Not a bad way to see Turkey
Nude rub-downs in a Turkish bath and the tasty confectionary Turkish delight might be Turkey’s most famous selling points, but there’s a lot more to the country than that.
Go there for Anzac Day but make sure you spare at least a couple of extra days to explore Istanbul, a heady mix of Europe and Asia. The Grand Bazaar, Blue Mosque, Hagia Sophia and famous Spice Market are must-see attractions. Venture further afield to the ruins of Troy and Ephesus, the glittering white calcite cliffs and thermal pools at Pamukkale, the fairy chimneys of Cappadocia and the resorts of the Turkish Riviera.
Zero crowd trouble (almost)
The Antipodeans who headed to Gallipoli for the 90th anniversary in 2005 copped plenty of criticism, when crowd numbers hit a record 20,000 and there were reports of boozing, sleeping on gravestones and drunken, disorderly behaviour.
The good thing is, numbers are back down and there are tighter controls now, including a ban on rock music and bag searches to stop people taking alcohol into the dawn service zone. There’s also a programme of interviews and documentaries broadcast at the overnight vigil, and while it still gets packed with Antipodeans, the atmosphere is more solemn and respectful.
Authentic taste of history
There is something deeply stirring about standing on the beach at Anzac Cove at dawn, in the exact spot where platoons of Anzac troops landed under a bombardment of Turkish mortars and gunfire. Being there breathes life into what would otherwise be dusty history.
It was here on the Gallipoli Peninsula beaches where First Admiral of the British Navy, Winston Churchill, sought to launch his assault towards Istanbul in a bid to knock Turkey out of World War I. Unfortunately, what was supposed to be a quick campaign against an unprepared enemy soon went pear-shaped. The Turks managed to pin the Allied troops to the coast for eight gruelling months. It was here the Anzacs earned their reputation for courage and good humour in the face of overwhelming and demoralising adversity.
Can’t do this at home
Probably the biggest reason so many Antipodeans are drawn to Gallipoli is how close it is. If you’re at home, it’s on the other side of the globe, but if you’re living in London, a trip to Turkey for Anzac Day couldn’t be easier, or cheaper.
After years of Anzac Day parades as a kid back home, half a world away from the place that shaped our nations and spawned a legend, here’s your chance to experience the real deal. Don’t miss it.
» Trevor Paddenburg travelled to Turkey with On The Go Tours (020-7371 1113; www.onthegotours.com). Tours range from 4-19 days starting at £129 including hotels, guide and some meals.
Make sure you tick these Turkey must-dos off your list:
1. Spend a quiet hour among the gravestones at Anzac Cove
2. Get a photo at the Lone Pine or Chunuk Bair memorial
3. Scour the beach for spent rifle cartridges
4. Eat some tasty, authentic Turkish delight
5. Have a big night drinking the fiery local spirit, Raki
6. Marvel at the Blue Mosque in Istanbul
7. Buy a glass evil eye pendant from the Grand Bazaar
8. Wander the ruins of Troy
9. Get a full body scrub and rub- down in a Turkish bath house
The death toll
Firmly branded onto the national psyche, when we think Anzac we think Gallipoli. It claimed the lives of 8709 Australian and 2721 New Zealand troops in 1915.
The Somme, France
A year later, this was one of World War I’s biggest and bloodiest battles. Nowhere near as widely recognised as Gallipoli, it actually claimed the lives of thousands more Anzacs – 23,000 Australian troops and 7000 New Zealanders to be precise.
Flanders Fields, France and Belgium
A series of battles in 1917 that took the lives of another 76,836 Australians and 3296 New Zealanders.
Weapon of choice
Less than a century later, the technology of modern warfare couldn’t be more different.
Anzac soldier, 1915
Outfit: Simple woollen uniform, peaked cap, boots.
Equipment: Canvas kit bag with wire cutters, pocket knife, mess tin, binoculars, trenching spade.
Weapons: .303 Lee Enfield rifle with bayonet; grenades were in very short supply.
US Marine, 2008
Outfit: Camouflage uniform, knee pads, elbow pads, full spectrum amphibious battle assault vest, armour, modular integrated communications helmet, leather boots.
Equipment: Rucksack with rations, toiletries, fuel, water, ammunition.
Weapons: M16 assault rifle and .45 calibre sidearm; each company is also armed with 60mm and 81mm mortars, .50 calibre heavy machine gun, an M203 grenade launcher, an MK19 automatic grenade launcher and sniper rifles.
Anzac Day 2007
Tim Carter, 29, Toowoomba
“Standing at Anzac Cove with dawn about to break was one of the most moving experiences anyone could have. My grandfather fought in World War II and he loves the thought that the youth of today are taking the time to remember what his mates died for.”
Alex McLauchlan, 21, Newcastle
“I never thought I’d have to wear thermals on the beach. It was bloody freezing! Besides the cold, it was a really special experience. I think every Australian and New Zealander should do it.”
Kat Ladd, 22, Sydney
“I’m living on this side of the world and I thought it would be stupid not to come here for Anzac Day. I was brought up going to the dawn service at home and now I’m actually doing the real thing.”
Kate Veness, 26, Sydney
“Four blankets, a sleeping bag, a shitload of supplies from the supermarket and what felt like below freezing temperatures … Despite all that I awoke to one of the most moving experiences of my life. Sunrise at Anzac Cove and the long walk up the peninsula were unforgettable.”
Darren Elen, 41, Windsor
“I’m British and I’m surprised there’s not more Brits who come. It really puts us to shame, doesn’t it? I didn’t realise it was such a big deal for Aussies and Kiwis.”
Gallipoli Survival Guide
You might not be dodging bullets and mortar shells as the Anzacs did, but if you want to ensure you’re alive and kicking for the dawn service follow these tips.
Get in quick
Anzac Cove fills fast, so make sure you claim a spot by 10pm on the eve of the dawn service. Any later and you’ll be sitting in grandstand chairs rather than kicking back on the grass.
You might think ‘tropical Turkey’ but come midnight the temperature plummets. Bring plenty of warm clothes and a sleeping bag. If you start going numb, blankets and beanies are for sale, although they’re seriously overpriced.
What not to bring
Anzac Cove is a booze-free zone for good reason. While a cold pint would be lovely, don’t try to smuggle drinks in because your bags are checked on entry.
Catch some Zs
Do your best to nap during the night, otherwise you’ll be nodding off during the all-important dawn service.
It’s a long night so make sure you’re stocked up with a few tasty snacks. It’s a good way to make instant friends, too.