Eceabat to Gökçeada

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We left Eceabat early to catch the 10am Gökçeada ferry from Kabatepe, a couple of kilometres south of Anzac Cove. At Kabatepe we rode straight to the top of a 500 metre queue of cars and on to the ferry which then set sail -at 9 am! It seems the timetables have changed for the holiday period. The cars that missed out had at least 3 hours to wait. Anyway, no waiting for us. Cycling is the way to go!

On our way to the island we had good views of the entire peninsula including Anzac Cove. It is almost all flat with a gently sloping shoreline except for a two-kilometre section under a prominent, 700 metre high-point. Guess which part of the coast the allies chose to attempt a landing…

Gallipoli coast from Gökçeada ferry

Gökçeada was called Imbros when it was under Greek control and may have been Poseidon’s home in the Iliad. Almost all the Greeks were ‘encouraged’ to leave during the Cyprus war 50 years ago. There are hundreds of abandoned and derelict buildings (houses and Orthodox churches). There must have been a very large rural population once. Many of those settlements may have been destined for abandonment anyway without the assistance of the Turks. Strangely, the Greek settlements are now quite a draw-card for tourists. Unfortunately for us all, I don’t think the Turks do tavernas as well as the Greeks and Islam has a dampening effect when it comes to alcoholic beverage service.

Gökçeada is a stunning island with steep shores and mountains and a long valley down the middle. It seems arid although there are several large reservoirs and reliable springs. The hills look quite barren – bare rocky peaks, scree slopes and flanks covered with round, spiky, goat-proof thorn bushes. Most of the old villages are inland. The guide book says this was to avoid pirate raids but permanent water sources (springs) may have been a factor.

Much of the island is occupied by the Turkish army alert to any possible invasion. They’re keeping a close eye on those tricky Greeks. There is a precipitous Greek Island (Nisos Samothraki) just 20 km away but no sign of any wooden horses floating this way today. I don’t think the Turks are going to fall for that one again anyway.

Nisos Samothraki from Gokceada

There was a high-ranking naval officer in Gökçeada township at lunch time. The main street was sprayed with water turning the dust into mud. I hope he didn’t get any on his crisp, white trousers. There were security details up and down the street and a pair of white-gloved and white-cravatted military policy marching around. A large group of the local important civilians (men that is) were on-hand in shiny suits and white shirts.

Apart from military big knobs there are lots of visitors exerting huge pressure on accommodation. The three days following Ramadan really stretch the local tourist industry but we found a room for one night. No-one speaks English here and we don’t speak Turkish. The cheap Turkish-English dictionary we bought a few days ago is hopeless. International sign language for sleep (head inclined to side with back of opposite hand on cheek) and eat (fingers to mouth), etc works for the basics.

We went swimming at Kaleköy which boasts one of Gökçeada’s ‘boundless natural beaches’. ‘Boundless natural beach’ means something different to Australians! Kaleköy was probably a nice bay once but is now dominated by a marina, a military R&R base and an ugly up-market holiday resort. The small section of beach left to the public was wide enough for our swim but the sand was hardly sparkling and the bottom rocky.

We had a siesta and then climbed a small hill in Kaleköy to the ruins of an Ottoman-era fort on the coastal cliffs. It is surrounded by a picturesque, partly-derelict village including some abandoned Orthodox churches.

Orthodox Church in Kaleköy

We watched a gorgeous Aegean sunset from a terrace restaurant overlooking the bay (and sea and Greek island). Another steep island (Nisos Thasos?) to the west became visible through the haze as the sun dropped towards the horizon. We enjoyed nice food once we worked out what was on offer. It would be helpful if waiters were forthcoming when dealing with ignorant foreigners.

Dinner on the terrace above the Aegean

We don’t know where we will sleep tomorrow – perhaps under an olive tree by the beach. If the accommodation problems persist we may need to return to the mainland although we are aware that Eceabat is booked out for several nights also.

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