Mission accomplished

Just back at the Kum Hotel now having completed our marathon run. A chilly dawn service and a successful Lone Pine service – very moving reading from Tanvi and professional wreath handling from the rest of the group. Nice to know many of you saw us on tv. More extensive blog post to follow after we have recovered.

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Off to Dawn Service

Just after midnight here and we are about to head off to Dawn Service. Aussie services will have happened in the east and starting soon in the west. Remember to watch for us on the Lone Pine Service broadcast, 6pm ABC 1.

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Anzac eve

Zoe and Lauren on the Rhododendron Ridge trail

With Anzac Day almost upon us, the plan was for a morning outing with a relaxed afternoon.  The transformation of the peninsula is complete – there are buses full of Turks, Aussies and Kiwis everywhere, at every road intersection there are police and soldiers, barricades and bunting abound.  We ventured forth to Chanuk Bair in order to walk from there, down Rhododendron Ridge, to the shore.  Our bus got most of the way along the frontline road, then a bus jam convinced us that getting out and walking was the best method.  There must be hundreds of buses on the peninsula today.

It was great to leave the crowds behind and walk down the ridge, which provided spectacular views up to Suvla, across the rugged hills and down to the sea.  The path follows ridge lines and winds its way through steep country.  We were basically following the path that the New Zealanders took to reach the heights in the August Offensive.  We made it down the shore and along to Embarkation Pier Cemetery, to look at the grave of J Facey, brother of Albert Facey, the author of ‘A Fortunate Life’.

With the Dawn Service site closed, we headed north to take the long way round back to the hotel.  A brief stop in the little village of Bigali gave us the chance to look in the house that Mustafa Kemal stayed in briefly before the Gallipoli Campaign started.  It was also a chance to site in the sunshine at the local cafe and enjoy Turkish coffee and apple tea.  We then managed to run the gauntlet of various security checkpoints and make it back to the hotel for lunch. 

Emboldened by the sunny weather, we decided it was now or never for a dip in the Aegean.  Not all students took up the challenge, but those who did dashed in for a swim and learnt the true meaning of cold water.  It was an impressive display of bravery and recommendations have been made for awarding a Victoria Crisp to all who took part in the action.

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To Helles and back – a post from Chelsea

Recreating one of the friezes at the Turkish Memorial

Today saw its start with another extravagant breakfast at the Kum. This morning’s travels were to include visiting the French, British, and Turkish memorials. The days journey began at Cape Helles where the group admired the amazing the view from the high ground of the British Memorial overlooking the entrance to theDardanelles.  Here the monument lists all the names of Allied forces in the campaign as well as the British soldiers and sailors, whom have died throughout the campaign. Following the pathway down we were able to also visit a small beachside cemetery on V Beach.  The cemetery was in a similar style to others that we had previously witnessed, yet its location right along the beach, its tranquility in comparison to the stark nature of the cliffs made it eerily different. Following this we travelled a short journey to the see grave of a single soldier Doughty Wiley. His grave struck us as quiet peculiar. It was the only grave there, and of a very extravagant nature. The story was told to us by our ever trustworthy guide Fred (Ozgur), of how when the solider was killed, his wife – or possibly his lover- travelled to the peninsula to see him buried. She was the only woman to ever visit the peninsula during the campaign.

A visit to the French cemetery surprised everyone. The French ceremony was very different to any other allied cemetery we had previously visited, in a sophisticated French style, the graves marked by crosses, and large mass graves overlooking the cemetery from its highest point at the monument.

 Today was particularly interesting as it is a Turkish commemorative day. It marks the day Ataturk established parliament in central Turkeyafter the occupation that occurred as an aftermath of World War One. The Parliament disregarded any decisions of the occupying forces, and marked the opposition, signifying the beginning of Turkey’s war for independence. Ataturk also announced the day International Children’s Day. Due to these factors today all areas were abundant with Turkish people taking part in the day’s events.  After pushing through crowds of people like salmon swimming up a stream we were able to view the grand memorial. The main structure was a large monument which one was able to walk under featuring the Turkish flag. Here we were swarmed by groups of Turkish children and tennagers who were more than willing to try their English skills on us, while we tried with little elegance to try our limited Turkish, which admittedly extends as far as a poorly pronounced, hello, goodbye, and thank you. The older Turkish school girls took quiet a fancy to our boys, while the girls were inundated with photo opportunities with the Turkish boys who tried to explain to us in broken English that our grandfathers fought here together. The second part of the Turkish memorial featured a listing of all the Turkish soldiers who fought and died in the Gallipoli campaign on glass panels. This is quiet remarkable considering the lack of records that were kept at the time, much research and investigation must have had to go into forming the memorial panels. 

After another filling lunch we headed back up to the familiar Lone Pine where preparations for the Anzac Day ceremony were well underway. We partook in a rehearsal of the ceremony, as so that the logistics could be established and perfected. We were taught how to walk and present wreaths and the general processes of the ceremony. Tanvi was able to run through the reading of her poem. It was interesting to see how the event was pulled together behind the scenes, and to see the involvement of so many people from so many backgrounds. From the band to volunteers, to the Defence Forces, to dignitaries and schoolchildren, the involvement and passion was overwhelming. However I do suspect that the relaxed attitude of the rehearsal will be in stark contrast to the day itself. The ceremony will be broadcast live toAustraliaon ABC 1, at 6pm on Monday the  25 April.

