- darkometer rating: 5 -
A peninsula on the European shores of the Dardanelles, the narrow strait that goes all the way to the Bosporus by Istanbul, Turkey
. In World War One
, Gallipoli became the site of one of the early battles that turned into the kind of carnage that WW1 later became known for more generally. For the British
and their commonwealth allies it was a heavy loss, for the Turks a significant victory, albeit a particularly costly one.
The Gallipoli campaign is especially legendary with Australians
and New Zealanders
who played a major role and suffered bitter casualties (esp. in relation to their total numbers). In modern Turkey's history Gallipoli is also important because of the decisive role Atatürk
played in it.
>More background info
>What there is to see
>Access and costs
>Combinations with other dark destinations
>Combinations with non-dark destinations
More background info:
The battles on the Gallipoli peninsula lasted for nine months from April 1915 to January 1916 and were particularly fierce – the first senseless mass carnage that so came to characterize World War One
… also in that the attacking allies achieved nothing in it. Over 130,000 soldiers lost their lives here, and many more were wounded. Total casualties numbered about half a million!
It started with the Allied (well, British
) plan to seize control of the Dardanelles, the narrow strait that is the south-western end of the connection between the Mediterranean and the Bosporus. If successful, not only could access be achieved for battleships to attack Constantinople (today's Istanbul) but also to the Black Sea and hence the Russians
So in April 1915, British and French troops first landed at the southern tip of the Gallipoli peninsula, while ANZAC troops (i.e. from Australia
and New Zealand
) landed further north. The latter in particular met with fierce resistance from the Turks (at that time allies of Imperial Germany
). In the nine months that followed, ANZAC troops suffered their greatest losses of their entire participation in the war here. And in the end all the slaughter was for nothing. Some particularly cruel scenes are said to have taken place here in the process, such as sending waves of soldiers from their trenches straight into enemy fire – as mere diversionary action. Some 600 ANZAC soldiers are said to have been senselessly sacrificed that way at a place called "the Nek".
When the whole campaign had failed, more slaughter was to come in Central Europe, so that for the British Gallipoli was just one episode, but for Australians and New Zealanders, Gallipoli, and in particular "ANZAC Cove" have ever since held a special place in the collective national memory. Every April (around the 24th and 25th) an ANZAC Day memorial service is held here. What is particularly ironic is of course the fact that for those soldiers from "Down Under", Gallipoli couldn't have been more irrelevant to their own nations halfway around the globe in the southern hemisphere. It was only the traditional alignment with the British Empire that had made these countries join the war; but it served them no purpose of their own in any other way. In that light, the heavy sacrifices made at Gallipoli appear even more senseless.
For the Turks, the victory at Gallipoli, even though extremely costly for them too, was a cornerstone not only of WW1
but more so of their War of Independence, which eight years later led to the founding of the modern-day Turkish state. In both, a particular figure played a crucial role: Mustafa Kemal, better known to the world as Atatürk
(the name he was later given as a sign of honour). No wonder then, that there's a lot of glorification of Gallipoli on the Turkish side. This makes for a marked contrast between the Turkish hero-worship and the much more sober Allied memorials of today. In any case, it's a very special dark tourism destination related to WW1, worth the journey in its own right and a definite must-do excursion from Istanbul if you're visiting that city and have enough time.
What there is to see: Lots and lots and lots more of memorials, as well as various soldiers' cemeteries, plus a small museum. The whole of the Gallipoli National Park extends for some 40 miles (60 km), and many of the monuments that can be visited are spread out over a large area. However, there is a certain concentration in the central section of Gallipoli, just west of the small town Eceabat.
It's impossible to cover everything in detail here, so a short selection of highlights shall suffice:
The most informative element of the park (compared to the rather more abstract memorials) is the small museum at Kabatepe, a few miles into the park from its main access near Eceabat. The building the museum is housed in has a peculiar shape – a bit like an octagonal UFO. In front of it, a few guns and shells are on display together with flagpoles and a couple of memorials. The exhibition inside the museum contains more shells, rusty pieces of old equipment, uniforms, old photos and the like. One exhibit stands out especially: it's a skull with a bullet embedded into it – a sign (in Turkish and English) informs the visitor thus: "the skull of a martyr and the bullet which killed him". It's a bit on the macabre side.
