Commemorate Anzac Day in Turkey

Every year, thousands of New Zealanders and Australians make the journey from their sun soaked home to the freezing former battlefields of Gallipoli, Turkey.  Happens each year on the 25 April, to remember the day the troops landed and the braves who fought there and perished during World War One. For many, a night spent camping in the bitter cold, is the ultimate tribute on Anzac Day.  You could be part of this huge coming-together, and there are plenty of ways to do it.  You can join a whistle-stop tour, which includes all the commemorative events held in Gallipoli, or take the time to explore the rest of Turkey on a longer trip to learn more about the history and pay tribute to the soldiers who lost their lives over a 100 years ago.

Most visitors spend two to three days in Gallipoli before continuing exploring the rest of Turkey, which is enough time to see the main memorials, scattered at various sites.  These include the Canakkale Martyrs’ Memorial and British Memorial at Cape Helles, the Australian Memorial at Pine Ridge, and the New Zealand Monument and Ataturk Statue at Chunuk Bair.

GALLIPOLI

Traditionally, campers pitch up on the eve of Anzac Day on the main battlefields at Anzac Cove, where documentaries are shown on big screens and bands play renditions of WW1 songs until late in the evening.  Most people then stay awake all night.  It can be a gruelling experience, but many say they wouldn’t have missed it for the world.

The following day, a bugle sounds at first light ahead of the Dawn Service – a simple but poignant ceremony.  Prayers are said and the Turkish, New Zealand and Australian national anthems are sung by the 10,000-strong crowd huddled together at the root of the hill known as the Sphinx.  If you are planning on camping is known to be very cold this time of here so carry enough warm clothes.

Soon after the service the crowds make their way up the same path the troops themselves took over a hundred years ago, more than 3km up the steep hill from the cove to Lone Pine for the Australian national ceremony, then heading to Chunuk Bair for the Kiwi tribute.

At both sites, wreaths are placed, emotional letters from soldiers are read out and heart-wrenching stories about great acts of bravery are told.  Gallipoli is a mix of emotions (pride and heartache) on Anzac Day. Celebrated by Turks, Aussies and Kiwis, Anzac Cove and Lone Pine where the ceremonies are held is an experience worth remembering.

ISTANBUL

Alcohol has been banned at commemorative sites out of respect for the occasion, so most people get their partying in early.  Therefore, all the partying is done in the days before the Anzac tour groups head to Gallipoli.

If you are not into the clubs, partying and drinking, there’s plenty of sightseeing to do.  The Grand Bazaar is an incredible sight, whether you’re shopping or not.  The covered market, which is more then 500 years old, is a labyrinth of narrow alleys lined with silver jewellery stores, sacks pf pungent spices bright lantern, embroidered carpets and fabulously carved antique furniture.  There are more than 5000 shops along the 60 streets inside the huge two domed building, the first of which dates back to 1455.

Also, don’t miss a walk around the Sultan Ahmad Masque, known as the Blue Mosque, which is probably Istanbul’s most iconic sight.  It’s nicknamed because of its 20,000 handmade blue Iznik tiles, but these are on the inside.

TROY

The ancient city of Troy is a Unesco site, renowned for being the site where the legendary Trojan War – made famous by Homer’s Iliad – took place.  Enough ruins, such as the Roman amphitheatre and eminent walls, remain to give you a sense of what the city might have looked like in its heyday.  And, of course, there’s a reconstructed giant wooden horse much like the one in the Hollywood movie.

SAKLIKENT CANYON

Up for a bit more adventure? Head further outdoor to the Saklikent Canyon, which is 300m deep and 18km long, one of the deepest in the world.  There are plenty to do here, including a refreshing walk along part of the gorge, going paddling down the gentle Xanthos River, enjoying an all-natural mud bath, and even staying overnight in a treehouse.

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