When I told friends and family that I was travelling to Turkey, they worried that it wasn’t safe, then when I got there, the headlines back home spoke of the country’s military incursion into Syria, but the fighting might well have been on another continent, because I was 1,500 kilometres removed from it and in this land that has witnessed conflict for millennia, it had virtually no effect on everyday life.
I was in Turkey with G Adventures on their Best of Turkey itinerary, a small group tour that spends eight days exploring the country, first arriving in Istanbul then motoring around the western reaches of Turkey for the next week before returning to Istanbul for a final day of exploration in advance of the flight back to Canada.
It’s amazing how much we were able to see and experience in such a short time. Here are some of the highlights:
A pilgrimage to Gallipoli
The battlefields of Gallipoli are hallowed ground for the people of Australia, New Zealand and Turkey alike.
Our first stop was to visit the First World War cemeteries of Gallipoli, sacred ground for not only Australia and New Zealand, but Turkey as well. The skies were grey, the wind was cold and the clouds threatened rain, fitting weather for our visit to ANZAC Cove, where we saw the forbidding cliffs overlooking the initial landing beach of the Allied invasion force. We learned about the doomed military campaign of 1915 and 1916 that cost the lives of more than 100,000 soldiers on both sides with hundreds of thousands more wounded.
As we walked through the graveyards of white marble tombstones, I heard Australian and New Zealand accents of other visitors as they commented to each other on how young the dead were that lay before us. For them, this land is what Vimy Ridge is to Canadians, a First World War battle that stirred the first feelings of national consciousness, as we began to break away from our colonial past. They were in this distant land to make a pilgrimage to honour that sacrifice.
We also toured one of the sombre cemeteries that housed Ottoman war dead, complete with patriotic statues and slogans as victory at Gallipoli is seen here as a pivotal moment in the creation of the modern nation of Turkey as it was where their founder and first president Kamâl Atatürk came to prominence as a field commander.
The news about Turkey’s incursion into Syria remind us that the repercussions of the First World War are still with us.
This is an excerpt. To read the rest of the story, please visit Canada.com.