The small port of Çanakkale was of major strategic importance during World War I; at its narrowest point, it guards the entire straits of the Dardanelles. A constant reminder of its role in the war is the memorial carved into the cliff side on the opposite shore, which is visible from just about everywhere in town: “O Passer-by: The quiet earth on which you tread unaware is the place where a generation was lost. Bow and listen, for this ground is where the heart of a nation throbs.” But the Great War was not the only major battle to happen in these environs. The ancient city of Troy, located just over 9 miles from here, fell several times in defense of this strategic spot.
Today Çanakkale is a quiet fishing town and tourist center, and the attractions are a mere footnote to both battlegrounds, where the action really happened.
The Army Museum houses various types of war paraphernalia such as uniforms, medals, and weapons, but unless you’re a war geek, the most interesting part of the exhibit is just inside the main entrance. There’s a model of the Gallipoli Campaign, above which are various plaques in English with attention-grabbing anecdotes and quotes of the various battleground memorials. One recounts the story of how on August 10, 1915, Atatürk received a direct hit to the heart, but a pocket watch that he was carrying shielded him from the bullet and certain death. Other sources say it was shrapnel from the doomed 57th Regiment battle, while still others say the whole story is a load of crap. According to the debatable inscription in this museum, the shattered watch is now part of Army Commander General Limon von Sander’s family collection.
Next to the Naval Museum is a replica of the Nusrat, the minelayer that gets the credit for saving the day against invading British warships during the sea offensive. After the war, the underappreciated Nusrat was used as a lowly freight carrier and finally capsized in April 1990. Inside the ship is a minor exhibit of newspaper clippings with apparently significant headlines in huge block Turkish letters, as well as some diary entries and other forgettable items.
Çimenlik Castle, along with the Kilitbahir Castle on the opposite banks of the straits, was constructed by Mehmet II (the Conqueror) in the 15th century as a strategic prelude to his assault on Constantinople.
The castle grounds are full of old cannons from the battles, and if you venture into one of those dark passages, you can get a glimpse of the Turkish positions, not to mention the sections of the roof that were destroyed by incoming artillery.
The park occupies a waterfront section that juts out into the sea and from which you get some of the best views in town, so if war yarns leave you cold, the grounds provide at least a pleasant diversion.