Coming ashore at Gallipoli 99 years on - Anzac Tourist
Thu 24 Jul 2014
Wheeling into the ferry port town of Eceabat on the Gallipoli peninsula South West of Istanbul, you have just spend about 4 hours crossing dry country on 4 lane roads currently undergoing substantial upgrade. It seems that the Turkish government are expecting a few extra vehicles on the roads in the coming years. With the 100th anniversary of the Anzac landing as part of the MEF (Mediterranean Expeditionary Force) attack closing in, there will no doubt be an influx of visitors from both sides of the conflict, including Australian, New Zealand, French and UK international tourists.
Time to look around at what visitors can expect.
Eceabat, tourist town to Gallipoli sites.
At the end of quality road on the peninsula, the road stops at the ramp onto hourly car ferries that travel the short distance across the Dardenelles to Canakkale. 25 TL gets you and your car to the other side, but we won't be leaving just yet.
About the town are hotels, tours, souvenirs and eateries seriously oriented to Gallipoli tourism. The most famous of the Gallipoli trade is TJ. TJ is the undisputed king of the Gallipoli tours, with his daily visits to the Western side of the Peninsula and the Anzac related sites regarded across social media, Lonely Planet and personal recommendations as "the" guide. Tours at 30 Euro per person and include lunch. He gets my vote too.
Where to stay:
TJ also operates "TJs Hotel", which is just to the North of the centre square of town. Clean hotel rooms feature with ensuite, Internet and dining room. www.tjshotel.com
My favoured Aqua Boss Hotel is 100 metres of South of town (not the Boss hotel). Its dining room is right literally on the Dardenelles with the water of passing ships splashing the walls. It is an old stone building and while some of the finishes are not perfect, its authentic and absolutely on the water make it unique in the town - be sure to get a water side room. www.heyboss.com
Breakfast is typically included anywhere you stay in Turkey.
The Gallipoli experience
There are essentially two options for touring the Anzac site, bus tour or self drive. Having experienced the two, I have to go with TJ Tours, even though I am not the tour bus type. TJ's depth of knowledge, create a high quality experience with a word count to match.
There is also the self-drive .mp3's downloadable from an Australian war memorial web site, which are very informative for each point of interest, but are done in about three minutes flat. They leave you wanting for more - which you have to read.
Elsewhere the time on TJ's tours, you site aside ranks of a dozen or more Australians that each have their own story or reason to have made the pilgrimage. The tour meanders to hot spots and seems perfectly timed to conclude just as your will to view another memorial starts to wain. Along the way, you have been to Anzac Cove, visited the grave of John Simpson (the medic with the donkey), seen the cliffs the Anzac's faced, heard countless stories about those landed, lost or survived. TJ has a personal document collection including letters handed to him by ANZAC descendants. You have also been to the official Turkish Gallipoli Museum. It has very high tech multimedia reality rooms that bring the campaign to life, mind you slanted from the Turkish point of view... and be sure to excuse yourself to the toilet for the final room where the "Modern Turkey" show reel displays military might, high science and various over cooked chest beating. After a story of loss and tragedy in war, its a little misplaced.
TJ's tour also takes you to the key sites of Lone Pine, and trenches and tunnels and Tunik Bair. At several opportunities I asked questions of TJ, who was only to happy to display his knowledge and despite my 4 hours of video documentary pre-study, there was still plenty more to learn (Tip: Be sure to arm yourself with the best Gallipoli questions you can find).
Additionally and with the benefit of a rental car, I was able to return to the Anzac sites the following day and wander more in the places and explore some paths and trench sites that were not in the tour... I would recommend a second day in the field for those who want a greater and personal experience of Gallipoli.
Do's and Don'ts:
Don't Day trip Gallipoli
On my tour most of the group had already travelled for 4 hours from Istanbul, and would return in the evening for another 4 hours to their hotel. Including about 6 hours on tour and at lunch, that makes for a hellish day for mine. Stay overnight at least! Or better still take a night either side to soften the distance travelled.
Don't eat pre-prepared food late at night
As I write this I am still recovering from a 4 day bought of "Sultan's revenge" courtesy of a late night chicken dish from a 24 hour place in the main street of Eceabat called Vavuz Lokantsi. In fairness, I had been pushing my luck with food from the display window, while the service at this place was good and the price right.
Do see the British landing sites
There has been something written about the Anzac's getting the tough assignment and there is no better way to support your suspicions then to visit the beaches that the English went ashore. More beach head, small cliffs and verges, typically with little Turkish army resistance feature in the stories of British landing beaches. These happened mostly around the southern end of the peninsula, accessible with by a 30 odd km drive from Eceabat.
Do have a swim
July water temperatures are nice and the July day temps in the thirties - so why not take a dip. There are a lot of places, most easily noticed as places where the locals are swimming. The British landing sites look quite inviting.
Do see more nearby?
Just one hour away, across the Dardenelles and South is the ancient layer on layer ruins of the Troy. Famous for more than a wooden horse load of Greeks, Troy was a happening place since 1200 BC or more. The coast further south was seaside resort towns, Bergama with "Permagon" acropolis site, and beautiful places like the port town of Cesme.
Virtual tour of Anzac sites
Virtual tour of Eceabat and hotels
TJ's Hotel, Eceabat
Boss Hotels, Eceabat
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World traveler, Digital Marketing consultant and photographer John Nayler is the President of Deja.Vu Magazine. Using the latest communications and digital marketing technology, Deja.Vu is a showcase of a career skill set with a track record for success marketing strategies.
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