Touring Ruins

Early in the morning we board a tour bus for a 5 day tour of a bunch of places around the Aegean coast of Turkey. We start with Gallipoli, the site of significant battles in World War I, not something we’re particularly interested in, but the views are gorgeous and the memorials solemn. The political rantings of our tour guide get a little annoying however.

Our next stop is the ruins of the city of Maybe Troy. Experts are pretty certain this is where Troy once was (or, was 9 times, as archaeology has shown the city had been rebuilt many times), but until less than a century ago, Troy was like Atlantis – a city most people thought was fictional. From the fanciful stories of Homer, the city of Troy fell to the Greeks after they built a giant wooden horse, filled it with warriors, and got it inside under the ruse of a gift. After his long discussions in Gallipoli, dripping with politics, we were not surprised to hear our tour guide describe the story of Troy and how the Greek terrorists were secretly backed by the Americans [1].

After being told to not expect much, we were all pleasantly surprised at how significant the excavated ruins of Troy were, and it was fun walking through such an old place – much older ruins than anything else I’ve seen or likely will see.

As part of the site, someone has built a giant Trojan Horse for visitors to climb into, which my traveling companion does. I, however, question the design of a Trojan Horse with windows for the invaders to peer out of, but apparently that design has become iconic and is sold and pictured in all of the tourist trinket shops around. The second most common design shown on souvenirs seems to be images from the recent Troy movie from Hollywood.

Next stop – the Acropolis at Pergamon! This is a much better preserved site, from slightly less ancient, though still ancient, times. An acropolis is an ancient city built on a hill, usually with the rich people’s palaces and temples and such at the top, and a sprawling city beneath the hill, like the more famous acropolis in Athens. The views from the acropolis are breathtaking.

Among the ruins we learn of some interesting architecture. In the most crowded area, where the market was, the columns, usually fluted all the way from bottom to top, are instead smooth stone until head height; this was apparently done for public safety reasons, as, in its heyday, it was so crowded and people were jostling each other about so much that you would get shoved against the columns, and the smooth stone won’t hurt you like a fluted column would. We first walked along the top of the acropolis, but then later walked through some archways lower down, which actually were just built to raise up the top – to make a larger flat area on top of the hill – and most of them were still supporting the part we walked on earlier (which is now covered in dirt and plants over the stone, so we did not even notice until down below).

There is another very large amphitheater here, probably the biggest I’ve seen yet, as it was built into the side of a hill. Not much remains of the buildings at its base or the temple (to Dionysus, I think – he was the god of parties) that was near its base.

Back into the bus, and the next day we shall go to Ephesus…

[1] This didn’t actually happen, but it seemed a nice way to sum up his opinions from the first part of the trip.

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