Monday, November 1, 2010
A Disapponting Pile of Rocks - Oops, I Mean Troy
My plan had no hitch. It was very simple. Following a fine day of ruin-viewing, I would hop on the Metro Monster at 10pm, ride an hour to Izmir, transfer and wake up in Cannakale. At the Selcuk otogar, they told me I'd get in at six in the morning. That was completely acceptable. By late that same morning, I'd be out in Troy, Truva, Troya, Troia - it's all the same place. In the afternoon, I'd be back in town at the Canakale's Military Museum, reviewing the exploits of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, hero of Gallipoli, founder of the modern Turkish state and sharp dresser. Following a restful night in a hotel that had yet to be determined, I would arrive in Istanbul the following afternoon. This was the whole plan.
It all went down so promisingly. I hung out at the hotel, got invited to dinner with a few fellow guests (an older British adventurer, a French Canadian couple and a Russian - much more on her in a future post), and didn't eat but drank beer to induce sleepiness. I had taken a dreaded night bus one time previous. It was kind of a nightmare. I hardly slept, got jostled around quite a bit and felt pretty awful for the entire trip. This time, I told myself, the dreaded night bus experience would be different. And it was. At least I didn't feel awful.
When it came time to depart, I settled in on the super-deluxe double-decker Metro Monster for the one-hour ride to Izmir. They were playing this Turkish improv troupe's TV show for all passengers on the video system. You know, my understanding of Turkish is quite limited, but these guys were very funny. So yes, it was unexpectedly entertaining. After I transferred to a smaller Metro Monster (pictured above), we set off into the night. This particular bus had individual video monitors for every seat. I quickly discovered the BusCam. It's a camera mounted on the front of the bus that shows the road. You see everything the driver sees. That's it. I consider it one of the greatest and most entertaining achievements of human history. It was completely hypnotic. I watched it till I felt the need for sleep. And so I slept. But at various times of the night, I was awoken by the bus lurching and shaking violently. It became evident that the bus driver was applying inadvisable speed over less-than-satisfactory roads. Still, I found myself falling asleep again only to be awakened by more shaking and lurching. At one point, my head hit the window quite hard. I still have the knot from the impact. Some hours later, the bus boy shook me awake. I thought he asked me whether I was going to Ankara. I told him that I was headed to Cannakale. He said something else and then left. The bus stopped and he came, shook me again and said that we'd arrived. I looked at the clock. It read 4:10. That didn't make sense. We were supposed to arrive at 6:00. Apparently there had been a change of plans that involved the driver flooring it while all of his passengers slept. They hauled my pack out of the cargo hold and just left me there. If that bus was capable of peeling out, it probably would have. That's how eager they were to get away. And so there I stood in front of the Cannakale otogar. It was shortly after four in the morning, the streets were deserted and it started to rain. I took refuge in this partially-covered atrium area that served as cafe seating for the station's obligatory tea concession. Other than staying warm, there was absolutely nothing to do. I couldn't go anywhere until around 8:00. So much for arriving at a more reasonable 6am.
I read The Odyssey a bit, napped just a little and kept dry enough. The only signs of life were the otogar's cats. Most of these creatures are utterly charmless. They're only interested in begging for food and attacking other cats. They belong to no one and their lives are tough. I did, however, befriend a very sociable kitten. Sorry, I have no pictures. He sat on my lap, keeping me warm while I stroked his ears, keeping him happy. And so it went. The tea-guy showed up at 6:00 to open his cafe and shortly brought me a glass of tea just because I was there. Thanks, tea-guy! I had just recently re-acquired the nasty habit of smoking (this happened in Patara), so that also served to pass the time. More guys arrived to hang out in that uniquely Turkish way, conversing non-stop, smoking and drinking tea. The rain stopped. The sky got lighter and I headed off to find a hotel at around 7:30. My new kitten-friend was not happy to see me go. Likewise, I was sad to depart, but those ruins weren't gonna see themselves.