Out of the countless memorials, one that is typically picked out is the Mehmetcik statue: it's the bronze sculpture of a Turkish soldier carrying a dead Allied soldier. It's supposed to honour both sides, and symbolize the fact that apparently the soldiers on both sides had a lot of respect for each other – even though they had to follow orders to slaughter each other. Well, it was the First World War
Along the north part of the western coast of the Gallipoli peninsula, there's ANZAC Cove, the area where the Australian
and New Zealand
troops landed (collectively known as ANZAC), and where they suffered severe losses. There are several memorials, e.g. a wall with panels displaying explanatory texts opposite a low ridge with the simple inscription "ANZAC". Opposite, inland, the steep hill nicknamed "the sphinx" towers above.
On a higher hill even further inland is a place called Chunuk Bair. Here, the Allies scored a fleeting success in conquering this tactically important spot – only to lose it to the Turks just days later.
Today, the site stands out for three reasons: a) the view over the hills and the north coast of Gallipoli, esp. ANZAC Cove, all the way to Suvla with its salt lake (here more landing operations had taken place); b) the reconstructed trenches supposed to illustrate the battle site (although many of the trenches do not really seem deep enough), and c) the Atatürk statue, clearly marked as hero-worship: the Turkish inscription on it says "the incomparable hero Atatürk" ("essiz kahraman Atatürk" in the original).
Amongst the many war cemeteries on Gallipoli, one that stands out is the one by what is known as Lone Pine Memorial. Indeed, there is (still) a lone pine tree in the middle of the site. The memorial was set up to honour all those nearly 5000 ANZAC troops who don't have a known burial place.
At the southern tip of the peninsula at Cape Helles there's a memorial (aptly named Helles Memorial) to all the British Navy soldiers who perished in the campaign. Not far from here some coastal fortifications can be visited, still complete with some huge calibre steel gun barrels.
The largest of all the monuments here, however, is the Turkish one called Canakkale Martyrs' Memorial, also towards the southern end of the peninsula. To be fair, why shouldn't they have the most massive memorial? The Turks, after all, suffered the heaviest losses of all nations involved, but still won; so … Its centrepiece is a huge cenotaph – visible from miles away – consisting of four legs with a "roof" slab on top, the underside of which is painted with a Turkish flag. Around this there's an extensive complex of more memorials and war cemeteries.
In addition to the sight described above, there's loads more (beyond our scope here) – but there's also just the peculiar (for Turkey
) scenery, which makes driving (or hiking) between the various sites quite enjoyable and interesting too.
Those who really want to see everything here should arm themselves with a good detailed map; or prepare well in advance by means of the Internet – there are several very detailed sites about Gallipoli, especially Australian ones (such as anzacsite.gov.au). Without such help, many of the smaller memorials can easily be missed.
The Information Centre by the main access to the park also has a shop.
in the European part of Turkey
, down the north-western coast of the Dardanelles strait. Gallipoli National Park is nearly 200 miles (300 km) south-west of Istanbul; the nearest larger town is Canakkale on the opposite shore of the Dardanelles on the Asian side. The place giving the peninsula its name, Gelibolu in Turkish, located at its northern end, is no more than a little hamlet.
Access and costs: a bit remote, day trips are offered for groups; for individual travellers a (hire) car is essential; overnight accommodation incurs extra costs.
Details: Gallipoli can be reached fairly easily by car from Istanbul. When hiring a car, it's best to do so from Istanbul's Atatürk Airport – that way you're spared the stress of the chaotic and crazy inner city traffic. The route first goes west (on the D100 highway), then south. Directions vary a little, as does travel time. When I visited (in August 2007), the route I took went via Kesan on the D110/E84, then south along the D5507E87, and it took me about four hours to get to the National Park. Of course, extra driving time once within the area comes on top. Cost-wise, you'll probably have to factor in accommodation and possibly ferry crossings to Canakkale on top of car hire costs. So it's not exactly a cheap excursion. Compared to that, admission fees are negligible.
