My best mate and I on our travels through turkey couldn’t go by without making the Australian pilgrimage to Gallipoli, famed for its past of heroism and sacrifice.
Growing up in Australia, all through our schooling days we were brought up with the Anzac legend, in which countless Australians fought and lost their lives for the freedom we experience today. But having no relatives who had fought in the war, the extent of our appreciation didn’t go beyond a minute of silence each year on Anzac Day. That was until we travelled to the Gallipoli coast where we were able to take in the landscape and envision the losses that occurred there almost 100 years earlier.
Setting out early in the morning by foot we spotted the remnants of a bunker submerged in a thick forest of pine. With no trail we battled through the scrub up a steep ascent, clumsily tripping over loose earth and bush. The first and probably most important discovery that day was how unforgiving the terrain was, and we couldn’t help but to imagine fellow Aussies, many younger than us, scrambling up these slopes whilst being showered with bullets. Then and there my mate and I both for the first time understood the meaning of courage.
The rest of the day, we walked up along the coast to Anzac cove, coming across many cemeteries on the way. Once upon a time this place was described as “hell on earth” but today is a very peaceful and beautiful region, yet we could still sense a somber feeling in the air. Being winter here, we saw almost no tourists all day which gave our vision into the past more clarity. In total we visited 12 out of a total 32 cemeteries, each of them resting hundreds of sons, whose sacrifice will always be remembered. I particularly recall being overwhelmed with shivers down my spine, walking along the aisles of the cemeteries, reading the countless names and ages of the Anzac heroes. It really gave a personal edge to the horrific statistical loss.
Finally, on our way back we came across a pillar with inscriptions that moved us to boosebumps. Written by the father of the Turkish Republic, ataturk – it read:
“To us there is no difference between the Johnnies and the Mehmets..You, the mothers, who sent your sons from faraway countries, wipe away your tears; your sons are now lying in our bosom…after having lost their lives in this land, they have become our sons as well”.
Gallipoli is often regarded as “the gentleman’s war”, and this famous speech really allowed us to also appreciate how the Turks suffered in the same way.
On our mammoth trek back late that arvo in the blistering cold, I thought I’d try my luck sticking out a thumb for a hitch. To our amazement the first car that passed, probably the 5th we’d seen all day, stopped and made room for us on the backseat. Two Turkish men occupied the front seats and a grandmother who didn’t stop smiling sat with us in the back. On asking where we were from, we replied proudly, “Australia” and immediately their eyes lit up, jumping at the first chance to shake our hands.
At that point we knew we were more than safe with these welcoming Turks who we had once fought as enemies. Beaming from our discovery of what it truly means to be an Australian and the mateship on which our beautiful country was founded on, we left Gallipoli to the sounds of a Turkish radio song at peace alongside our forefathers who rest in Gallipoli and will be remembered forever.
This post was submitted by Javed Badyari, a past World Youth Adventures traveller.