Çanakkale and the Remains of a Legendary City



Çanakkale is a university town on the Anatolian side of the Dardanelles.  I visited it to use as a jumping off point to visit the ruins of Troy and the battlefields of Gallipoli.  Getting there is pretty simple from Istanbul.  Turkey has robust bus system that I first took advantage of between Istanbul and Çanakkale.  For 45 lira (about $36) a comfortable bus will take you along the Thracian coast and ferry you across the Dardanelles to Çanakkale.  The scenery of the ride is pleasant.  Beyond views of the Sea of Marmara, countless fields of sunflowers draw your attention inland.

Çanakkale itself is nice, but not particularly exciting.  Upon reaching the city, I met up with two Australians and we proceeded to the lone hostel in town.  The lack of choice in accommodations was not a problem, as the hostel had plenty of vacancy and is in a central location near the ferry port.

As I stated above, Çanakkale functions as a hub for Troy and Gallipoli.  These can be visited in a single day, but my new Australian friends and I stretched them into two days, which is almost a necessity if you are traveling independently and wish to avoid going on organized tours.

It seems that virtually every American student will come across the works of Homer in one shape or another in high school or college.  I, for one, read the Odyssey in both, but somehow missed out on reading the Iliad.  For those less literary minded folks, Hollywood or television adaptations may be more familiar.  In any case, the Troy that Homer told of was commonly regarded as mythical until relatively recently.  In the 19th century, a German unearthed the first bits of the ancient city and since then excavation has continued.

The most well-known element of the story of the Trojan War is undoubtedly the Trojan Horse, even though it is not part of the Iliad.  However, it is referenced in both the Odyssey and Virgil’s Aeneid (which is superior to the Odyssey).  After 10 years of war between the Trojans and a Greek army which included Odysseus, Achilles, and Agamemnon, the Greeks got on their ships and appeared to set sail for home.  They left behind a large wooden horse.  The Trojans, believing the horse to be an offering to Athena, brought it inside the city gates.  At nightfall, Odysseus and other Greek soldiers hiding inside the horse slid out, opened the city gates, and the ships were signaled the to return.  The Greek army entered Troy and sacked the city.  Today a re-creation of the Trojan Horse sits near the gates to the site.  Tourists, rather than Greek soldiers, employ this wooden horse as a photo op.

This Trojan Horse isn't fooling anyone

Troy itself was a series of settlements built on top of one another.  When disaster or other factors would lead to the abandonment of one settlement, time may pass, and another settlement would rise where the previous one stood.  The Troy of Homer’s epic is neither the first nor the last of these Troys.

The site appears as a lot of stone without much in the ways of recognizable buildings.  Signs around the site aid somewhat in helping to decipher the place, but it is still a challenge as a layperson to fully appreciate.  

A helpful sign

One of the more complete portions of Troy

I would not call Troy a must-see for a visitor to Turkey, but if you’re in the area or an aficionado of the classics and Greek mythology you might as well visit a spot that would kinda sorta inspire a pretty kickass rock song three millennia later.