The Road Ahead : December 2012
ROADAHEAD.COM.AU 34 THE ROAD AHEAD DEC 2012/JAN 2013 TRAVEL DEPARTURE INTERNATIONAL By 1915, Ottoman Turkey, the so-called 'Sick Man of Europe', was reluctant to be drawn into yet another Balkan war, but irresistible pressures were building. In London, the First Lord of the Admiralty, a certain Winston Churchill, envisaged opening up a new front in south-eastern Europe against Germany and its allies. When a naval assault failed to take the Dardanelles, an Expeditionary Force 70,000-strong was drafted to seize the Gallipoli Peninsula. The Allies attacked on April 25 with landings at Cape Helles and further north at Ari Burnu. Many of the men wading ashore were raw recruits, often teenagers, clad in thick serge and laden with heavy rucksacks. They met murderous fire from Turkish forces on the higher ground. At Sari Bair (The Nek), above the narrow beach at Ari Burnu, the Turks were led by a young Ottoman colonel, Mustafa Kemal. Here Kemal made his name as a brilliant and single-minded commander, later becoming the self-styled Kemal Ataturk, father of modern Turkey. One Turkish cemetery and memorial honours the Ottoman 57th Regiment that he literally 'ordered to die'. Ataturk's Message of Reconciliation to the families of the enemy dead is often, and deservedly, repeated. Lone Pine saw some of the bloodiest battles, as wave after wave of Turkish defenders counter- attacked. Seven Victoria Crosses were won here, where bodies were piled so high that no trenches need be dug. Chunuk Bair (Cunuk Bayeri) saw the final denouement of this ill-fated campaign, marked by Ataturk's surprise counter-attack and his own near-death. A New Zealand memorial also stands here. By January 9, 1916, the last Allied troops had been evacuated, leaving behind almost 36,000 Commonwealth and 10,000 French casualties, and around 86,000 Turkish dead. Now we cross the Dardanelles -- from Europe into Asia. South lay several of the great centres of Greek and Roman civilisation, either side of the city of Izmir, once known as Smyrna. Troy has special significance: who hasn't heard of the Trojan horse? Not a lot has survived here, but interpretative displays bring the site to life. Now we follow the Aegean coast south, with Greek islands lying offshore. Near modern Bergama, ancient Pergamum (or Pergamon) was once renowned for its great library and as a centre of excellence in medicine. Arguably, Ephesus is the best-preserved Roman city in the Mediterranean, even bettering Rome itself. Here St John is believed to have composed his Gospel, and to lie buried in nearby Selcuk; the Virgin Mary to have ended her days living in a mountaintop cottage. Tourists and pilgrims alike arrive in droves, yet the people of Selcuk remain unfailingly hospitable and their town, with its jumble of Roman and Islamic ruins, is well worth a day or two. Directly inland lay the natural wonders of Pamukkale, with its gleaming travertine terraces of mineral calcium. Here the Romans built the spa town called Hierapolis: tourists have relaxed in Turkey for 2000 years. IMAGES: KILITBAHIR VILLAGE. ALLIED CEMETERY AT ARI BURNU. TRAVEL OFFER: Experience the history of Gallipoli on special ANZAC Day tours in 2013. Trafalgar is offering RACQ members a $100 discount per couple on its nine-day Highlights of Turkey tour, from $1450 per person twin share; or $200 per couple off its 15-day Best of Turkey, from $2050 per person twin share. A further $50 discount per person off your RACQ Travel insurance policy is available when booked with these tours. Contact RACQ Travel for details and conditions on 1300 857 121 or email travel@ racq.com.au.