You, the mothers who sent their sons from faraway countries, wipe away your tears; your sons are now lying in our bosom and are in peace. After having lost their lives on this land they have become our sons as well.
-Reported words of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk on a sign by a graveyard for Australian soldiers at Gallipoli
While in Istanbul, I noticed many tour companies advertising week-long trips throughout the country at amazing rates so naturally I took advantage of an offer with Paran Turkey. For nine days, I explored the western and central regions of the country while little Mango stayed behind with his new friends at Paran. It was great to see different parts of Turkey outside of crowded Istanbul, and I got to check many UNESCO sites off my bucket list as well as one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. Here are the first two stops on my trip, Troia and Gallipoli.
(As a side note, anyone interested in visiting Turkey should probably do so now, because tourism has plummeted these past few years with terrorism and political instability, meaning fewer crowds and lower prices. Also, recent elections gave Turkish President Erdoğan significantly more power -- aka, dictatorship powers -- so future political instability is something to consider.)
For this stop, I was glad to be with an organized tour (just three of us total, nothing huge) because getting to the site was quite a trek. First, we arrived on the European side of Turkey and took a ferry across to Çanakkale on the Asian side. Then, a driver and tour guide met us and took us to the UNESCO-listed Archaeological Site of Troy, about half an hour away. Finally, on first glance the ruins aren't that exciting so having a great guide explain the site to us made the trip worthwhile.
Troy boasts more than 5,000 years of history and is one of the most famous archaeological sites in the world. The wooden horse that greets visitors is fun to climb up, but built recently (1960s?). In the 1870s, German archaeologist Heinrich Schliemann "discovered" Troy, tragically destroying the temple of Athena in the process. It was fascinating to see the thick, slanted walls of the city and learn about the different civilizations that settled in the area, as well as learn about the changes in geography over time.
In 1915, a WWI campaign took place on Gallipoli Penninsula and, essentially, Australian and New Zealand forces landed in attempt to take over the strait. Ultimately, Ottoman forces prevailed against invaders in less than a year, but not without major casualties. More than half a million lives were lost, with 300,000 of those being from non-Turkish forces. In honor of lost soldiers and veterans, every May 25th is honored as Anzac day, in honor of the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps. I was in Gallipoli a few days before the event and watched preparations for a large ceremony to welcome visiting Australians and New Zealanders; despite this being a significant event to tourists, attendance has sharply decreased these past few years, with 20,000 in 2015, 8,000 in 2016, and about 800 in 2017. The area is gorgeously preserved from development and I recommend getting around with a guide, as there are many things to see on the sprawling peninsula.