I visited Turkey’s Gallipoli Peninsula about seven years ago as part of wider travels within the country and I got a lot more from that visit than I ever did from a history book.
It was only when arranging transport from Istanbul that I realised the Turkish people actually call it Gelibolu, not Gallipoli- which is our anglicised version of the word.
The name Gelibolu takes its origins from the Greek word ‘kallipolis’ which means beautiful town.
Historically the area had had a big Greek presence.
We may have anglicised the name of the place and taken on a story of what happened here into the national psyche, however a visit to Anzac Cove and the surrounding battlefields and memorials will remind you that there is always more than one side to a story.
The area is also significant to the Turkish people.
Our Anzac forces (Australian and New Zealand Army Corps) landed on the shores of Gallipoli on April 25, 1915, as part of World War I, in the hope of opening up the Dardanelles to the allied forces.
For the Australians and New Zealanders it was the courage and mate-ship shown by our forces that formed the basis for the notion of the Anzac spirit.
We remember the determination of those soldiers who despite having landed along the wrong part of the coast and having to face tough conditions and massive casualties- fought on bravely.
For the Turks- this campaign was one of the country’s biggest victories of the war.
Turkish people also come in droves to visit memorials and learn about their country’s past.
The tour guides who take you around the battlefields and memorials will try to paint a picture of what war was like.
Hearing this and seeing the trenches where the soldiers spent their time and fought their battles from was an eye-opener for me.
I had no idea just how close the opposing forces were when in battle.
Perhaps it had been mentioned in a history lesson at school but when you walk around and see the trenches as close as 15 or 20 metres apart from one another, it’s only then that it starts to sink in.
I was surprised to hear the stories of the Turks and the Anzacs interacting during certain stages of the campaign trading cigarettes for raisins by throwing the items over to one another.
After all, not everyone who went to war were savages- they were brothers, husbands, sons, classmates and friends, similar to the ones you and I know.
I’m sure everyone has different responses to the place, but for me- my visit to Gallipoli made me question the idea of war and really think that with so much loss and suffering on all sides- any move towards war should be carefully considered.
Lest we forget.