When one visits Gallipoli
for the first time, and that after reading about it for years, the first impression you
get is one of 'homecoming'. Strange as this may sound, I think it's true : when driving
along the coast, you know you must be close, you turn a headland, and all of a sudden
there it is : the Sfinx, in all its glory. And then there's Plugge's Plateau too, and
Walker's Ridge and ... One by one you recognize the locations you found so often in your
literature.It must be said, and this is no small compliment to the authors, that their
descriptions of the landscape were so graphically accurate that, as I said, you
immediately feel at home, rugged as the terrain may be.
Call it getting acquainted with the surroundings. During a first stay on the peninsula,
you gradually discover all the main sights of the campaign. You also notice that the place
now attracts an increasing number of Turkish tourists, but at the same time you see how
they limit their visit to the bare minimum : half an hour at the new monument at the
Chessboard, then back to the car for a second short stop at the Nek and then finally to
Chunuk Bair and the statue of Kemal and back home. Gallipoli in 2 hours. By yourself you
think there must be more, and you can't do it by car.
And then you make a second discovery : in your literature there is so much more, perhaps
not so spectacular as Lone Pine, but nevertheless fairly interesting if you want to get a
clear picture of what the campaign was all about. You are not satisfied any longer by
driving your car up the sealed road to Chunk Bair? No, you want to find out how it really
felt, back there in 1915, to do that on foot. And you discover the old track, once
constructed by the New Zealand engineers, and on your way up you pass the old Outposts and
the Tabletop. And later, you find yourself standing on the Farm, looking up at that
last part of the slope of Chunuk Bair, and when you finally reach the top, out of
breath, you are back among the tourists. And you think by yourself : now we've had it. Now
we know it all.
This feeling could even prevent one to return to Gallipoli for another visit to the
battlefields. However, as it turned out in our case, the peninsula had another surprise in
store. When back home, it's obvious you start rereading those episodes that deal with the
places you visited. And then, before you know, it happens : you stumble upon a story about
a place you don't know. And what is more, the sources you consult are unanimous : this one
spot has vanished, cannot be retraced after so many years. And there you are, puzzled,
intrigued, almost back on your way to Gallipoli to find out more.
This is about what happened to us before we started our hunt for the Balkan Pits.