IT was the 100th Anniversary of Gallipoli and as the date moved closer, Gordon and Helen Newton of Murchison decided they wanted to be there.
Gordon’s father had fought there and his second cousin remains there, so they applied to attend and received their invitations.
What better way to get there than on a cruise ship, so they flew to Athens for two nights and toured the Acropolis, saw the changing of the guard at parliament house, visited the Temple of Poseidon and soaked up the atmosphere.
On April 18, they boarded their cruise ship, Le Sol’eal, chartered by APT. The ship was pure elegance with 250 passengers; 240 were Aussies, two New Zealanders and just 60 of them had passes to go to Gallipoli for the Anzac Day Service.
Helen says the ship was magnificent. The amenities, the cabins and the dining were all first class and as they sailed to Gallipoli, guest lecturers gave the history of the event and the decisions made leading up to it.
They stopped at the main Mediterranean ports along the way. Santorini was wonderful with those mountain top views, Mykonos with its labyrinth of narrow streets and on day six they reached Canakkale and had the chance to have a sneak preview of Anzac Cove.
This was April 21 and they took a tour from the ship that went to Anzac Cove, Lone Pine and Chunuk Bair. They saw the trenches as their guides explained the layout of Gallipoli, and that night in the ship’s theatre, a special presentation on the war was shown.
They would be in Anzac Cove for the Dawn Service on the April 25, but until then more touring on the ship.
They sailed for Istanbul. Both Helen and Gordon loved it. So much to see! They toured the ‘Old City’ and saw the Grand Bazaar with all of its shops and traders touting for business. Helen says it was full-on, but she did bargain for some scarves.
The Blue Mosque was a standout and so was the Topkapi Palace and Hagia Sophia Museum such a magnificent building; first it was a Christian church and then a Mosque, but for Gordon, a cruise on the Bosphorus was a must do; its waters form the boundary between Europe and Asia.
It was April 24, dawn service eve, and the time arrived for Gordon and Helen to make their way to Anzac Cove. Their ship cruised the waters of the Dardanelles before Helen and Gordon were escorted on a ferry across to the Gallipoli Peninsular.
They were taken by mini bus to the seating area where they would spend the night prior to the Dawn Service. It was cold but APT had provided them with warm sleeping bags. All wrapped up, they sat on their chairs and watched video presentations on giant screens telling the Anzac story.
Helen and Gordon got a little sleep but it was mainly excitement that kept them awake. Then at 5:30am, all drew quiet as the dawn service began.
Both Gordon and Helen found the service very moving. It brought back memories of Gordon’s father and his cousin who had fought there.
Later they moved on to the Lone Pine Cemetery for the Aussie service. Again they found it very moving and it was good to see Prince Harry and his father, the future king, there but Helen says Prince Harry was the centre of attention.
The last service of the day was at 2:30pm for the New Zealanders, then they made their way back to their ship.
It was a long day finally arriving at the ship at 10:30pm that night, but there was warm food waiting for them and a round of applause from their fellow passengers.
They continued on their Mediterranean cruise going to Kusadasi and visiting the ancient Roman site of Ephesus; so incredibly well preserved.
Then onto Kator and Dubrovnik, where the old cities are a wonder to see, but for Helen and Gordon their cruise was coming to an end. It had been a wonderful time and they had seen so much; the highlight, Gallipoli, would remain with them as a very special time.
Before heading home, Helen and Gordon decided to spend some time in Venice and so they booked a hotel near St Mark’s Square.
They had been to Venice before but this time it was a chance to chill out and enjoy the atmosphere. Times had changed. The slow moving traffic on the canals seemed to be in more of a hurry. The water taxis left quite a wake lapping against the buildings as they sped by on the narrow canals.
But the biggest difference they noticed was the number of tourists. They were everywhere. The little bridge to their hotel had that many tourists on it, it took 10 minutes to cross, and all the while, young people were taking selfies with their phones on sticks. But Helen and Gordon still had a great time and really enjoyed their time there.
Back home in Murchison, the rest of the world seems far away but their incredible time at Gallipoli will always remain in a special place in their hearts.
Helen and Gordon want to thank Rebecca Smith at Helloworld in Shepparton for arranging everything.
Until next time,