Sunday, September 23, 2012

Turkey Day 2: War and Peace

We departed Istanbul at 7am, which meant another very early morning for me. I’m getting a little tired of the 6am wakeup calls—but I grin and bear it and remember that I am in Turkey and having an amazing adventure and will furthermore have several hours on the bus in which to sleep.
We drove an awfully long way that morning—and that was all we did. We stopped once for a break, but other than that we drove straight through almost four hours to our restaurant. I dined with Brother and Sister Schade and their son Adam. They asked me a lot about myself, which was kind of fun—I being on the Lucky Judd Bus I hadn’t yet been able to get to know the Schades at all.
After lunch we drove to Gallipoli. We had watched a movie about it earlier the previous week (and again on the bus, actually—oi). The show starred a young Mel Gibson and was very sad and very heart wrenching—but that didn’t inform me much about the battle—so what I know I learned from our guide or read for myself. The Turkish shore there was the sight of a huge battle during World War 1. The allies decided to make an attempt at taking the straights Turkey controlled, thereby opening up the waterways to provide support to Russia. I believe the end goal was to take Istanbul and knock Turkey out of the war. The attack was poorly planned and poorly executed. Ships that were sent in to bombard the coast were hit with Turkish guns and undersea mines (though why the British thought an entirely sea-based attack on the cliffs would really produce a surrender is beyond me). A land attack was attempted with forces almost entirely comprised of Australian and New Zealand soldiers, a long with some French. Once again, stupid problems and poor execution ruled the day. Turkish automatic guns rained down bullets on the allied men, taking them in droves. The casualties were not only on the allied part, however—the total deaths numbered around 250,000 on both sides. The general who had originally executed this whole thing was retired and a new one was brought in. After three weeks in Turkey, the new officer proclaimed that the best thing that could be done for the Turkey campaign was the evacuate. They did. There was no resistance from the Turks. Some say it was because the decoys the Allies were using—clothed dummies strapped to animals who walked among the trenches, simulating life—were effective. Others say that the Turkish force understood that its work was defense and respectfully backed away from further bloodshed. No one knows.
We visited a memorial to the fallen of Gallipoli there on the shore. We also visited a grave yard where some of them were buried. I walked among the little white tomb stones and read every name. Some of the tombs were inscribed with phrases: “Nearer my God to thee,” “Dearly loved, sadly missed,” “God stands in every shadow,” “Abide with me,” “For King and Country,” etc. One in particular stopped me in my tracks. The tomb looked like any other, but with three remarkable words: “Lest we forget.” That stunned me. Having learned all I had about the battle, it seemed crazy to me that anyone should forget the brave lives that had been laid down in this place. After reading each name on the graves, I followed the Jewish tradition and left a small stone on the steps of the big memorial marker at the far end of the cemetery. I said a prayer, too—and looking at that little stone I promised myself that I would not forget.
I am so glad we spent so much time there as we did—it was amazing. I look forward someday to talking with my father’s Australian friends about Gallipoli. The memory of that battle has great meaning to the Australian people—and now I can say that it does for me, too.
We took a ferry across the straight and headed to Troy. Troy is another tel and is mostly in ruin, but it was amazing. Yasemin had told us that because the city was incomplete and ruined it might take a little imagination to picture what the city had been like. Fortunately, the excavation was also a very good one—I needed a lot more creativity when we visited Tel Dan. Besides that, though, imagination has simply never been a problem for me. The Iliad came to life as we walked among the ruins in the golden afternoon sunlight, seeing the gates, ramps, ramparts, and walls that once were part of the ancient city. As we walked between the double walls I could picture the exhausted Trojans resting upon their shields within the city, and from the top of the hill I could almost see the Greek bulwarks and encampments on the seaward side of the lush plains. Everywhere I looked was another little piece of the ancient Greek legends I love. I had brought several pages of the Illiad with me and happily read them there—recounting the advance of Achilles and the flight of Hector to the city walls until their final confrontation, and all right in view of those very walls.
I even got a picture inside the giant wooden horse replica. I got a miniature model for myself—cheap, yes, but I wanted something to remember by. It was the most magical place—one of many I will keep in my heart for the hard days when I need to escape my studies and stress for a while. On those days I will stop what I am doing, close my eyes, and suddenly find myself once again among the golden sunlight and quiet ruins of Troy.
We stayed at beautiful season hotel that night right on the Aegean Sea. We swam in the ocean, where had hands-up-stands-up contests and chicken fights, took a cool video of some of the girls doing an Ariel-style wet hair flipping line, and where I teased and splashed Katie some because she had pretty much got all wet but wouldn’t go under—she, the one who was doing all the swimming and wave jumping at Tel Aviv (I’m usually on the other end of the teasing, so I take my ammo where I can get it). A few people also got stuck by sea urchins, it would seem. We played a few rounds of sharks and minnows in the pool before dinner. Over dinner we watched the sun set over the Aegean, and afterwards some of us went down to the beach to talk and enjoy the sand and surf. A dance party had been planned for 9:30 by the pool which I wasn’t sure about (we were told not to dance when others were around and not to attract attention to ourselves). Just after the music started, one of the tour guides brought out two big beautiful birthday cakes for the three people who are having birthdays while we’re in Turkey (Callahan, Lauren, and Ellen). So we had a birthday party right there on the ocean, with cake and music and dancing and great friends. I cannot picture a better party.
Bye, everyone! More soon!

1 comment:

  1. Troy and Gallipoli - Great sights in Turkey! I'm glad you spent so much time at Gallipoli. It's important that we remember the fallen dead and honor their sacrifices. Regardless of who they were fighting for.
    love, Mom