Troy. The ancient city which has inspired legends, Hollywood blockbusters and many a strategically named child. Although rumoured to incite bravery, courage and cunning, the archaeological site itself is distinctly underwhelming. Interestingly enough, however, Troy was not the original city constructed on the site and the hill on which it is built is actually the accumulated debris of thousands of years of defunct cities. The earliest cities were constructed of mud bricks, which had an expected lifespan of only 50 years and left no reusable materials. The whole area is permanently windy which had a huge impact on the longevity of buildings. Likewise, giant bees apparently liked to burrow into the mud bricks and continue to this today! Unfortunately, early archaeologists had no idea of the immense history of the site, and began excavating via bulldozer. Thankfully, archaeological methods have improved a huge amount, and areas of the site have been purposely left untouched for future generations. The most famous aspect to Troy is undoubtedly the Trojan horse, which has very kindly been reconstructed a smaller scale version for pesky tourists such as us to take photos in.
It’s amazing how some of the ruins have actually stood the test of time, especially considering how far back they date. I often forget how young Australia is and because I lack a great deal of historical knowledge, I find it very easy to get blaze about the site, thinking that everything looks the same.
There is an incredibly well persevered driveway which is one of the most famous finds at Troy. This is because one of the biggest hauls of ancient and extravagant jewellery was discovered just outside the city gates, adjacent to the driveway. As there were often uprisings and turmoil within the city, the theory goes that a rich merchant or government official must have thrown bundled together jewellery outside the city walls with the intention of collecting it once peace had been restored. Obviously the jewels were never recollected and became buried in thousands of years of debris and dirt. After its discovery, the jewellery travelled the world as part of various exhibitions but was lost during one of the world wars. It resurfaced a few years ago in a museum in Russia and is now part of an international investigation into which country owns them.
My favourite ruin was a very well preserved theatre that had been there since Caesar had come to visit. It was so well preserved that I thought it was a reconstruction, much to the shock of our tour guide! This was the sort of venue that hosted plays and literature, poetry and dramatic expressions but was too small for gladiators or chariot races. It was bizarre to think that we were walking along similar ground to that which Caesar and Brutus would have wandered across.
When it came down to it, they probably faced off looking something like this
But then made up and posed like this
After Troy we jumped back on the bus and began the long ride to The Sanctuary of Asklepios. Although not as windy as Troy, Asklepios was just as hot and dry but also just as interesting. Thousands of years ago, this area was similar to a modern day hospital, except rather than doctors and medicine, they had healers and holy water. The entrance was once a lined street with room for chariots and a roof over the footpath for pedestrians.
Further into Askepios there was a theatre, because mental and emotional health was considered an essential part of overall wellbeing. For an ancient city, they were pretty with it. For some unknown reason there was a tunnel under the stands, but none of us were brave enough to venture too far in much further than this.
We also stopped for a typical, team-bonding Contiki photo, and got to experience firsthand how hot watching performances in that theatre would have been.
We jumped back on the bus for the drive to Izmir, which is apparently not the safest city in the world. One of the boys on tour went for a walk to look for an ATM but came back to the hotel before he’d gone further than a block because locals started following him. We planned to go out that night and Sayat, our tour guide very kindly gave us a few pointers. No venues should charge entry and if anyone tried to offer us a drinks package then it was most likely a scam. If only Sydney venues thought this way!
We boarded the bus and were dropped down by the pier, which had a completely different feel to the area our hotel was in. It felt so safe and clean, but nonetheless most of us stuck together and found a nice pub (conveniently located opposite the police station)
Most of us ordered cocktails, and were amused to find there were local prices and a tourist prices. Even with tourist prices, cocktails still ended up costing AU$10 but were so blindingly strong that no one could even finish their drink.
I had a Love Island, similar to a Long Island Iced Tea but I definitely didn’t finish it. A few of us kicked on to the clubbing district of Izmir to a really interestingly place called Jackson’s. I’d tell you all about it but…