Growing up, April 25th has always meant the same routine; waking up at 4am, bundling up warmly, putting together a flask of hot chocolate and heading down to the beach with my dad – and in earlier years my beloved Grandmother – for the annual Anzac dawn service. This tradition is so ingrained in my calendar I even continued this tradition this year with my flatmate while living in London. Post service, you go home, snuggle back in to bed, waking a few hours later to eat freshly baked delicious Anzac biscuits (recipe here). The news that evening heavily revolves around coverage of the various services nation wide, across the Tasman as well as the build up to the service about to be held at the very place this day is based on; Gallipoli, Turkey. Being a place close to all New Zealanders and Australian’s hearts it was a no-brainer that on my five day trip to Turkey I would make the trip down to the historical peninsula.
This isn’t a post on the history of the campaign – if you’re interested, you can read about that here – but a post on how it felt and what it meant as an ANZAC to be there on the Turkish peninsula where these brave soldiers – including my great-grandfather – fought.
As soon as we arrived at ANZAC Cove we all got goosebumps and quickly felt guilty for moaning about rising at 5.30am for the six hour drive down to Gallipoli from Istanbul. Stepping out of the van and looking down on to the beach was surreal. Not only was it unfathomable that this was where our men landed 100 years ago, this was the cove that we grow up learning about and seeing on tv, this was where my great grandfather stood and faced probably the worst fears of his life – but it was also how much this beach looked like home. The bright blue seas, the golden sand, the rough, raw beauty – it could’ve easily been a vista from the east coast of New Zealand. While eerie, it was somewhat comforting to see this likeness. Knowing that where my great grandfather and his fellow men landed, of whom many spent their last moments, had such a striking visual similarity to our homeland was warming.
Walking through the memorial sites and graves on the embankment, seeing the the ANZAC name and plaque given to the cove, the statues and historical information made this place incredibly moving. Here I was on the opposite side of the world, on the other teams territory, yet everything was in honor of us; our men, our nations.
I walked down to the water to feel the sand, pebbles and water beneath my feet that the Anzacs had had their very same feet on. Spending a few minutes down at the waters edge alone, looking up at what our men called ‘The Sphinx” wondering how the 15,000 ANZAC men must have felt 100 years ago about to embark on the biggest battle of their lives was
Being at a place like this soaking up both national and global history really makes you reconsider the priorities and “problems” in your life. I looked around and felt ashamed that on on a nearly daily basis I moan about my hour long commute on the tube, my long work hours and my financial struggles fueled by my own choice to live in London. My “problems” are nothing compared to what the soldiers standing there 100 years ago had to face over the coming days, months and even years.
We just don’t know how lucky we are.
These men fought for our countries, for Britain and for the rest of the world. They may have lost the battle, but they helped win the war. Not only that, but their very efforts played an important part in fostering a sense of national identity for our countries down under.
It was an amazing experience to feel connected to both my family and my country through a land so far away but also to realise that while we obviously think we’re pretty great as a nation, Turkey does too and so does the rest of the world.
// Info ~
IMAGES // Snapshots of our Gallipoli experience here
WHAT // ANZAC Tour, Hassle Free Travel
WHERE // Gallipoli Peninsula, Turkey
HOW // Day trips leave from Istanbul
COST // £60 pp for the one day trip
TOP TIP // Just book it. You might be put off by the six hour each way travel either side of the tour itself, but I couldn’t recommend it more highly
WEBSITE // Hassle Free Travel Tripadvisor