After becoming very lost in the old quarter, I finally found a nice place. The lady who ran it saw me waiting out front, invited me in and gave me a room. That was really nice of her! If you're ever in Cannakale, I highly recommend the Hotel Efes because of that. I went upstairs, collapsed for an hour and a half and then put my Troy-plan into execution mode. After setting out, getting attacked by a stupid, stupid dog, waiting for the Troy-bound dolmus at the wrong place, finding the right place and waiting seemingly forever for the driver to figure out that it was time to go, I was headed out to the shining gem of Ilium. Yeah, I'm still talking about Troy.
There isn't a Troy, but rather Troys - nine of them. The only one I'm interested in is the one featured in The Iliad and The Odyssey. That's either Troy VI or Troy VII. Experts disagree, but my money's on Troy VII. Of course, as one of the most visited ruins in all of Turkey, it needs its own touch of memorable kitsch. And here it is:
You know, I've been here before. It was 14 years ago. It was disappointing then and it's disappointing now. There is basically nothing around to evoke the Troy of long ago. There are just piles of rocks that used to be walls and stone outlines that used to be temples or houses or whatnot. I knew what to expect. It didn't matter. There's just something about visiting a place that inspired at least four super-great works (The Iliad, The Odyssey, The Aeneid and The Oresteia - any others?) of world literature. Well, first off, descriptions of Troy's size and scope are greatly exaggerated. It was basically a fortified village. It may have been wealthy, but it wasn't large. Based on the drawings of Troy VII, it couldn't have had a population of more than 3,000, tops. That's about as many guys Menelaus kills himself in The Iliad. Agamemnon, both Ajaxes, Odysseus, Patroclus and, of course, Achilles also contribute big numbers during the epic struggle, among many, many others. If they (assuming that any of them really existed) had gone up against the real Troy VII, the population there would have been something like -20,000 or so. Still, Troy has mystique all over the place, from its time of comparative glory to Schliemann's clumsy quest to find and excavate it. OK, so just keep that in mind when you see these pictures:
Above are the so-called Plains of Troy. This is supposedly where the Greek and Trojan armies clashed. It's worth a photo.
Now, this is the most interesting stuff the site has to offer. Just think of what I didn't take pictures of. One thing that is different from my visit 14 years ago is that the signage has been greatly improved. The first time through, everything was in either Turkish or German and it was very important for them to point out which Troy from which, but not to tell what actually happened during that era. The new info is in Turkish, German and English and it goes so far as to recreate buildings based on the excavations. The conclusion? Troy was a small but very cool place.
Since my dolmus arrived around lunchtime and my fellow passengers didn't appear interested in the place for some reason, I pretty much had the entire site to myself. I stopped and read everything along the way, envisioned what things had looked like back then and even gazed pensively off into the distance for a number of minutes. Still, it took me less than an hour and a half to see everything. That's how small it is. Nevertheless, I say that everyone should go to Troy and see for themselves.
The 2:00 dolmus didn't arrive for some reason, so I hung out and watched the post-lunch tour groups come in and leave. Most of those people were interested in the horse. Can you blame them?
After another hour of waiting around, the 3:00 dolmus actually did materialize, but by the time I got back to town, it was too late for the Military Museum. Well, drat. Next visit, I'll probably spend more time in Cannakale. I've been there before, but I had the trots and it was not a great situation. This time, I was trot-free and reasonably rested. I found Cannakale to be a very nice seaside town that I didn't feel the need to photograph. It gets a lot of visiting Australians and New Zealanders since the Gallipoli battlefields are just opposite. I don't have a huge desire to see them. The whole operation was just a huge mess, but two positive things came out of it: 1) Australia and New Zealand gained greater independence and clout in the British Empire by sacrificing their citizenry in the debacle, and; 2) It was the first chance for Mustafa Kemal to prove his ability to lead - and did he ever. Several short years later, he was the boss of all Turkey and reforming things all over the place.
Anyhow, I had fun that evening wandering around the old quarter looking for - but not finding - this restaurant recommended in the Lonely Planet Guide. It didn't really matter, as there are at least a hundred restaurants and kebaberies in the area. I eventually found a good one.
Next stop: Istanbul!