Travelogue Turkey 3: Troy

17 April 2012

Breakfast is always the most fascinating meal to peruse on holiday in foreign countries. It’s the start of the day when the slate is clean and as a meal in general doesn’t tend to vary that much between the ‘usual’ versions of either continental or hot food. A few additions here and there, but mostly classified by the breadth of options rather than imaginative additions (that aren’t rehashed leftovers from last night’s dinner).

Kervansaray Hotel breakfast buffet had some interesting inclusions worth mentioning:
– eggs labelled ‘omelettes’ that were wafer-thin squares (maybe 5cm x 5cm) of egg loaded with herbs
– boiled potatoes. Not sauteed, boiled.
– very nice slices of sourdough bread with white cheese melted on top, garnished with cherry tomatoes
– custard cake and cocoa cake, which people were dishing alongside their toast and eggs
– pink rose jam
– apricot jam that was clear gelatine with apricot pieces (but surprisingly tasty)
– cherry juice (again) sour cherries with the fruits

Before long we were hurtling down the street in the city centre to meet our 8.30 tour bus for the short (20 or so minutes) bus trip to Troy.

Troy has been around for thousands of years and is the entry point from the Dardenelles to Marmara. The city was originally a coastal town, but the rerouting of the 2 main river tributaries has led to a changing coastline, making Troy a town that can see the sea, rather than actually being situated on its shores.

The docking taxes at this port (which could be hefty as we’re talking in the days when sailors didn’t know how to sail against the wind) were likely the real and far less romantic reason for all the strife, with Helen merely the catalytic fatal-face fall guy (or girl in this case).

These sorts of skirmishes have been going on since the Bronze Age (with the Greeks wanting to keep trade routes clear to Russia), but obviously the straits are still very important for trade and, while they legally belong to Turkey, there are international agreements in place restricting their closure in times of peace (and the straits have in fact only been closed once, in WW2 when Hitler wanted to use them to invade Russia).

The Historic National Park of Troy (a national heritage site) is undoubtedly the most important ancient site in the Canakkale region – and one of the most important in the whole country. It is situated 5km inland and some 30km south of the Canakkale city centre.

Still, arguably, if Homer had not written the Iliad and Odyssey, Troy today wouldn’t occur to tourists and would largely be a place of interest for archeologists, digging the 9 layers of settlement of this city that was active from 3,000BC until the birth of Jesus.

The infamous horse’s tale begins with the Trojan War, which broke out in 1200BC when the Achaeans invaded because they believed that Spartan King Menelaus’s wife (Helen) had been abducted by Trojan King’s son, Paris (when in fact they had eloped). The Achaeans had in any case been waiting for the opportunity to conquer this trade route for many years, so they set off to Troy with a huge army.

Troy’s walls were too strong, however, so the battle went on fruitlessly for 9 years. The Achaeans realised they needed a new strategy, so they feigned retreat, leaving behind a gigantic wooden horse as a gift. Believing the gift to be an offering to the gods, the Trojans accepted it and took it into the city.

The warriors hidden inside snuck out that night and opened the city gates to let their army in and then captured and put the ‘Troy’ into ‘destroyed’.

Amazing that in those times they could build something so sturdy. Amazing that this location is so sought after that it’s been built on 9 times, over itself, over millennia. Amazing to walk among the relics and the remains; to see the marble (brought from Marmar Island) to build the temple adornments and the ramps that were used to elevate heavy items because the wheel hadn’t been invented yet. Amazing to see walls so strong that they defended against armies and are now – 2 thousand years later – as good as the day they were laid (when I have settling cracks on my house built last year!)

It’s incredible how little some things have changed. There are water pipes that look similar to (and are as solid as) modern concrete ones. They had a fishbone style of building (town)houses side-by-side and back-to-back with strength and economy that Summercon only dreams of. Their city walls would render our most athletic of house-breakers ambitionless.

And we’ve been there. Bucket list? Tick!

(And did the touristy things like had photos in the demo wooden horse in the entrance courtyard, but that seems a bit trivial by comparison to the rest of the site).

We got back to Canakkale with instructions for an urgent evac, to get our stuff and bullet down to the harbour with at best 10 minutes to spare to catch our ferry back. We made haste, added a touch of speed and were back at the docks in record time… Only to find out we needn’t have rushed because ferrying to the other side would only have meant getting on the bus to get on the ferry and come back again!

With an hour to kill, we took a walk in an unexplored direction, found little to our liking and headed back to town to grab lunch in a little eatery on the town square that we’d eyed previously and thought we wouldn’t have time to get to.

What a great idea! We had the best thing I have tasted in time memorial. Beef stew rolled in pasta sheets with bechamel sauce (like a rolled lasagne with stew instead of mince) with melted cheese on top. Genius! Totally stole the thunder of the second course which was a freshly prepared pizza base (mixed and kneaded right in front of us) with a thin layer of mince spread over it, baked in the pizza oven, then removed and sprinkled with lettuce, onions and tomato and rolled up and served like a wrap.

Pity we couldn’t get the names, because everything is selected from the counter display, canteen-style and even our cle-ar-ly e-nun-ci-a-ted questions and spontaneous Charades just confused the server into thinking we wanted take-aways rather than the names of what we’d just eaten.

Now that we’ve left for Kusadasi, I fear we’ll never know. *sigh*