Travel in Turkey – Istanbul

When we visit Istanbul, we try to stay in the Sultanahmet area since it’s in easy walking distance of many major attractions, including the Grand Bazaar. And  Hagia Sophia is a short walk towards the Golden Horn, while nearby is the sprawling complex of the Topkapi palace which takes a day in itself.  Topkapi host everything from the sultan’s harem, Mohammed’s sword, jeweled clothing of the sultans,to the famous Topkapi jewels and the kitchens that fed thousands of Janissaries.  And that doesn’t include time for the separate museums on its ground such as the Archaeological Museum and the Museum of Middle Eastern Countries. Splendid imperial mosques include the Blue Mosque, the Suleymanie, and Hagia Sophia. Vivaldi played in the background as we toured the enormous Basilica cisterns.

Sultan Ahmet Camii ( Blue Mosque ) glows in early evening light
Sultan Ahmet Camii ( Blue Mosque ) glows in early evening light
Galata Tower originally built as a fire watchtower in Istanbul, Turkey
Galata Tower originally built as a fire watchtower in Istanbul, Turkey
Head of Medusa as column decoration
Head of Medusa as column decoration
Ancient columns in water

Ancient columns in water

Sometimes magnificent works of art are preserved by a quirk of fate. An Ottoman pasha had the mosaics of St. Saviour whitewashed, and they were only recovered in the 20th century. These mosaics and frescoes of the Chorae  Church form one of the visual highlights of any tour. If you’re interested in calligraphy, you’ll want to visit the small museum devoted to this artform near Bayezit.

In addition to the imperial mosques, many exquisite, smaller mosques are scattered thru the city, and display incredible Iznik tiles and other decoration.

In the Taksim area, Gezi Park was quiet on our most recent visit. There was a small protest near Galatasaray, but the police presence was much larger. Several dozen police and a water cannonvehicle nearby. A hundred yards up the road, a similar detachment of riot police; repeated several times all the way back to Taksim Square itself where there were more police and tanker trucks to re-supply the water cannon. Luckily the day ended peacefully.

Tour Ancient Troy

The Dardanelles has been a strategic water route and an object of conquest throughout history. The city of Troy was placed strategically to dominate the straits, the site for Homer’s epic tales.
Troy Tours

The Dardanelles take their name from Dardanus, the mythical ancestral founder of nearby Troy – He was born, according to our guide, when Zeus was‘naughty’ with Electra, the local king’s daughter.. Also, according to ancient writers, it’s the place where Helle fell from the back of the golden-fleeced ram while passing through the strait on the way to Colchis in the Black Sea, setting the scene for Jason’s quest of the Golden Fleece. Further it’s the setting for the fatal attraction of Hero to Leander, leading to his drowning while trying to swim across to meet her. Such sacrifice, however foolhardy, naturally led later romantic poets to idealize and even try to imitate them.

The Dardanelles has been a strategic water route and an object of conquest throughout history. The city of Troy was placed strategically to dominate the straits, the site for Homer’s epic tales. Then in the 5 BCE the Persian king Xerxes built a pontoon bridge for his army on his invasion of the Greek city states. It was later fought over by Alcibiades in the Peloponnesian War and Alexander used it on his invasion of Asia. A thousand years later the Rumeli Turks crossed here, establishing their first European beachhead, which culminated in the capture of Constantinople a hundred years later. Their castle today benignly observes the European-side ferry landing. In World War I it lured yet another over-confident invader when the British made their landings.

Troy (Troia, or “Wilusa” in the Hittite language) is an ancient settlement located in the province of Canakkale, Turkey. Troy is well-known because the events told in Homer’s epic, “The Iliad”, took place at Troy. The drama of the Trojan War lies at the heart of the Iliad, which is one of two epic poems attributed to Homer. “Trojan” refers to the inhabitants and culture of Troy.

Today Troy is the name of an ancient site, the location of Homeric Troy in Hisarlık, Anatolia, close to the coast in Canakkale province in northwest Turkey. It is also slightly southwest of the Dardanelles near to Mount Ida.
Troyas  has existed for over 4,000 years and is known as a center of ancient civilizations. For many years people believed that it was a city mentioned only in tales and never actually existed until it was re-discovered in the 19th century. Troy (“Truva” or “Troya” in Turkish) is located at Hisarlik hill near the village of Tevfikiye in Canakkale province, where the remains of this once-great city can be visited.

In 1865 an English archaeologist nameed Frank Calvert carried out the first trial excavations at Hisarlık. Later, in 1868, a German businessman, Heinrich Schliemann, began excavating on a much larger scale and at his own expense. From this it was discovered that the city had nine distinct layers and that Homeric Troy was probably what we now call Troy VI. What is left are the remains from the destructive dig carried out by Schliemann.

Today, an international team of German and American archaeologists bring the Troy of the Bronze Age back to life under a sponsored project . A Turkish legal team is work negotiating with Russia and Germany to retrieve stolen Trojan treasures.

The site of Troy was added to the UNESCO World Heritage list in 1998.

A walking tour of Troy is both rewarding and easy; just be sure to bring sun
protection and water, as it can be hot and exposed. Homer immortalized Troy
in his stories of King Priam, Hector, Paris and beautiful Helen.
Archeological excavations have revealed nine separate levels of cities. A
symbolic wooden Trojan horse commemorates the legendary war. There’s more to see here than we were led to expect, though it’s not as dramatic as some other sites. The walls of Troy VI and I are easiest to discern. Then we got a better view of Troy I looking across Schliemann’s Trench, the deep gash early
archaeologists cut thru the midden. Continuing around we passed the ramp and gate of Troy II, then remains of Troy VII and IX, including the Odeon, South Gate. As we returned, we were reminded that this area is still a military
crossroads – overhead, US jet fighters flew back to their Turkish base after
sorties over Kosovo. [1999]

Troy tours include the following:

  • The Odeon
  • Temple of Athena
  • Entrance ramp to Troy II
  • Place of Sacrifice and Altars
  • The Wooden Horse

You can do Gallipoli and Troy as a long day trip from  Istanbul, but it’s much more rewarding to take several days, which then lets you expand to Pergamum. There are good hotels in Cannakale with convenient ferry connections. A guide is highly recommended.

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