Overall, the trip to Turkey was an experience I will never forget; and I am so grateful that I was given such an amazing opportunity. Whilst away, I’m not sure if I realised just what a huge, life changing experience I was having. I certainly do now, and frequently find myself wishing I were back in Turkey.
Istanbul was a truly amazing city; the culture there was almost overwhelming. At every turn of a street you encountered another building absolutely seeped with history. It was mind blowing to look at the mosques and realize that as pristine as they seem now, these buildings are thousands of years old. To me, it was very humbling to visit these sites as I saw them as the heart of the city. The mosques are where the Turkish people come to pray, many times every day, and they were allowing us to enter these sacred sites and appreciate their architecture, beauty and culture. I learnt so much about the Turkish history and culture whilst on this trip. This came somewhat as a bit of a surprise, because although I knew I was going to Turkey, before I left Australia all I really thought I would be learning was about the war history out at Gallipoli.
Being able to visit Gallipoli was an immense privilege. The Gallipoli countryside was absolutely picturesque, which was probably one of the reasons it made it so hard to fathom such horror and bloodshed occurring in such a beautiful place. It was an immense privilege to be able to walk along Anzac cove, stand upon Plugge’s Plateau, walk through the Turkish and Australian trenches at the Nek and visit the cemeteries, paying our respects to so many of the young lives lost. It was extremely hard to believe the 95 years ago, thousands of boys and men (many not much older than myself), lost their lives where I was standing. We took many walks along paths that the Anzac’s would have travelled. These walks proved quite difficult and what played on my mind throughout the trip was how horrifying it would have been for the Anzac’s making these same journeys under such different circumstances.
One of the most moving experiences of the trip to Gallipoli was reading the epitaphs on the graves of the soldiers at the different cemeteries. Many soldiers had the same epitaph, which read ‘there glory shall not be blotted out’. To me, this epitaph was misleading. As I do not believe that war should ever be labeled ‘glorious’. What these men did was courageous and should be remembered forevermore, but not labeled as glorious. One of the most moving epitaphs read: “to have, to love, and then to part, is the saddest thing of a human heart”. Another read, “the call was short, the blow severe, to part with one we loved so dear”.
Although the trip itself was an amazing experience, it would have been nothing without the people on it. Not once on this trip did I find myself homesick, or longing to be back in Australia. On the contrary, when I finally got home and saw my parents I burst into tears because I already missed the fabulous friends I had made. Whether we were roaming the streets of Istanbul, trekking through Gallipoli or just hanging out in the hotel rooms, we were having an amazing time. Together we were able to enjoy the good times and appreciate the enormity of some of the places we were seeing. Now, back in Australia, I am frequently asked how the trip was. All I can say to these people is ‘the trip was amazing, absolutely amazing’. No words are really able to satisfy how incredible this trip truly was.