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Gallipoli, Turkey

With our exhaust pipe now securely attached to our van, we left the caravan park in Istanbul and headed for Gallipoli. Despite free-flowing traffic it seemed to take forever to get out of the city - for about two hours all we could see was hill after hill of apartment blocks and minarets.

 

Once we had finally left the urban development behind, we followed the stunning coastline to our destination. For the last hour we watched the sun setting behind endless fields of tall sunflowers, with the sea reflecting the pinks and purples of the cloudless sky in the background. We decided to spend the night in the town of Gallipoli, which has no sights at all but it seemed to make more sense than parking at the isolated National Park 45 minutes away. Our car park ended up being next to a mosque, which we knew would be dangerous when Call to Prayer started early in the morning. 

Our plan was to head over Gallipoli National Park early to beat any crowds or tour buses that may arrive. That plan didn't work out so well for us. Firstly, we couldn't find our initial destination, the museum. After driving back and forth a few times we stopped at an Information Centre, where we were informed that the museum was closed for renovation. We then asked for a map of the area for the other sights. The map and all descriptions were in Turkish, so it was useless to us. We then decided to follow the road signs to ANZAC cove. The road ended up being under construction and no one could drive through. At this point it seemed pretty hopeless, and our Garmin was no help. We ended up taking another road at random, following signs we couldn't read, which happened to lead straight to all the sights we were here to see. Relief.

 

Over the next few hours we walked through dozens of Commonwealth cemeteries and memorials, plus a couple of Turkish ones, showing just a small fraction of tragic losses during World War I. The Turkish monuments seemed much more impressive than ours and they were packed with visitors, whereas we were alone at the ANZAC gravesites. Reading the personal messages on the tombstones from family and friends brought tears to my eyes, especially when I saw that many of the soldiers were only teenagers. 

Our next mission was to find ANZAC cove, and fortunately we located a dirt road we could walk along to take us there. About 45 minutes and three cemeteries later we found the memorial, along with a series of inscriptions describing the events of the battle. It wasn't the largest or grandest memorial in the area, but was set in a beautiful location overlooking the water. 

As we were driving away from the park we found the main tourist office, with tons of information about the war. It was well set up and provided a great overview of the events - I'm sure it was just as good as the museum would have been. I don't know how we didn't see this earlier.