ataturk’ meaning ‘Father of the Turks’ and banned anyone else from having this name. Incidentally it was the weekend of his birthday which they have as an annual public holiday and all fly flags with his face on it. Needless to say there were bus loads of Turkish people at the Turkish war memorial on the peninsula. Seems a bit weird since we’re all there for different reasons but Poulant says the Turks like that Australian’s come and he said they feel like we shared that part of our history. Pretty cool quote from Ataturk sums this up nicely….
Staying at the hotel and on the tour was a cool couple from NZ who are travelling for a year as well. So that evening we found a local bar just out of town by the water and sat and had beers until the sun went down. Great day!
Next day we caught a bus to Selcuk (pronounced ‘sell chook’) the bus lady (via another lady on the phone who spoke English) told us to get on this bus that went on the ferry. We crossed to Canakkale and then hoped off the bus. Old mate says no, no, no and so we hop back on again? Great bus service, pretty cheap, they even serve snacks but you’re just never quite sure if your going the right way.