Europe | Turkey – Turkish delights part 2: Gallipoli and Bursa
Remembering the ANZACs at Gallipoli
I hadn’t planned on visiting Gallipoli, but when I arrived in Istanbul I realised that ANZAC day was just a few days away. I couldn’t pass up the opportunity of making the pilgrimage, and so I organised a short trip for ANZAC day. For the uninformed, ANZAC day occurs on 25 April and is commemorated by Aussies and Kiwis to remember the soldiers who were involved in the battle in WWI against the Turks on this day in 1915.
The trip involved an overnight bus ride to ANZAC cove, where we were one of three hundred tour buses making their way there. By midnight the hill was already covered with thousands of people lying around in sleeping bags, nothing to do but wait in the cold for the dawn service. Throughout the night the buses kept rolling in until there was an estimated 17,000 people at the cove.
At 5 am the solemn and moving memorial service began. When the Deputy Prime Minister John Anderson mentioned that particular dawn when the ANZACs landed on this very beach to attack the Turks defending from the cliffs behind us, we all turned around and visualised what it must have been like on that cold morning. The ANZACs had incurred heavy losses and casualties. I don’t think there was one of us there who didn’t feel some kind of emotion as we remembered the young soldiers who died, many of them barely out of school.
The dawn service over, we made our way to the Lone Pine memorial for the Australian service at midday. This was a rousing affair, despite the solemnity of the service, but mostly it was an atmosphere of camaraderie amongst the thousands of Australians sitting in the sun. Everyone was in a fantastic mood and feeling patriotic. As each veteran came out to take their seat, they were given a warm round of applause. These guys after all are to me the real heroes of our country. While waiting for the start there were a few Mexican waves and the odd cry of “Aussie Aussie Aussie, Oi Oi Oi!”, such was the mood felt by everyone on that warm morning.
When the service was over I took a moment to look around the gravestones of the soldiers who were buried here, many of them with no known grave but believed to have fallen in this area. I defy anyone not to feel moved or have a tinge of emotion as they read each gravestone. Loving Husband & Father. Loving Son. Only Son. Age 29. Age 21… Age 18.
The ANZAC pilgrimage to Gallipoli was one of the most meaningful things I have done, and I felt proud to be amongst a generation of younger Australians who thought it was important for them to remember those who gave their lives for our country. It is definitely something that anyone who calls themselves Australian (or New Zealander) should do once in their lives.
No English spoken in Bursa
When I got back to Istanbul, I travelled to Bursa with Luke, another Aussie I had been travelling with since Greece and who happened to be going on the same route I was. At Bursa, for some reason we did not see any other tourists and wherever we went we were stared at. Bursa has a small town feel to it compared to Istanbul, even though it has a population of one million.
Hardly anyone there could speak English but generally there were no problems communicating in one form or another, and that is part of the fun of travelling. The people are genuinely friendly though. The thing that amused me most was when some old guy would have a conversation with us in Turkish, perhaps telling us his life story or maybe just how good the bread is at the bakery for all we know. They would go on and on, smiling all the time, and we would smile back and nod, not having the faintest idea of what they were saying. But it’s all good fun.
We only spent a day at Bursa, visiting mosques and markets, as well as the Karagoz shadow puppet theatre which we wouldn’t have known if it wasn’t for some helpful antique store owner. We just missed the shadow puppet show that morning, but the two kids who were staffing the place at the time let us in anyway to look at the various colourful puppets on display, made from camel or ox hide. Bursa is the origin of shadow puppet theatre in Turkey, after having brought the art over from Asia. The two kids were surprisingly knowledgeable and very proud of their puppets. As we were the only two people in there they allowed us to look backstage where it is all performed.
All in all we spent a pleasant day in Bursa, happy to be in a place with very friendly locals and no tourist touts for a change.