There are also guided tours around the National Park and its various memorials, both from Istanbul and locally – the latter are better value, while the former take the logistics of getting there out of the equation. Those who want background information beyond what little the sites themselves can offer, should really consider going on such a guided tour. Those who prefer to do things on their own and savour the atmosphere of the place without the group element have to go by car. In theory you can also hike (preferably based in Eceabat and taking a taxi to a suitable starting point within the park in the morning). But you'd need even more time (and a lot of stamina) for that.
Information about opening times seems to vary a bit, but accessibility should be pretty much guaranteed at least between 9:30 a.m. and 5 p.m.
Time required: When doing it as a single day-return excursion from Istanbul, time will be at a premium – you'd need to set off very early in the morning and be prepared for getting back after dark. But it's doable, at a push. Better, though, is staying over at least one night in the area. There are a few, though not many, accommodation options on the Gallipoli peninsula itself, especially in Eceabat, but Canakkale on the opposite shore of the Dardanelles has a much wider range of options. In that case you'll also have to factor in ferry crossings, which operate from both Eceabat and Kilitbahir further south (the latter is the shorter crossing, the former has more capacity).
As regards the time to be spent inside the National Park, it's difficult to give any precise guidelines. Those who want to see absolutely everything, taking in every single memorial, will probably need more than a day, possibly even more than two. Most visitors who are prepared to be more selective and opt for just a few highlights can make do with anything between two and six hours total visiting time. When spending a night in the area, it may be a good idea to think about splitting the visit and spreading it over two days, maybe doing the south on one day, and the centre of the park on the other. (That's the way I did it – but I also had to do it that way because I spent the night further away south of Canakkale, in Güzelyali.)
Combinations with other dark destinations:
– Gallipoli is quite a combination package as it is; but otherwise there's nothing of particular dark interest in the vicinity.
Combinations with non-dark destinations:
– when crossing over the strait to Canakkale it may also be an idea to explore that area a little. Troy (Turkish "Truva"), south of Canakkale is the best-known attraction in the area. Here, various archaeological sites can be visited, but there really isn't all that much, mostly just "rubble" from antiquity, nothing like such well-preserved relics as in Ephesus, say. As if to make up for that lack of dramatic things to see, a kitschy replica of the famous wooden Trojan horse has been added – but it cannot be denied that it looks overly "artificial" and quite cheesy, really.
Ephesus is further south still, beyond Izmir (thus requiring more stopover nights spent in the area), but out of all the ruins from antiquity that Turkey has to offer, this is probably the best place of them all, in fact it ranks as one of the best of its kind worldwide. It's accordingly a popular tourist destination. My advice is to go late in the afternoon – after the tour group coaches have left, and when the sun is low to add extra atmospheric light (the mid-day sun can be fierce here anyway – temperatures reached 45 degrees when I stayed in the area). You don't even have to be so much into ancient ruins to be mega impressed by the vast ruined town of Ephesus, its temples and amphitheatre. It really is worth the visit.
- Gallipoli 01 - at sunset from across the Dardanelles
- Gallipoli 01b - Kabatepe museum
- Gallipoli 02 - drastic exhibit at Kabatepe
- Gallipoli 03 - old cannon at Kabatepe
- Gallipoli 04 - monument at Kabatepe
- Gallipoli 05 - bunker on the coast
- Gallipoli 06 - ANZAC Cove
- Gallipoli 07 - ANZAC memorial with The Sphinx in the background
- Gallipoli 08 - view from Chunuk Bair
- Gallipoli 09 - reconstructed trenches at Chunuk Bair
- Gallipoli 10 - Ataturk the incomparable hero statue with halo at Chunuk Bair
- Gallipoli 11 - Lone Pine Memorial
- Gallipoli 12 - Helles Memorial
- Gallipoli 13 - reconstructed trenches at Cape Helles
- Gallipoli 14 - fortifications at Cape Helles
- Gallipoli 15 - view back from the Eceabat-Canakkale ferry