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The Gallipoli Peninsula

Dardanelles, Gallipoli has gained grim notoriety due to the bloody battles fought there during the First World War. The peninsula’s gentle contours and compact size lend themselves to exploring by bicycle either with camping gear or relying on guesthouses for accommodation.

The Gallipoli National Historic Park

History

When the Ottoman government allied itself with Germany at the beginning of the First World War, British commanders decided that Turkey must be taken out of the conflict as soon as possible, with a knock-out blow to Istanbul deemed the most effective way of achieving this end. A joint Anglo-French naval force was organized by Winston Churchill, then the First Lord of the Admiralty, to force the Dardanelles and attack the Ottoman capital. Having subjected the coastal batteries guarding the straits to intermittent bombardment for three months, on 18 March 1915 an armada of warships under the command of Admiral de Robeck attempted to run the blockade. An intense seven hour battle ensued with the allied ships penetrating 10 km up the straits before being forced to retreat. The allies lost over 2,000 sailors and only later did they discover that the Turkish defenders had been on the brink of abandoning their guns having almost run-out of ammunition. However, chastened by these losses the Anglo-French fleet retreated to the Greek island of Limnos where over the following months a force was prepared to secure the Dardanelles by occupying the Gallipoli Peninsula and the opposite Asian shore.

To achieve these end British and French troops were landed at the tip of the peninsular near Cape Helles before dawn on 14 April 1915, while a second force comprised mainly of Anzac units simultaneously went ashore on the peninsula’s western coast. The plan was for these two forces to link-up, but things went seriously awry.

Despite bitter fighting the Anzacs failed to break through and both sides dug-in for a war of attrition in which the allied commanders, having clearly underestimated the courage and strength of the defenders, sacrificed thousand of lives.

Bloody campaign dragged on until December 1915, when the order was finally given to begin evacuating the allied troops.

They left behind an estimated 160,000 dead, with 86,000 Turkish defenders also killed in the nine month campaign. The scale, but also the futility, of the bloodshed has singled Gallipoli out as one of the most appalling episodes of the First World War.

As one of the terms of the 1918 Armistice, the British and French returned to formally bury their dead. Today there are over 31 cemeteries on the peninsular with the graves of the British and Commonwealth soldiers maintained by the Commonwealth Graves Commission.

The Troad

Gently rolling wheat fields and olive groves cover much of the land with the area at its most beautiful in spring when the scent of almond blossom carries on the air and the meadows are filled with wildflowers. Rarely visited by tourists, foreign or domestic, the Troad also has relatively undeveloped stretches of coastline with some good beaches for camping. The quiet lanes and gentle topography make it ideal cycling country.

Troy (Truva)

Troy is a name that conjures up great romance and mystery, a name immortalized by Homer’s epic tales of Helen, Paris and the infamous wooden horse. But, the uniqueness of the site goes far beyond its Homeric association as it gives archaeologists and historians the opportunity to chart urban and cultural development at a single site over a great sweep of history.

Thankfully a system of explanatory signs helps make the ruins somewhat more accessible, but even so. Troy is far less impressive than other sites in the region and in spite of its extent.

Assos (Behramkale) the city rose to prominence in the fourth century BC under the rule of a wealthy banker named Eubulus. He was succeeded by Hermeias, a eunuch, who had previously been the student of Plato and Aristotle in Athens. A school of philosophy was set-up in Assos under the patronage of the ruler and Aristotle was invited to lead it.