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Çanakkale, Turkey

Saga Sapphire blog - Captains' blogs

19th April, 2015

This morning we arrived at the pilot station at the early hour of 6 am because after the pilot boarded it was still about a 12 mile run to our berth. At the berth there was a stiff breeze blowing and, as it can be rather treacherous with changing currents, we had a strong tug boat on the stern. After turning the ship we backed to our berth and were safely tied up at 8 am for our overnight stay.

Çanakkale is the chief town of the province of Çanakkale on the southern coast of Dardanelles at their narrowest point. Little more than a half a mile separates Europe from Asia here and thanks to this strategic position the port features in many history books. Battlements first constructed by the Ottomans in the 15th century have proved their worth throughout the centuries, most recently in 1915 when allied forces were thwarted in their attempt to occupy Istanbul. Çanakkale is the nearest major town to the site of ancient Troy and has the "wooden horse" from the 2004 movie 'Troy' exhibited on the seafront. It was in 1865 that Frank Calvert, an explorer, and Heirich Schliemann, a pioneer archaeologist, began digging through a hill outside the city and discovered the remains of Troy.

As would be expected from the title of this cruise, in this centenary year today’s tours were all about the Gallipoli Campaign of 1915.

Battlefields of Gallipoli – Helles. This was a visit to remember the sites and battles following the deadlocked Western Front of 1915. It was a pilgrimage of remembrance as well as a history lesson.

The tour started with a drive to Fort Dardanos upon which, on the morning of 18th March 1915, Allied warships advanced and at 11:30 opened fire. They had come to destroy the Turkish forts, for unless these could be silenced the British minelayers could not operate safely to render harmless the lines of mines across the Straits. Opposing them at Kephes Point was Fort Dardanos, with Turkish guns and gunners commanded by Lieutenant Hassan. Despite an estimated 4000 shells having been fired within a half mile radius of its direction, the guns at the fort were not silenced.

There was then a short ferry ride to Eceabat with a stop at Alçýtepe. This village, which offers fine panoramic views over Gallipoli, was one of the objectives of the April landings, but was never captured from the Turks. From here the passengers visited the Allied cemetery at V Beach where the converted collier ‘River Clyde’ brought hundreds of troops ashore, many of whom died within minutes. The nearby Helles Memorial is the main monument to the entire Gallipoli campaign and also commemorates Australian and Indian servicemen who have no known grave. After lunch at a local restaurant the tour visited the Lancashire Landing Cemetery, where over 1,000 members of the 1st Lancashire Fusiliers are buried, and the Twelve Tree Copse Cemetery, where the 180 New Zealand troops, who fell at Helles, are commemorated. The journey continued via the notorious Gully Ravine to the Salim Mutlu Museum, which contains weaponry and other finds collected from the battlefields by a local grocer.

A ferry crossing of the Dardanelles brought our passengers back to Çanakkale at the end of a memorable day.

The Gallipoli Campaign. In 1915 the Gallipoli Peninsula was the scene of one of the longest and most bloody battles of World War I. Allied soldiers fought the Turkish army for eight and a half months in an attempt to secure the Dardanelles, in a campaign that cost the lives of 26,000 Australian soldiers and 36,000 from other Commonwealth countries. The tour started with a 30 minute ferry ride across the Dardanelles and a 30 minute coach drive to the British Memorial at Cape Helles. Standing in a prominent location overlooking the Aegean Sea, this monument commemorates the officers and men who fell in the fighting and have no known grave. After stopping for lunch our guests continued to Anzac Cove, named after the Australian and New Zealand troops who landed here on April 25, 1915. After a short stop at the Lone Pine Memorial and Cemetery, site of a major battle between Australian and Turkish forces in August 1915, a further drive took the passengers to Chunuk Bair. One of the main Allied objectives during the campaign, Chunuk Bair was captured from the Turks but lost soon afterwards. The cemetery here contains the New Zealand War Memorial which bears the names of 850 soldiers. From this poignant site our passengers returned by coach and ferry to Canakkale.

For passengers wishing to explore independently, there was a shuttlebus to the centre of Çanakkale and for those who wished to remain on board Cruise Staff had organised and hosted different activities.

The evening of the first day started with pre-dinner cocktail hour in Cooper’s Bar with Dave Peterson at the piano and in the Drawing Room, where the Perfect Mood Duo entertained the guests. After Dinner the Britannia Lounge featured Cabaret Showtime presenting the sophistication, culture and glamour of Violinist Clare Gobin. This was followed in the Drawing Room by Easy Listening with The Perfect Mood Duo and in Cooper’s there was The Late Show with Dave Peterson at the piano.

On the second day the shore excursions on offer were:

Battlefields of Gallipoli Anzac. The landing at Anzac Cove on April 25, 1915 is commemorated in Australia and New Zealand as Anzac Day. It was on that day that large numbers of assault troops, mostly from the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC), landed at night on a narrow beach at the foot of sheer cliffs, one mile north of their intended target.

This tour started with a 30 minute ferry ride across the Dardanelles to Eceabat. From here the coach drove to Bigali Village, where guests visited the former home of Turkish leader Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, who led the Ottoman Army’s 19th Division during World War I. The coach then drove to Anzac Cove to visit the Ari Burnu Cemetery, at the north end of the cove, followed by the Lone Pine Memorial and Cemetery before proceeding to Chunuk Bair. From this movingsite, our passengers returned by coach and ferry to Çanakkale.

The Legendary City of Troy is known as the centre of an ancient civilisation that existed over 4,000 years ago. A significant feature of Greek and Latin literature, Homer first mentioned the story of Troy in his Iliad and Odyssey. Troy was established in 3000BC and gained a reputation as a centre of heroism, love and civilisation. According to Greek mythology, Helen was the beautiful daughter of Zeus and Leda, whose abduction from Paris by her husband Menelaus caused the Trojan War. The ruins were discovered by the German businessman and amateur archaeologist, Heinrich Schliemann, who excavated the site from 1870 to 1890, using Homer’s Iliad as a guide. Our guests had the opportunity to visit the Temple of Athena, the Bronze Age ramp and the town's ramparts. On the way back to the ship there was a stop at the Turgutreis Bastions, named after a famous 16th-century Ottoman admiral.

The Town & Coastal Panoramic tour offered a relaxed sightseeing from the comfort of the coach. It took the passengers to the centre of Canakkale to experience the atmosphere of the city and enjoy its history, architecture and culture. Canakkale is the nearest major town to the site of ancient Troy and, as such, our guests were taken to the 'wooden horse' featured in the 2004 movie Troy. From here the tour proceeded to the Tusan Hotel, situated by the beach, for a refreshment break and free time where the passengers were able to chat with their guide about the area and its history. Soon after all our passengers were back on board the pilot boarded and we left the berth. After turning into the Dardanelles we steamed downstream to the pilot station, where the pilot disembarked and we set course for our next port of call Thessaloniki.

The evening started with pre-dinner cocktails in Cooper’s Bar with Dave Peterson at the piano and in the Drawing Room, where the Perfect Mood Duo entertained the guests. After Dinner the Britannia Lounge featured a performance by Explosive Productions with their show “Come On Over To My Place”, which is a tribute to the first male vocal harmony super groups.

Captain Kees Spekman

The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated.

The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.

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