Troy: From Moscow via Troy to Sirince

I had seen real Trojan gold in Moscow, Trojan ruins in, well, Troy, and now I was going to see the jeweler who made a lot of the jewelry in the movie “Troy” when I visited a little town called Sirince.

After my visit to Troy, I took a bus to Izmir (formerly called Smyrna for those fig lovers among you). I spent the night there, not being able to face the extra hour it would take to get to the town of Selcuk, my base for visiting Ephesus, after my night bus to Troy. In the morning I hopped on a dolmus (mini-bus, thus far much easier than in Russia because I’ve taken them for inter-city rides) and was off to Selcuk.

I decided to take a tour to Ephesus the following day as I’d heard that the site signage wasn’t great, so I had the afternoon to spend in Selcuk. I first set out to see the remains of the Temple of Artemis, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World but now only one lonely column and some tumbled marble blocks in a pool of water amid crowds of tourists and a few oh-so-persistent souvenir sellers.

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I then decided to take a dolmus up to the Greek town of Sirince, perched on the hills less than ten kilometers from Selcuk. Just the ride up there was amazing, over a steep road climbing through olive trees and some vineyards. It reminded me a lot of Tuscany. And in fact Sirince is known for its fruit wine, one of which I sampled with lunch. (Quince wine, cool and sweet.)

I enjoyed clambering around the rather steep streets. I had a couple of interesting encounters, too. One older lady sitting on her stoop asked me if I were looking for the Orthodox Church, told me it was under renovation and the gate was closed, but that I could cut through her garden to see it. She also asked me if I were married and had any children. I cut through her garden and enjoyed a lovely view, but I’m honestly not sure whether the church was actually a site or just another church. Does it really matter? I had a memorable time, anyway.

After lunch I passed a jewelry store which had a quote from Lonely Planet about the fact that this store supplied a lot of the jewelry for “Troy”. I wanted to look in the window but of course ran into someone who worked at the store, one of the nephews of the master jeweler. And so we chatted, I had tea, tried on some jewelry that was extremely tempting. He did a great job – I was very close to buying something, but managed to walk away unscathed. I’d rather spend the money on a balloon ride in Capadocia.

Some pictures from Sirince:

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Topless Towers of Ilium

As I had a lot of time to kill between arriving in Canakkale and the tour setting off, I took a walk by the water to the horse used in the movie Troy:

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And before you ask, no, I’ve actually never seen the movie. But I grew up on retellings of the Greek myths and then later the actual classics themselves, so I was super excited to see Troy, despite the lack of sleep and the fact that everyone told me there’s nothing to see there.

Well, I went, and there is definitely something to see! I had been envisioning a few holes in the grassy plains (like the archeological site at Nara) but I got to see part of the walls from Troy VI, the incarnation of the city that is likely that of the Iliad. All it took was a bit of imagination to see Hector standing at the top of the wall looking down at the mighty Greek army laying siege to his city.

The version of the horse up at the site:

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The East (?) gate of Troy VI along with some Roman period city walls:
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More of the site covered in poppies – and what was once the sea:

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Me in front of what may have been the main gate to Priam’s city:

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I Think I’m Finally (Almost) A Real Backpacker

So after my six hour overnight bus trip to Canakkale (my base to visit Troy), I have checked off a couple of items that I had this far successfully avoided: using a squat toilet, and smelling like a backpacker. Let’s start where I left off: in my lovely Istanbul guesthouse, after a long day in the sun, about to take public transit to the Istanbul bus station.

It’s a bit of a walk between the tram stop and the metro line that goes to the otogar (bus station). I asked for directions a few times but made it just fine. I’m not a fan of going places I don’t know with my backpack after dark since I stick out like a sore thumb, but there were plenty of people around.

And oh yes, the toilet. Well, I had avoided them in both Japan and Korea, but they were the only option in Istanbul and beggars can’t be choosers. Honestly, it wasn’t a big deal at all. However, the fact that it’s this far into my trip is a pretty big achievement.

I was really early for my midnight bus. A bus pulled in around eleven, which seemed very early but I wasn’t going to quibble. The destination listed was Canakkale and it was in the spot listed on the ticket. It was only when a lady had a ticket for the same seat as I did that the conductor realized I was one bus too early! My bag was already loaded, so he took me to the ticket counter and helped me swap out my ticket to one on that bus. My new seat mate was an older lady who kept insisting I eat some of the crackers she had brought. Whenever I stopped munching for a few minutes, she would pay my hand and point at the packet, making a satisfied noise when I took some more.

I managed to doze on the trip, waking for a few minutes on the ferry crossing the Dardanelles (anticlimactic on a bus at 4am). What I had realized only after I changed my ticket was that my new arrival time would be before dawn, around 5 in the morning. Luckily, I was able to sit in the lobby of the Anzac hostel there until the tour office opened for my tour to Troy.

Trojan Gold: Last Day in Moscow

My last day in Moscow, I resolved to try one last time to get through Red Square to see St Basil’s. Imagine my surprise when I was actually successful! Better yet, apparently it was the free Thursday (though if it not being free would have reduced the crowds, I’d have been ok with the trade-off).

St Basil’s is a rabbit warren of little chapels, mostly empty on the ground floor. Due to the crowds, I almost missed going upstairs, which would have been a real shame as it was the prettiest part of the cathedral, with frescos and icons from different periods in the different chapels. It also gave a good view south over the city to another of the Seven Sisters.

I then walked to the Pushkin Museum of Art, specifically to see the Trojan Gold room. Walking there took a bit of a detour: Moscow is a city of underpasses, and the route I had chosen had no way to cross the street. I backtracked to the State Library and continued on. Again I was lucky and didn’t have to pay an entrance fee. I went straight to the Troy room.

All that went through my mind when I got there was Keat’s poem “On First Looking into Chapman’s Homer”. (Unlike some of my friends, I cannot declaim Homer himself.) The display was pretty spectacular. Most of it is just loops of gold, most exciting for its context. However, the diadems and earrings that Schliemann draped on his wife for the famous photographs were magnificent:

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