I happily left Istanbul, ready to follow the Turkish coast south, hitting some of the sites and less populated areas of this country. I mean, a quarter of its population (ish) lives in that city – half the population of Canada! Alright, but I’m gone now, goodbye Istanbul.
A cheap rideshare (via blablacar, a very good alternative transport website) took me to Canakkale, a small city sitting at the entrance to the straight which controls passage into and out of the Black Sea. This area is obviously of strategic and economic importance, which is the reason Gallipoli is now a well known name in the military world.
I was here for a week, mostly mellowing with my couchsurfing host and his friends, constantly being distracted from seeing the battlefield which I can come for! Not that I’m complaining. A man without a time limit (besides death?) has no reason to get frustrated at such hold backs.
One of my excursions out to the battlefield had my friends and I taking a local transport bus to one area, then finding out the bus magically turned into a tour bus. So the three of us zipped around to various monuments, petted some dogs, and got an idea of what the allies were up against in regards to penetrating the straight. It wasn’t hard to see why the task was suicidal.
The next day was the main battlefield on the north west of the Peninsula, the most famous one.
Perhaps around 500 000 soldiers from both sides died fighting here, from beaches on various parts of the coast, up to the top of the steep hills . from summer heat to the winter months…
The amount of cemeteries and monuments to men from both sides, plaques recounting heroism and absolute misery, and the overall somber atmosphere of the area was something I had only seen before at Verdun, France. Overgrown craters from bombardments, trenches, and even bullet casings are still visible.
After years in the military, I still found it impossible to even try and comprehend the hell both sides went through.
In the end… Fuck war.
On a happier note, Canakkale itself is home to a little known Park In its center, housing, well, a lot of cats (mostly kittens). Most have been dumped by those who can’t afford to take care of them, simply don’t want them, or found them and wanted to put them somewhere secure. So the numbers rise, and food and medicine is available depending on donations and volunteers showing up to see how they’re doing. A few afternoons were spent playing with and feeding these kitty swarms… If you’re visiting the city, I highly recommend visiting their little Kingdom.
Anyhow, from Canakkale, I hitched on South towards Assos, an old site dating back thousands of years. As usual, rides came fast, and the last man for the day gave me a beer and dropped me off at a beach for the night, where I nodded off to distant lightning storms pounding away at Izmir.
Hiking to Assos in the heat of the next time day, I had the area more or less to myself. It was the most impressive ancient site I had seen in this area of the world, beating Delphi and Olympia (for me, anyway). A temple to Athena stood on top a steep hill, with fortifications, a theatre and various other structures following the land down to the sea. It was easy to see why various empires built over the old ones here. Even not knowing much about the place, it was an awesome area to just sit and take in.
From here I had a ride with a tour operator (my first ride in a long time I was asked if I wanted a ride, instead of the opposite) to the main road, and another lucky ride with a guy who inspects beaches! So I visited five beaches on the way to Izmir, being shown off to the staff of each place as some sort of trophy (apparently I’m a good conversation piece). I got free food out of it, and a tour to some of the most popular beaches of the area.. So yea, use me all you want, inspector man.
I got into Izmir in the evening, not truly seeing the difference in temperature between Canakkale and here until the next day… That was a fun punch in the face.