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2015 Teachers’ Tour

Tour of Gallipoli Oaks Project
September – 2015


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‘In their eyes’ – Gallipoli Study Tour – 2015

Cheryl Lindford, Bellarine Secondary College

When a friend/work colleague suggested that I apply to join a group of teachers on a Study Tour to Turkey I was very excited. I had heard many positive comments about Turkey as an amazing traveller’s destination from nieces, nephews and friends who had travelled there before. I also knew a Turkish teacher with whom I had discussed the possibility of organising a student trip to this destination.

Like most Australians, I had been brought up with an ingrained respect for the ANZACS and other forces that had represented Australia on foreign shores. My grandfather had served in France in the First World War as had his brother who had been buried in that distant land. My father had served in the air force in the Second World War and had been stationed in Papua New Guinea. I remember the pride I felt each year as I touched the metal of Dad and Poppy’s service medals.

I still have fond memories of representing my primary school as the School Captain, by laying a wreath at the Anzac Day service. The emotions I felt as I accompanied my father to the local march through the streets of Warragul in country Victoria return to me every time I participate in this commemoration or hear ‘The Last Post.’ The opportunity to learn more about an incredibly important event in the psyche of the Australian identity in the Commemorative, Centennial Year of the Gallipoli landing was an added incentive.

My original teaching experience was in the primary sector (10 years in Melbourne) but I am currently teaching senior students at Bellarine Secondary College. I was interested in encouraging my students to connect with the RSL in our local area. I felt sure that the professional development I would gain from the Gallipoli/Turkey tour would help me gain an insight into various ways that I could develop meaningful curriculum for the personal development of my students.

After the usual hectic end to Term 2, I looked forward to the flight to Turkey on the first Saturday of the school holidays. World travellers know that over 18 hours in the air with extra time added for stop overs is not really the best time to catch up on some sleep but we all tried hard. I managed to watch ‘The Water Diviner’ on the flight which set the scene for our up-coming events.

Our first day in Istanbul provided us with some down time to catch up on some rest and to do an informal walk to soak up the atmosphere with our travel companions. Weather was high 20’s and sticky. The excitement and change of time zones between countries obviously affected myself and my room-mate Tina quite badly. We worked this out after her alarm went off and we had showered and dressed and gone down to the breakfast room only to find we were the only ones there. Tina then realised her phone was still set on Australian time and we had in fact only been asleep for two hours.

Day two consisted of a full day tour with our guide, Jenghis. We were fascinated to learn that Istanbul is the only city on earth to bridge both Europe and Asia. We visited the Topkapi Palace to begin our enlightenment on the strength of the Ottoman Empire, and also the scene of ancient chariot races at the Byzantine Hippodrome. We marvelled at the engineering expertise that must have been employed to create the underground system known as the Basilica Cistern and re-visited our memories of fables linked to the Medusa when we viewed the underground sculptures created of these characters.

Our visit to the Blue Mosque of Sultan Ahmet was definitely a highlight for us all. It was incredible to join the huge crowd of people marvelling at the beautiful internal structure of this amazing building. We all donned head scarves and removed our shoes before entering this building to ensure we were respectful of local customs. Our visit to shop in the Grand Bazaar further enhanced our appreciation for all kinds of treasures to be found in this land.

Day three began with a visit to Anitkabir where we visited the monument and mausoleum of Mustafa Ataturk. These impressive buildings were completed in 1953 to honour this man who was the founder of the Republic of Turkey. We learnt how he united the Turkish people and also found how revered he was and is to the Turkish community. This place was packed with graphic depictions of the fighting during the First World War. It was like looking at the displays at the Australian War Memorial except from the other side of the fence.

We then had a really enjoyable lunch which we shared with the Australian Ambassador in Turkey Mr James Larsen. It was fascinating to talk to him and hear his thoughts on local and international current affairs. His previous roles included being an advisor to Bob Carr and a role as the Australian Ambassador in Israel for four years.

In the afternoon we spent time in the Anatolian Civilisations Museum. The displays dated back to 7000 years BC and were presented beautifully within the unique brick tiled building. After a couple of hours there we headed back home for a rest before heading across the road from our motel to have a dinner and learn how to cautiously drink Raki. (Very similar to Ouzo. Can be drunk straight but most commonly diluted with water)

We left Ankara the next day at 9.00a.m. We travelled to Lake Tuz where we walked over the salt pan and took photos. The locals set up a market where they tried to sell all the products from the salt pan for their amazing power to cure everything from bags under the eyes to cellulite.
We then visited a 13th Century Caravanserai which was a group of buildings that was once a stop-over for travellers as they moved through the region. Wonderful to explore the empty buildings and imagine what it would have been like in years past.

Our next stop was to explore the underground city of Kaymakli. We walked through the low entries and only the short people managed without difficulty.☺ This whole region is quite amazing with ancient rock buildings everywhere. Our overnight stay was in Cappadocia. We were all very tired but incredibly excited about the adventure we were to have the next day. We left our windows open that evening so we could listen to the call to prayer as it echoed in the night air.

