Day 239 - The Ancient City

Trip Start Jan 10, 2011
Trip End Jan 08, 2012

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Soto Pansiyon

Flag of Turkey  , Balikesir,
Wednesday, September 7, 2011

We walked up through a more local area of Çanakkale finding with relative ease the local dolomus station. It is already hotter here than in Istanbul (where the temperatures were basically perfect: 25C without humidity during the day and 20C in the evening).  After a short exchange with a driver we were confident that we could get to the site of the Ancient city of Troy and reasonably confident on catching another dolomus down the coast at the highway turn off to Troy. 

At Troy we walked through the ruins of the fabled city that was originally settled around 3000BC (over 5 millennia)!! There are 10 distinct phases of construction, each built on top of the next that has created a rise of 15 meters of elevation on the site.  The archeological history of the site is only rivaled by the influence of the story by the same name.  The Ancient Greek bard Homer used Troy as the basis for this fable which is perhaps unparalleled in human history.  The influence of this legendary narrative has permeated the cultural and literary lore of the Greek, Roman, Byzantine and European empires from whence all of 'western civilization' has evolved.

We knew the gist of the story and the history after having read up on it (somewhat) and self-guided our way around the site.  The ruins are still being excavated after being (re)discovered in the late 19th century and are not in and of themselves spectacular.  The replica Trojan Horse was rather touristic but added a pictorial focus for the underwhelming site.

We were glad we came though, reflecting on ‘modern’ western civilization and the pervasive impact of the legend of Troy.

Eli attempted to get a ride to our next destination with a Japanese tour group but the driver either didn’t want anything to do with his scruffy appearance and Turkish and/or wasn’t keen on risking any fall out.  He did walk him over to the young people working the check in.  We rode the dolomus out to the main highway and were let off on the side of the road knowing we were to wait for a passing bus but unsure when what would happen.

We waived at a few white vans that looked like dolomuses and watched a lot of others and many buses trolling the route from Çanakkale to Troy and back.  Within an hour a bus didn’t make the turn to Troy and instead stopped for us.  There was only 1 seat available but a man on the tail end of middle age with salt & pepper hair and a deep sun tan was adamantly courteous, insisting that we sit together.  How pleasantly generous!

At the next bus station we needed to transfer and after getting the last tickets (or so they said) we had 90 minutes to kill.  We walked across the hot and vacant parking lot to something like a chip cart.  Mia had a döner while Eli opportunely tried the kokoreç which is a dish of the Balkans and Anatolia consisting mainly of lamb or goat intestines, often wrapped in seasonal offal (sweetbreads, hearts, lungs &/or kidneys).  This sandwich incredibly costs more than beef or chicken!  It was definitely edible and tasted ok though he said he wouldn’t actively order another one.  Mia enjoyed the hot pepper provided as garnish but not as much as the proprietor enjoyed her eye watering reaction. 

The pronunciation of this dish is an example of the idiosyncrasies or reading and pronouncing Turkish.  The Cs & Ss will often have a c-cedilla ("ç" like in Blue Curaçao) changing the sounds to CH and SH.  Also a regular C is pronounced as a J sound.  There are a few more that we have yet to grasp…

The son of the owner undertook a peculiar practice, we would see throughout Turkey, that of ‘watering the pavement’.  It seems the intention is to trap dust, particularly around eateries, although lots of shop would ‘clean’ the sidewalk or promenade outside their shops with a hose.  This makes some sense and is a fairly common practice in ethnic neighbourhoods in Toronto.  Having just been in Africa (and other places), where water is such a scarce resource, it seemed like an excessive indulgence.

After another bus ride we arrived in Avylik (pr. Eh-veh-lick) finding the tourist cartel catering mostly to Turks while the minority of westerners were easily picked out.  Within an hour of arriving we were settled into our ‘Pansiyon’ (basically a B&B).  We initially were confronted with dodgy hotels by the water or the ‘ones’ next door that had been renovated and were twice the price.

After chatting with a couple of Aussie couples edging into retirement we followed their general direction up the hill to the older area of town where the narrow streets and imperfections were more romantic than dodgy.  We knocked on a few Pansyion doors with no response (it was nearly 8:30pm at this point) to no avail - perhaps they were closed or full.  We found our place shortly and the pleasant welcome from our host couple fueled the affection blooming in us for this experience, in this place, in this country.

On the way up, in a clean though dimly lit alley just off the main drag, we’d seen an intriguing restaurant.  The strategic lure certainly worked on us as the soft bluish light and spritely lounge music drew us in.  A young man served us with a polished flair for service and polite quality English.  His recommended dish was well received:  çitir manti is basically fried dumplings on cool (and delicious) yogurt topped with warm tomato sauce.

Saying goodnight to our congenial host, we stepped into the past for a few minutes as we strolled up the quiet cobblestone alleyways to our Pansiyon.       
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