We rushed to the port to embark upon a boat cruise after the rehearsal. The cruise took us up the coast of the peninsula, which enabled us a fantastic view of the coastline, dotted with memorials. Upon the boat cruise Gene made friends with the captain which saw him leave the boat with the captain’s cap and wall plaque. One of the shipmen shared his iPod with us, and brought us some cucumbers to share. If there is one thing you can say about the Turkish people it is that they are friendly and generous. There was a slight incident upon the boat today at which the pompom was ripped from the top of Connor’s beanie and he was left devastated. Lauren came to the rescue later in the evening stitching the pompom back into place and cleverly stitching the number thirteen into the inside, a number that we are sure Connor never wants to see in honeycomb balls again.

This evening was spent in a trivia trial organized by Geraldine. The two teams’ competed fiercely in the competition run by Andrew with the assistance of his lovely showgirl Stuart. After much arguing across teams, and within the teams, the ‘Aguileras’ came out triumphant winning the glorious troy horse key rings. So the evening ended with multiple games of backgammon and knowledge that this time tomorrow we will be preparing for the dawn service, an event that for shadows the day with anticipation.

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Random stuff

Turkish Moustaches

The Simpson Prize trip always includes down time, when we entertain ourselves and just hang out.  Being away from the usual distractions of TV, computers, mobile phones etc. is a chance to engage in a bit of good old fashioned fun.  With every group, this takes on a different form, though usually involves a bit of fun and games.

The card games for this group started before we had even left Australia with a deck out at Sydney airport.  Since arriving at the Kum Hotel, where we stay on the Gallipoli Peninsula, Backgammon has been the main game of choice.  There a number of new recruits to the game, plus some old hands.  Last night Andrew flew the flag for Australia in a tournament with one of the Turkish guides.  The Turks play the game at breakneck speed and we can proudly report that Andrew triumphed in a first to 5 wins round (rematch scheduled for this evening).

A small group of Simpsonites learnt the Turkish card game Piste from Ondur, our bus driver (yes Varun, the tradition lives on).  Even with the language difference, we picked it up pretty well, though the scoring system is still somewhat of a mystery.  And solo was taught to some of the students by one of our accompanying teachers, Geraldine. 

The Simpson students are not afraid of a challenge either.  Gene has already reported on the performance by some of the girls, to memorise and sing a song.  Last night Connor, on hearing of a record 12  honey cakes eaten in one sitting by our esteemed travel agent, decided to take on the record.  The attempt was witnessed with great enthusiasm by the group and with bemusement by the waiting staff in the restaurant.  And it was another Aussie triumph with Connor bravely downing (and keeping down) 13 honey cakes.

Thanks to all of our readers who have posted comments.  Be assured that all comments are read by the group and its great to know our experiences are being shared in this way.

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On two continents – a post from Gene

All the Simpson gang (including teachers and guides) at Troy

After another traditional Hotel Kum buffet breakfast, the group departed for Kilitbahir where a ferry would take us to the relaxed sea side town of Cannakale. The group fronted the extremely cold winds, pulled out their scarves and beanies, and sat on the roof deck of the ferry to absorb the beautiful surroundings and transition from European to Asian side of the peninsula. Many were impressed by the fact that the bus could even take a ride on the ferry with a loading designated zone for vehicles. Our bus then took us from Cannakale to the ancient City of Troy. Continue reading

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Commemorating Anzacs

The whole gang at The Nek

Today was spent in the Anzac area, exploring the history of the campaign and commemorating the soldiers we had all chosen.  The day was sunny and fine, with a cool wind blowing, but we kicked off with a brisk walk up Plugges Plateau which got the blood pumping.  We imagined what it would have been like for the men who forged up this steep hill in the first light of dawn during the landing.  Luckily we had a well worn path through the dense low scrub and as we climbed higher the views became more spectacular.  At the small cemetery of Plugges we stopped to consider the first day of the campaign.  Most of the grave stones marked soldiers killed on 25 April and the mix of different battalions suggested the confusion of the first day.

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Beach Cemetery – a post from JP and Lauren

At Beach Cemetery

Today we woke up early and prepared for our five hour journey to Gallipoli – the real reason for our being here in Turkey. We left behind the shops and business of Istanbul for the quiet and picturesque beauty of the Turkish countryside. As we drove out of Istanbul, we felt as though we were leaving the present and returning to a past that is so important for both the Australian and Turkish cultures and histories. Lively debate about various subjects made the time go quickly as we passed a 330 kilometre drive to Gallipoli.

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Motors, mosaics and mmmmmm

The previous blog entry may have given the impression that the whole Simpson Prize group are out running every morning, but we must clarify.  So far Zoe, Tanvi and Stuart have been pounding the footpath, though this morning Gene joined this exclusive group. The rest of us have stayed resolutely in bed, recovering from our 5.30am alarm of the dawn call to prayer, or blissfully sleeping through everything, dreaming of Turkish delights.  So with that sorted, today’s blog is based on the random thoughts of Gene and Connor (who did not go running and opted instead for a marathon breakfast).  The breakfast spread provides great variation and is definite upgrade from the usual cereal and toast back home.

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On the run – the word according to Zoe and Tanvi

The day started early for us at 6.30am, putting on our jogging shoes for a run through the streets and alleys of the old city.  Stuart accompanied us with delusions of fitness, particularly compared to our champion display of running.  It was a chilly start to the day, but jogging soon got the blood flowing and as it turned out the day wasn’t going to get any warmer.

Our first Turkish breakfast was a treat, complete with cucumber, olives, cheese and cute small toast.  The five girls of the group lounged on the cushioned seats like sultans of the 21st Century – a time where sultans can be women and they get their own breakfast.  But it was still pretty special. Continue reading

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