Those heroes that shed their blood and lost their lives … You are now lying in the soil of a friendly country. Therefore rest in peace. There is no difference between the Johnnies and the Mehmets to us where they lie side by side here in this country of ours … You, the mothers who sent their sons from faraway countries, wipe away your tears; your sons are now lying in our bosom and are in peace. After having lost their lives on this land they have become our sons as well. – Kemal Ataturk
World War I isn’t talked about much. I don’t know if it is because it was too long ago or because it is overshadowed by World War II. However, it was devastating and really set the stage for the twentieth century. The Northwest Peninsula of Turkey, at Gallipoli is one of the few places where a piece of this horrendous war is preserved and can be learned about first hand.
Plan to spend the night at Çanakkale and then book a day tour to the Gallipoli battlefields.
No book or movie can prepare you for the Gallipoli battlefields. And while it was only one battle, I feel I got a better perspective of the war. You can still see the indention of the trenches. And it is harrowing to see firsthand how close the two sides were to each other. The phrase, “whites of their eyes” has new meaning. Such a long and bloody battle for such a small piece of land. And when you hear about the stand-offs of weeks and months, and the success of claiming the “hill” … when you see what a very small piece of territory that was… you want to weep for the millions killed on both sides.
There are tours available from Istanbul, or you can drive on your own from either Istanbul or Izmir. I did it on my own as an overnight trip from Izmir. If you decide to drive, make sure to stop over at Troy. And if you can add an extra day, a visit to Pergamum.
Travel Tip: Don’t over hydrate. Bathrooms are few and far between once at Gallipoli.
Movie Tips: Gallapoli (1981) and Water Diviner (2016).