A NIGHT ON THE DARDANELLE­S

Life & Style Weekend - - MAGAZINE | ESCAPE - WORDS: KERRY WHITE

From the bal­cony of the restau­rant at our ho­tel on the other side of the Dardanelle­s, we can see a lit me­mo­rial on the Gal­lipoli Penin­sula – a bea­con on a dark night – and a red flag reflecting light. It is closer to the tip of the penin­sula than we had gone dur­ing the day on an all-too-brief tour of part of Gal­lipoli.

The view of the il­lu­mi­nated me­mo­rial and flag (ap­par­ently the Turk­ish Mar­tyrs’ Me­mo­rial) is enough to make us re­flect on what would have been hap­pen­ing across there 104 years ago – two months af­ter the sham­bolic land­ing on what is now An­zac Day.

Our tour starts at the Epic Pre­sen­ta­tion Cen­ter (Çanakkale Des­tanı Tanıtım

Merkezi), built as a re­place­ment in 2012. Dif­fer­ent dis­plays with sound ef­fects and rock­ing floors be­gin with the Turk­ish naval vic­tory on March 18, 1915.

Our guide ush­ers us out half­way along the cir­cuit – for time or sen­si­tiv­ity rea­sons, we are not sure – and off we go to An­zac Cove.

It de­fies imag­i­na­tion: now so peace­ful, like most of this penin­sula, but which meant so much back then to politi­cians and gen­er­als in Lon­don or lesser top brass on ships off the coast.

The 29 of us on the tour are hushed and som­bre as we walk around An­zac Cove, some dip­ping a toe in the cool, clear water that was once blood red; on to Lone Pine Ceme­tery and Me­mo­rial.

I had asked our Turk­ish guide ear­lier if any sort of ser­vice was done on a visit here. He said no.

As we get off our buses and walk upon the Lone Pine lawn, I ask the group to gather around.

I ex­plain as a vet­eran what the Ode is and that it would be ap­pro­pri­ate to re­cite it with a

minute’s si­lence. Ev­ery­one ap­pre­ci­ates the act which adds to the spe­cial oc­ca­sion and for me it is both es­sen­tial as well as an honour and priv­i­lege.

On we go to sev­eral other sites which bring home the im­men­sity and enor­mity of the hell that hap­pened here in 1915. On the ferry trip from the penin­sula across to Canakkale, we can only look back and won­der.

Out ho­tel on the Asian side of the Dardanelle­s is the Troia Tu­san along the coast from the town of Canakkale.

It seems ironic that, next morn­ing, I am at the beach where life­guards are on pa­trol (not that there is any surf) with manda­tory red and yel­low flags over­look­ing Gal­lipoli on the other side where bronzed young An­zacs learnt about war all those years ago. Lest we for­get.

Not far away is the an­cient vil­lage of Troy, now an ar­chae­o­log­i­cal site. De­spite rain, we take in the his­tory and the replica Tro­jan horse.

On we drive to what Lonely Planet de­scribes as “one of Tur­key’s most im­pres­sive ar­chae­o­log­i­cal sites” (a big call, given there are quite a few): Bergama Acrop­o­lis, with its dizzy 10,000-seat au­di­to­rium which is in re­mark­able con­di­tion.

From here is a clear view of the Aegean and some of the Greek is­lands.

Along the coast, we con­tinue to Ku­sadasi where we stay the night at the Charisma Deluxe Ho­tel with swim­ming pools and board­walks along the shore over­look­ing the Aegean. We spend a day from here vis­it­ing the House of Mary (mother of Je­sus Christ – she actually lived here for some years) and another an­cient and equally spec­tac­u­lar, won­der­fully pre­served site, Eph­e­sus, with the fa­cade of a two-storey li­brary from Ro­man times still stand­ing.

Hos­pi­tal­ity and en­ter­tain­ment fol­low nearby at a rug fac­tory and show­room.

Next is Pa­makkale and amaz­ing travertine­s – cal­cite and ther­mal pools high on a cliff with more ruins. We swim in Cleopa­tra Pools not far from the ruins of Hier­apo­lis. The night’s ho­tel fea­tures a ther­mal mud pool.

Two nights at a lux­ury re­sort ho­tel perched on cliffs over the Aegean in An­talya fol­low with vis­its to the old port city and the eye-catch­ing Dun­den Wa­ter­falls.

It is dif­fi­cult to imag­ine any­thing else could be more spec­tac­u­lar than what we have seen al­ready – un­til we ar­rive at Gami­rasu Cave Ho­tel at Cap­pado­cia.

This area is sim­ply, yes, spec­tac­u­lar as well as other-worldly. Huge antnest-like, but much larger, nat­u­rally formed “hives” dot the land­scape with vast cav­erns underneath.

Lonely Planet says it is a “ge­o­log­i­cal odd­ity”. These “fairy chim­ney” struc­tures have been homes and hide­aways for cen­turies and many have be­come ho­tels like ours. It is also one of the most pop­u­lar hot-air bal­loon­ing sites in the world, but cur­rent in­dus­try is­sues pre­vent us from go­ing aloft.

Re­turn­ing to Is­tan­bul on an all-day bus trip, we stop in Ankara at the Ataturk Mau­soleum and Mu­seum: a me­mo­rial for the founder of mod­ern Tur­key and the coun­try’s hero of the Gal­lipoli cam­paign, then known as Mustafa Ke­mal.

We had stayed two nights in Is­tan­bul be­fore head­ing for Gal­lipoli at a Ra­mada Ho­tel on the Golden Horn on the Bospho­rus: a river which di­vides Asia and Europe with the Black Sea to the north and Mar­mara Sea to the south.

Our first day in­cluded the old Is­tan­bul city: Top­kapi Palace, the great palace of Ot­toman sul­tans from the 15th to the 19th Cen­turies with jewels of the Im­pe­rial Trea­sury and relics of the Prophet Mo­hammed; the 16th cen­tury Sul­tan Ah­met Im­pe­rial Mosque, known as the Blue Mosque be­cause of its mag­nif­i­cent in­te­rior dec­o­ra­tion of blue Iznik tiles (our view was re­stricted be­cause of main­te­nance work); the An­cient Hip­po­drome with the Obelisk of Theo­do­sius, the bronze Ser­pen­tine Col­umn and the Col­umn of Con­stan­tine; and the Spice Bazaar with its drown­ing aro­mas. A din­ner cruise on the Bospho­rus was mem­o­rable for the sights and the floor show.

Be­fore head­ing to Tur­key on our Tripadeal tour, I had some trep­i­da­tion stoked by mis­con­cep­tions, but it actually ex­ceeded ex­pec­ta­tions. More than 40 mil­lion tourists an­nu­ally are ar­riv­ing in Tur­key, but we did not feel crowded, un­safe or in­se­cure.

The big­gest prob­lem was the new Is­tan­bul Air­port – sim­ply too vast and spread out for one build­ing.

Pic­tures: Kerry White

TRIP OF A LIFETIME: The itin­er­ary in­cluded Cap­pado­cia, a "ge­o­log­i­cal odd­ity".

The ruins of an an­cient li­brary at Eph­e­sus.

Lone Pine Ceme­tery at Gal­lipoli.

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