Alexandria Troas With Olives

Trip Start Feb 08, 2008
Trip End Sep 11, 2009

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Flag of Turkey  , Çanakkale Province,
Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Oh, man, another beautiful day, and another archaeological site long an objective--Alexandria Troas.

On this early morning I walked to the edge of Tevfikiye, where the mini-bus began its run, so I could get the "shotgun" seat. That way I could quietly tell the driver I wanted off at the main highway, and not have to shout my uncertain Turkish across a bus full of adolescents on their way to school. The mini-bus first goes to a neighboring village 2km away, then doubles back through Tevfikiye.

Out on the main highway I walked south about a hundred and fifty yards along to a more favorable location to hail a bus, or hitchhike. Within minutes a bus appeared, and the blinking headlights signaled that the driver wanted to know if I wanted to be picked up. I did.

He  took me to the next main town of Ezine. There I bailed out and walked into the center of the very small town. I like such towns. They are quintessential Turkish towns. Agricultural towns, with no pretenses to tourism. And even though I walk the stranger, I don't feel the stares as in many another place. And people are friendly.

I passed a šorba solonu--literally a soup salon. It was early to mid morning, but "soup's on!" So, considering my usual lack of attention to daily sustenance, I stepped in for a bowl of mercimek šorbası--lentil soup. You can practically snap your fingers in Turkey and get some lentil soup. Fortunately, I happen to like it quite well.

After, in a little park, I was dressing down in the unbelievable rising warmth of the new day, when I turned to see a mini-bus pass, heading for my first destination, Geyikli, on the coast. I missed it. So, after about a mile walk along, and just out of town, I was hitching and picked up by a young man who let me out just right there in Geyikli. He probably thought I was going over to the island of Bozcaada, a holiday destination of many. But, no, I wanted to continue on down the coast.

After another walk south, out of town, of a mile or so--along some fine looking Aegean Seaside second homes, and shuttered restaurants and such--there came another ride, leaving me 1km from the archaeological site of Alexandria Troas, my destination for the day.

I started to get the idea that to a Turk 1 kilometer was the equivalent to 2 miles, when I thought it was supposed to be .625 of a mile. I asked a fellow just emerging from a house. One kilometer on, he said. In this case he was right. At least that's where the remnant walls of the vast former city were.

Outside, and adjacent to the fragments of the wall some olive harvesting was in progress. Ever since arriving in Turkeyr I have been wondering how these tens of thousands of acres of olive trees are harvested. Ah, the perfect chance to find out. I left my pack aside and took my camera, walking down into the olive grove to the sounds of conversation and female laughter.

I approached a man on a ladder trying to ask in muddled Turkish if I could take pictures. He basically ignored me. But another fellow stepped up, with a handsome smile . . . . and spoke to me in English! I mean, here I am. I step into a random olive grove, far off the beaten path of tourists--or almost anything, for that matter, and this guy speaks English! And very good English at that. (Sadly, I neglected to get the "backstory" to that).

Oh, my god, I can't believe it! Not only could I take pictures, but I could learn more about olive cultivation and propagation (pretty similar to fruit: lean and productive years); how the pruning should go; and about harvesting and curing. I had tried sampling some off of trees. Not so nice. He said they are soaked in about an 8% salt solution for around four months. He was the owner of the property, and the harvesters were local villagers--and probably family to boot. They all seemed to be having a good time. Lots of chattering and laughter. It warms your heart.

I've yet to see any mechanical harvesting. What I have seen is that a ground covering is spread beneath the tree. (Or, sometimes not). Men rake the olives off the limbs. Women cull them off the ground.

Continuing on--leaving the laughter behind--it was not readily apparent where the main remaining  archaeological features were. So I left the road and headed across the groves and fields for some high ground. There were isolated columns just standing in fields. And potsherds everywhere.

I got up onto what must have been a wall. Then I saw an arch. When I got over there it was clear that that had been the theater. Scant was left. I read that Alexandria Troas had been scavenged for materials used in the Blue Mosque (facing Saint Sofia) in Istanbul. And, from the height of the theater I could identify the arches which are the main remaining features of a once very large city that had seen St. Paul, (Paul of Tarsus sailed for Europe for the first time from Alexandria Troas (Acts, 16:8-11) and returned there from Europe (and there occurred later the episode of the raising of Eutychus (Acts 20:5-12).

One of St. Paul's miracles was said to have taken place in Alexandria Troas. I guess the saint was a sort of Joe Biden of his time (the former Joe Biden), a bit long-winded in the talk. A boy present into the late evening fell asleep in a third story window, tumbling out to the ground. Paul recognized that the lad wasn't dead, and got credited with performing a miracle--cited above, "the raising of Eutychus.

Alexandria Troas was also considered by Constantine to have become the new Rome. But the Big C. chose Byzantium (Constantinople/Istanbul) instead. Now you would hardly know so few and, well, basically miserable are the remains.

I clambered about the remaining stones for a spell before continuing on the road. The scenery was beautiful. And the air was warm.

After a mile or two (I don't know), I came to a junction and thought that would be a good place to stop and hitchhike. At my feet was a forked rivulet of water issuing from a hole in the ground. The water was steaming. I ventured to stick my finger into the water, which was clear itself but had copper-colored the ground around. I could immerse my finger into the water, but couldn't hold it there. Yeouch!

I was just looking around for a possible site to some archaeological baths (there had been scattered, tumbled sarcaphagai lids all along the road I had been walking), when a truck pulled up and took me on. It doesn't seem a good idea to let a ride pass.

He spoke a very few words of English. Including a  mention of  Obama. And took me to within 10km of Ezine.  Within a few more minutes--the fancy cars passing--a silent guy in a junker took me on into the town.

I bought some fruit from a street vendor, then returned to the šorba solonu. The soup was not on, but a small plate of chicken stew was, with peas and carrots. The tv played highlights of recent NBA games in the States, including the Portland Trail Blazers and New York or New Jersey Nets, whoever they are.

I walked to the otogar (bus station), and there was a mini-bus leaving for Canakkale within 15 minutes. He let me out at the junction to Troy and "my" village of Tevfikiye. And after about a 150 yards a guy pulled up and offered me an unsolicited ride, dropping me at the door of my pension. He was a friend of Ismael Varol, the pension owner. More about the pension forthcoming.

Travel Pixies!? See the next blog: "The Assos Walk."
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