Downtown Ã‡anakkale and the clock tower
I said goodbye to Osa and her cats and headed to my next destination, the town of Ã‡anakkale (pronounced Cha-KNOCK-ka-lay). Famous for its proximity to the ancient city of Troy as well as the battlefields of Gallipoli, Ã‡anakkale is a nice place to visit in its own right. The ride was about 4Â½ hours on another nice bus and I pulled into town around 4:30pm. My host, HÃ¼seyin, came to pick me up in his red sportscar. HÃ¼seyin is a college student at the 18 March University, known throughout Turkey for its Japanese language program, which he was in his fourth year. After settling in, he cooked us both a modest but good dinner. His roommate Musa knew some English and he served as interpreter when HÃ¼seyin couldn't remember the words. I tried an interesting spicy taffy called mesir macunu, an ancient elixir made in Manisa
from a dozen spices and historically served to cure a sultan's wife from sickness.
Ruins of Ilion at Troy
I also tasted an unusual dried fruit called iÄŸde, which translated to "oleaster" in English. Later some more roommates and friends came over and hung out for awhile. It was close to midnight when his friend Ãœnal invited me to go with him to a friend's for some wine, so I accepted and we took off since HÃ¼seyin was busy studying.
After stopping several places for the right bottle of wine, we finally made it to the friend's house (I think his name was YalÄ±n). Ãœnal, Mehmet and YalÄ±n all drank their wine mixed with Coke, a shocking combination that is common in Turkey. Later another friend, ArsÄ±n, arrived and we chatted and drank quite late into the night. When the guys were deliberating on who would go out to get another bottle, I checked the time and it was already 3:45 am.
A scene of ruins at Troy
With that everyone decided we should probably head back.
In the late morning, Ãœnal and ArsÄ±n drove me to the bus stop for the minibus to Truva, better known as the famous ancient city of Troy. Despite a posted departure time of 12:30, the bus didn't leave for another hour. The last bus back was supposedly at 3pm but I later found out there was a 5pm bus so I could explore Troy at my leisure. The actual site was not as large as I had maybe expected but it was still fascinating to be in the city everyone has heard so much about. I was actually invited to tag along behind a Korean tour group so I could catch some of the historical explanations in English, which I did for a little while, starting at the ruins of Ilion of Homeric fame and moving on to the Temple of Athena.
Here are 8 of the 9 layers of civilizations at Troy
Troy was actually a series of nine different civilizations, with one pretty much built on top of the other. A zealous German archeologist named Schliemann excavated several of the ruins but destroyed some of the layers in the process, along with some of the loot. Still he played his part historically so he is credited as well as reprimanded in the signs. I departed from the group and off the beaten track I found a little cave but it wasn't open to the public, just marked by a trail nearby. It was nice to get away from the tour groups and imagine what life was like for someone living here and having to walk to the cave to get water from the spring inside. I exited the grounds and made my way back to the crossroads where the ticket booth and souvenir stands were. Nearby was a cafe/store where I settled down for some Turkish coffee before the 5pm bus could take me back.
I ran into Mary, an American I'd seen on the bus earlier. She had apparently paid 100 lira for a guided tour of Troy, although she claimed to be a poor graduate student. She was nice enough and invited me to see an airing of the movie Gallipoli that was showing that night at her hotel. I ended up having dinner at a cheap fish restaurant downtown in Ã‡anakkale, where we split orders of fried mussels, calamari and midye dolmada, or stuffed mussels. Then we overindulged by sampling various types of baklava. Armed with a sugar high, we retreated back to the hotel's upper cafe seating area and watched the movie. It was an excellent movie and apparently one of Mel Gibson's first feature film. Even though I ended up not seeing the battleground sights, I didn't know much about the history of the wars that were waged on this soil back in 1915.
Hollywood's gift to Ã‡anakkale
It was a tragic battle for the British forces and especially troops from Australia and New Zealand who were all but decimated one by one. The next day I attempted to visit the peninsula, although first I saw the Trojan horse replica that had been used in the Brad Pitt movie Troy. It was poised across from a small fishing pier a little north of the center of town. Lo and behold I ran into Mary again and we had breakfast for free at her hotel while I made photocopies of a few pages from her travel book. We walked through an old covered market called the Aynali PazarÄ±. On the street we stopped for fresh-squeezed pomegranate-orange juice that was absolutely delicious despite the cold weather. There I wished Mary a Merry Christmas and went on to visit the castle alone.
Kilitbahir Castle & The Dardanelles
Actually it was closed for lunch but I walked around the grounds adjacent to the naval museum, where old artillery was on display.
I caught a ferry across the Dardanelles to the village of Kilitbahir where another castle was perched within two minutes walk from the ferry. It was a neat castle, featuring steep crumbling stairs to the top wall and an interior chamber that I could enter. There were some other museums nearby, including a military battery but I settled for the one castle and then had a snack at a cafe before catching a bus to Eceabat
. Unfortunately there were no winter buses that made the circuit around Gelibolu peninsula, so I wasn't able to see any of the battle sites, but there was an interesting open-air museum by the seaside in Eceabat that had reconstructed some scenes from battles and featured old cannonballs and relics of war as well as a huge relief map of the peninsular.
Outdoor war memorial museum in Eceabat
Eceabat was a small town and fairly calm but relaxing to walk around and soak up the atmosphere before catching the ferry back to Ã‡anakkale.
The sun was setting and the horizon was turning shades of pink and orange behind the clouds. I stepped into a cafe called Ghetto and had a Gusta beer while I watched the ships and ferries pull into and out of port while the sky became increasingly dark. Later HÃ¼seyin called to invite me to dinner and when I got there he, Musa and two friends Ayfer and NurÅŸen were cooking a big dinner of cubed steak, rice pilaf, Russian salad and of course olives and yogurt. The baklava I brought for dessert was a big hit too. We spent the evening just chatting and I ended up going to bed "early" at 1am.