Anyone that has been lucky enough to travel to Turkey will know what I mean when I say that the locals’ continuous use of the phrase “my friend” doesn’t seem false. To wander through the streets of almost any Turkish town or city, the locals appear to be genuinely excited to meet and talk to visitors. Being regaled with stories of an uncle, sister or next door neighbour’s second cousin (twice removed) who now lives in your home country (“do you know them?”) seems to be a favourite pastime of the Turks.
When we first arrived in Istanbul, my travel companions and I had but one aim — to get to Gallipoli and see where the ANZACs landed in 1915. We had done minimal (actually, zero) preparation for our trip, and just knew we wanted to get to ANZAC Cove somehow. Within moments of our arrival the friendly locals had welcomed us to their country and helped us organise our pilgrimage to Gallipoli, with a friendly local guide to give us an idea of what we were actually off to see.
As the location of one of the most well known landings in World War I, the Gallipoli peninsula today is serene and beautiful. The first thing that you notice is the amazing landscape where the ANZACs landed in 1915: calm, clear waters border the rugged coastline, and from ANZAC Cove it all becomes clear to a modern day visitor simply how impenetrable the sheer cliffs must have seemed to the Diggers.
It is still possible to walk from ANZAC Cove to the Australian Memorial at Lone Pine. The idea of a 3.1 kilometre dirt track may seem quite simple, but in reality it is anything but. The walk takes travellers past Shrapnel Valley and Beach Cemeteries, and then follows Artillery Road inland as it slopes uphill past Shell Green Cemetery to Lone Pine. The dirt road and is steep and uneven in places, and even carrying only our small day packs my companions and I are sweaty and short of breath as we reach Lone Pine. Nevertheless, the Australian Memorial site stands out dramatically against the blue sky and beautiful national park background. The sheer number of names of those lost on the memorial is overwhelming.
At the end of our day at Gallipoli, we are all both physically and emotionally exhausted. To be able to stand and see where 96 years ago both the Australian and New Zealand nations started to forge their own individual identities, and to see where such fierce fighting during World War I took place, is something to behold. Mustafa Kemal Attaturk told the mothers of the lost ANZAC soldiers that when their sons “lost their lives on this land they become our sons as well”. It’s easy to believe these words were truly meant by the Turkish nation as a whole.