We woke at 4.00am to head off at 5.00am for our balloon flight. We had breakfast with all the other balloonists before a short bus ride to the flight location. There were 11 people in our basket as well as an English pilot. We were in the air for an hour and a half and it was absolutely amazing! The photos could never do it justice. When we came down to land we all received a medal and enjoyed champagne and chocolate dipped strawberries. We all felt very spoilt.

Back to our motel for my second breakfast. 🙂 It seemed most of my travelling companions were hit by a tummy bug but so ‘Linford’ had to eat for the team. After breakfast we visited an open air museum that contained churches and other cave like dwellings that were sculpted out of massive rocks. Some of them were eight storeys high! We also visited a factory to learn about the hand-made process involved in making Turkish rugs, a few markets and a ceramic factory to watch the artists working on the beautiful, colourful crockery.

Our evening entertainment included a ‘Whirling Dervish’ performance which was just mesmerising. We were lucky to watch many other cultural performances with a belly dance finale.

Our next day consisted of a very long road trip. On the way we stopped at the Mevlana Museum to learn a little more about the Dervish order and as always take lots of photos.

The next day we visited the UNESCO Word Heritage listed site called Pamukkale where we were able to view and swim in the antique pool (full of columns and other relics from the 1st century AD). We also checked out the amazing waterfalls and basins made of limestone. A truly spectacular location!

It was now time to have a really good look around Kusadasi. Our accommodation was terrific. Right on the waterfront and a terrific spot to head out from for city explorations. We visited the house of the Virgin Mary on our way to the ancient ruins of Ephesus. It was a great location but was packed with people.

Our next tour was to the archaeological dig which is the location of the ancient city of Troy. It was not as grand as I expected but still gave the feeling of walking through history. It was very interesting but sad to hear the story of how an archaeologist had removed many of the treasures from these ruins.

We met our host families in Canakkale. We were treated to a lovely meal with all the hosts on the first night then Tina and I went home with our host ‘parents’ Neval and Mucsin. Their apartment was in an awesome location on the coast overlooking a restaurant and bordered by a mosque. We would hear the call to prayer every morning at 6.00am.
The following day we travelled by ferry to Gallipoli. We visited the museum first where we attended a presentation about the history of the Gallipoli battle. It was very interesting to hear this story from the Turkish perspective. The sadness that we all felt was magnified again when we visited several cemeteries and important battle locations where so many soldiers died. The Australian Ambassador had organised a wreath for us to lay at the memorial and we also had poppies and a commemorative cross to leave in remembrance.

We also visited the memorial to the Turkish soldiers. Each Turkish headstone included the names of twenty soldiers killed. So many lives had been lost, that it would not be possible to provide a headstone for each one. It was very moving.

Later in the day we visited a roadside restaurant where we had our first taste of Gosleme. We had cheese, eggplant, minced meat and potato versions. We returned to the city via the ferry again and were met by our host families. That night our host mother cooked up a storm. We spent the night discussing Turkish politics. Their daughter Sarah came to visit as well. She had only recently been married so I had a wonderful time comparing wedding photos of my daughter’s recent wedding with her photos.
That morning we headed to the first of the two schools of the day. Canakkale College is a P-12 private school. We were welcomed by the Principal and teachers and then we visited several classrooms. The teachers had all organised special, action packed lessons for us which involved everyone throwing around balloons and taking turns asking questions. We also joined the students in the canteen where we were all served up a hot meal.

In the afternoon we visited the Ozel Ismail Kaymak school of Canakkale. It is a P-8 school that welcomed our participation in lessons. This school is very keen to get some partnership activities with schools in Australia. We left the school at around 6.00pm and then headed to another restaurant where we were met by our host families.

Our final day was spent with our individual host families. Our host parents were at work so their daughter Sarah looked after Tina and I for the day. We had a wonderful time visiting museums, shopping, tasting Turkish foods and participating in our first Turkish bath. Our final evening consisted of a brilliant celebration with hosts and educators at another wonderful restaurant. Happy and sad songs were played by the visiting musician with our Turkish friends joining in with singing, dancing, tears and laughter.

What have I taken home from this tour?

  • Amazing memories of an incredible beautiful country
  • A great appreciation and love of Turkish delight and Baklava
  • Many new friendships
  • A much greater understanding of the past and current external influences that the Turkish community has to deal with
  • A sadness about the shared loss all communities have to suffer as a result of wars
  • A huge respect for Mustafa Ataturk
  • An enhanced understanding of the Gallipoli campaign from both the Australian and Turkish perspectives
  • An appreciation and understanding of the Turkish education system
  • The knowledge that Turkish students are very similar to Australian students
  • The knowledge that Turkish teachers are as passionate about providing a quality education to their students as Australian teachers are.

I am incredibly grateful to the Friends of Gallipoli and the Human 17 group in Turkey for providing me with this opportunity.

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