A trip to Canakkale wouldn’t be complete without going to Troy. And since Fatso is our budding historian/archaeologist we simply had to go.
A visit to Troy is actually split into two parts: The archaeological museum in Canakkale city centre; and the main archaeological site of Troy about 25 km south of the city.
Because we were visiting on our way to Ankara we didn’t have time to stop in Canakkale and it also meant any time in Troy itself was limited. We had woken up at 5am to get the 7o’clock ferry from Gokceadi and then the 9am ferry to Canakkale. The drive to Ankara would be another 8 hours according to Google maps and that was without the necessary stops. It’s a shame because we definitely could have stayed a lot longer.
Even though it is mid August, the Canakkale coast and Dardenelles get a lot of wind meaning it didn’t feel as hot as the 30 degrees on the thermometer. Plus the site is filled with plenty of mature trees, mainly oak and gorgeously scented figs, so lots of shade. Recognising that people will want to sit and take in the site there are also a good few benches under the trees.
Unfortunately Lai was to be disappointed early on because the promise of a big wooden horse did not materialise. In the car he had got increasingly excited about the prospect of pretending to be a soldier hiding in the horse to trick the Trojans. It was cordoned off and no climbing allowed. The signed said it had been constructed in 1984 but a friend told me she had heard Brad Pitt donated the one after filming his Hollywood blockbuster. If he did it isn’t here.
My kids have got used to being able to clamber over castles in the UK, but being a historical site with active archaeology continuing much of it is roped off. This didn’t bother Fatso, as although he also loves to climb and re-enact battles, he also loves to learn. For Smelly and Lai this became and exercise in testing my patience as they increasingly expressed their boredom. Unless you have kids like Fatso, who adore Horrible Histories and drink in history without having to touch absolutely everything or climb, I would say that this isn’t perhaps the best place to bring them. Fatso also faced disappointment when we encouraged him to ask questions of the archaeologists and was roundly ignored. Turkey has a long way to go to make museums and sites like these attractive for kids but it will get there slowly.
The site is well organised with walkways and ropes showing what is off limits. There are a few parts to climb on, such as the outer walls. The are just enough information boards with timelines and descriptions to give a good overview without overloading you. They also show just how long the city of Troy was around for and how it expanded. Most kids will just learn the story of the Helen and the horse. In fact, Trojan history includes way more than this and shows the city was there for centuries.
The site is on top of a hill that overlooks a plain of what is now farmland. From what we could guess most of this would have been covered by the sea in the past.
Although it doesn’t look much when you first park up and enter the site, once you start to walk around you soon start to marvel at what they achieved. While quite a bit is piles of rubble, the archaeologists haven’t attempted to reconstruct it but rather they have revealed what is there and described it. Except for one part. When you get to the inner city walls, that would have surrounded the largest temple area they have recreated the mud brick walls to protect the existing ones. This is covered by a large awning and allows you to get closer than anywhere else on the site. Touching is encouraged here, sadly that didn’t thrill Smelly and Lai.
There are other temple sites and these were expanded and divided as the city grew. In one area there are what look like wells that are now covered with metal grates and sparrows dive in and out of them. Huge birds of prey soar above the plains below. In another bit you can see where the outer walls expanded as the city grew.
We easily could have spent a lot longer there. It would have been nice if the archaeologists were willing to engage with visitors. Especially as their current excavation they were uncovering what looked like water pipes. An earlier display had described how the Trojans used three types of systems to pipe fresh water to the city: stone, lead, and terracotta. We did see what seemed to be gullies that would act as sewers and only one clear path that was the entrance to the main inner city temple area.
Much of what you see at Troy is stone or mud brick that formed the foundations of buildings but there is some marble that remains in a few places. It would have been preserved for the visible parts of the building for ornamentation. And probably, as with most sites like these, a lot been taken over the years by people using it to build houses later, treasure hunters, and foreign archaeologists. Even so, the fact that they are still digging, and quite deeply too, shows that there is still much to discover and quite a bit preserved by the land that later covered much of the city after its destruction.
Fatso said he had read they had uncovered a mosaic recently. If they have they must have moved it to the museum. He was impressed by the amphitheatre. Not sure how much of that they put back together but they have added a wooden stage at the front. That may be for effect as it clearly wasn’t for clambering on and playing.
I had been told that Troy was a bit of a disappointment. Whoever said that clearly has no interest in history. Ours was a whistlestop tour of the place but we could have stayed much longer. You can really understand why people chose to establish a city there, it’s a beautiful place and strategically brilliant as you can see for miles. It’s far more than a big wooden horse and a pile of stones.