Bozcaada Tenedos

Bozcaada Travel Blog

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Bozcaada, which is known as Leukophrys in the Classical age, and Tenedos in Greek mythology, has been invaded many a time all though its history and its rulers have changed hands many times.

The excavations at the necropolis suggest that the island’s history goes back to 3000 BC. The first inhabitants known are Pelazzis. Then, came the Phoenicians, Athenians, the Greek, Persians, Alexander the Great, Byzantinians, Genoese, Venetians, and Ottomans to rule the island.

As Mehmet II conquered Istanbul, Bozcaada has gained importance for the Turks and became Ottoman territory in 1455. After this date there has been some struggle between the Ottomans and the Venetians over the island and Bozcaada was ruled by the Venetians from time to time.

After a long period of Ottoman rule, Bozcaada was invaded by the Greeks during the 1912 Balkan Wars, and became part of Turkey together with Gökçeada with the 1923 Lausanne Treaty.

Bozcaada, which was known as Leukophrys in the ancient world, is Tenedos in Greek mythology. In fact, the first time we come across Tenedos in Greek mythology is the story of when it was given this name.

As the story goes, a king with the name Kyknos was one of the many children of Poseidon, the master of the seas. He ruled the city Kolonai, a Miletos colony in the Lapseki region. He had a son named Tenes. And when Tenes’ mother died, his father married once again. However, the stepmother Philomene slandered Tenes. What’s more, she found herself a piper as a false witness. King Kyknos, who believed in this slander, had his son thrown into the sea in a chest. Crossing the strait, the chest found its way to the shores Leukophrys with the help of Tenes’ grandfather Poseidon. .The people of the island made Tenes king of the island and changed the island’s name to Tenedos, meaning Tenes’ island. Soon after, Kyknos who found out about the slander to his son set off to Leukophrys to ask for his son’s apology. When Tenes saw the boats of his father’s fleet docking, he cut their ropes with the axe he was holding. The common Greek saying “to cut with Tenes’ axe” comes from this story. To avoid meeting someone is referred as 'having cut with Tenes’ axe'.

The Iliad

One of Homer’s two great epics, believed to have been written during the 9th century B.C., The Iliad describes the Trojan War, which takes place in the wealthy city perched atop Hisarlik Hill directly across from Bozcaada. The war takes place between the Greek peninsula’s Achaeans and the Trojans living in Anatolia. The Achaean fleet, under the direction of Agamemnon, King of Kings, makes its first stop at Tenedos to stock up on food and drink. Tenedos makes an appearance a few more times throughout the war. While the wooden horse built by the Achaeans waits before Troy’s city walls, the Achaean fleet hides within a Tenedosian harbor and waits. With this ruse the war is thus won.

The whole of Bozcaada is a natural and historical preservation site. Therefore, all construction work and restoration has to be approved by the Committee for the Historical Preservation of Cultural and Natural Goods. Due to strict control, no unlicensed construction is seen on the island. The historical architectural fabric is preserved and restorations are made taking into account the original architectural style.

The centre of the island has two neighbourhoods, one of the Turks, the other of the Greeks. In the old days they were separated by a stream. As their names suggest, in the Turkish neighbourhood, the population consists mostly of Turks, and likewise there are more Greeks living in the Greek quarter. Naturally, the architecture in each of these two areas reflects their own cultural characteristics.

In the Turkish quarter, there are one story houses and two story houses with bay windows, winding streets and small squares.
The Greek neighbourhood has been re-established after the great fire at the beginning of the 1900s. It was built according to the grid plan used in many of the ancient cities which consists of intersecting streets of approximately the same width. Big or small, there are no squares among these streets.

Outside the centre, there is no large settlement. As for buildings, only houses belonging to the vineyards are seen.
There are two types of vineyard houses according to their appearances. Those that are one story high and without a slanting roof are called ‘dam’, meaning flat roof, and those that are two stories high are called ‘kule’ meaning tower. These houses are small, simple structures, mostly built of stone and are were used by the people as lodging when they worked in the vineyards.

In those days, when transportation was done by animals only, to go to the island centre and come back was so time-consuming for the vineyard labourers that they stayed here in the summer when there was a lot of work to be done in the vineyards. They went to sleep on the flat roofs as they watched the stars.
The vineyard houses are used as summer houses nowadays

Bicycles, motorcycles, cars and minibuses are used as modes of transportation on the island. Without doubt the bicycles and the motorcycles are the most appropriate vehicles.Bicycle, motorcycle and car rental services are offered on the island.

Since the centre is quite small and the streets narrow, it is advisable to park your cars in the designated areas and walk around.

Distances are longer once you leave the island’s centre so it is not very practical to reach where you are heading on foot or even by bike. The best way to tour around the island is by one’s own car. The roads of the island are in a good state and even the dirt roads are suitable for cars to pass.

The only public transportation on the island is supplied by minibuses. They work on the route to Ayazma and Habbele beaches. The minibuses work only between June and October, leaving from the centre every 15 minutes, from morning till the evening

For exploring the island, you should let the roads guide you without fearing of ever getting lost. You are on an island after all and it is for sure that you will come back to where you have started.

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photo by: Trakey