Our next destination was the Dardanelles strait, the international waterway which connects the Aegean Sea with the Sea of Marmora, and divides Europe and Asia Minor. The Dardanelles is 38 miles long but only 4 miles wide at its maximum, and the water flows in both directions, one way on top and the other on the bottom. It is the essential passageway for all shipping to and from the Black Sea and the seven countries that border it. The Dardanelles is named after Dardanus, the mythical son of Zeus and Electra.
There was nothing quite like practicing on our balcony and watching the sunrise.
In 1915 the Dardanelles was the theater of a horrific ten months of fighting between the Allies and the Turks. The Allies’ attempt to gain control of the strait, the Gallipoli peninsula and Istanbul, known as the Gallipoli campaign, was unsuccessful, and they eventually gave up. There were over 200,000 casualties, and the strait is lined with monuments to the fallen on both sides.
Sunday morning brought us the first of many memorable breakfasts on deck, which often happened as we were arriving into a new port. Joining us for the tour were violinist Philip Setzer and violinist/violist Arnaud Sussmann.
We docked on the Turkish side at the city of Çanakkale (pronounced ChaNAKkalay, derived from the Greek word for castle, “kale”) opposite the Greek peninsula called Gallipoli. Çanakkale, like Istanbul, straddles the waterway, affording it both Asian and European identities.
There was time for a quick rehearsal before disembarking.
Comfortable buses always awaited us on the dock.
The archeological site of the ancient city of Troy is now inland; the city had once, before nearby rivers silted in the land completely, held a commanding position on the Dardanelles strait.
Only the short walls remain but it is still awesome to think of the nine cities that were built, one on top of the other, going back to the Bronze Ages (3000 B.C.) The seventh Troy, 1300-1190, B.C. is likely the one which saw the famous Trojan War, documented by Homer in the Iliad. The remains of Troy VII show destruction by war. This illustration shows the many levels of Troy and their ages.
The site was first bought from a farmer by an English archeologist in 1865, and he soon met the self-taught archeologist and businessman Heinrich Schliemann who poured his own money, passion, and lack of expertise into the excavation, wreaking havoc in his enthusiasm. It was he who, when he hit upon gold, sent all his workers home for the afternoon, claiming it was his birthday, and then carted off the extensive horde of gold and jewels known as “Priam’s treasure” (Priam was the king of Troy during the Trojan War). He even had his wife wear some of the most elaborate pieces to get them out. Here’s what Schliemann wrote:
In excavating this wall further and directly by the side of the palace of King Priam, I came upon a large copper article of the most remarkable form, which attracted my attention all the more as I thought I saw gold behind it. … In order to withdraw the treasure from the greed of my workmen, and to save it for archaeology, … I immediately had “paidos” (lunch break) called. … While the men were eating and resting, I cut out the Treasure with a large knife…. It would, however, have been impossible for me to have removed the Treasure without the help of my dear wife, who stood by me ready to pack the things which I cut out in her shawl and to carry them away.
The treasure, eventually sold to a museum Berlin, was lost during the Second World War and resurfaced in 1993 the Pushkin Museum in St. Petersburg, which won’t let it come back to Greece – just like the British Museum and the Elgin marbles. At any rate, many relics of Troy, such as the mask of Agammemnon, remain in Athens in the National Archeological Museum, which we had seen just the day before.
When Schliemann thought he would discover Priam’s treasure he cut a huge trench through the city’s surrounding mound, revealing stonework going all the way back to Troy I. He did a lot of damage, however, which made things difficult for future archaeologists. The ethics of contemporary archaeology dictate that if damage seems inevitable through excavation, just don’t do it and wait until technology of the future is able to handle it. A very intelligent practice.
A cross section of layers is revealed at the site of a megaron, a central, large, rectangular building with a porch that was a predecessor of the classic Greek temple. This megaron was made of mud bricks and dates from 2200 B.C.
The site is now covered by a roof which protects it from the elements.
For more photos of the remains of ancient Troy, please click on the URL at the end of this post.
Boarding the buses, we headed to the Çanakkale Museum, which houses artifacts and artworks found at the Troy site. Most incredible is the Polyxena sarcophagus of the 6th century B.C., unearthed only in 1994. It depicts on one side the sacrifice of Polyxena, daughter of Priam, witnessed by women tearing their hair in distress. The carving is both beautiful and terrifying.
Also very remarkable were these miniature musicians, found in sarcophagi and dating to the 4th century B.C. They are playing various instruments as well as dancing and singing.
During the night we sailed through the Sea of Marmora, the inland body of water between the Aegean and Black Seas. The sea takes its name from the island of Marmara, meaning marble in Greek (“marmaron”). The sights we would awake to the next morning were some of the tour’s most spectacular.
Click here for more photos of our visit to Troy on Flickr.