Two weekends ago I ventured off on my own to Canakkale, a quaint little seaside town on the Asian side of the Dardanelles Strait between the Marmaris Sea and the Aegean Sea. This was my base for exploring Troy and the Gallipoli Peninsula, mainly the ANZAC Battlefields.
I arrived by a 5 hour bus ride, which took me along the European coastline of the Marmaris Sea towards Eceabat, the European side town on the Dardanelles. From there our bus hopped on a 20 minute ferry across the strait (a commute I would do a total of 4 times in 2 days). It was a nice approach to the calm and charming seaside town of Canakkale. The town itself really lives of fishing, tourism and a relatively recent university that was established there. Indeed from what I’ve been told the town has become a college town since the university’s arrival. The coastal streets and promenade are very nice to walk through, some of the smaller cobblestoned alleyways feature old school Ottoman/ early republic architecture and houses. In Canakkale itself the main attractions are its Castle, an archeology museum, a military museum (all of which I didnt have time to check out), a 5-storey Ottoman Clock Tower built in 1897, and the Trojan Horse used in the 2004 film Troy starring Brad Pitt. The Clock Tower was rather neat and is in a small square that splits up the many cobblestoned alleyways that give the town its homey, yet old-school ambiance.
The Trojan Horse is just a few strides down the Promenade and is really really quite cool, it feels authentic and one could totally picture that horse being used in the Trojan War compared to the not as authentic looking replica sitting at the front gates of Troy (it has windows and looks partially like a house, I’d assume Trojans would’ve guessed there were people in that).
That night I ate at Gulen Pide as recommended by Lonely Planet to try Lamachun and Pide (Turkish and Arabian style pizzas). Lamachun is like a flat bread pizza with minced meat and sometimes cheese on time, while Pide is an elongated oval shaped pizza with wrapped edges consisting of minced meat, cheese and sometimes Turkish pepperoni. Both were delicious.
At Gulen Pide there was a very friendly English speaking waiter who helped me take my order as well as point me in the direction to try some Peynir Helvasi, the locally famed dessert made of soft white village cheese, flour, sugar, and butter. Unfortunately the place he introduced to me was close but I ended up finding a older family owned joint near the promenade, my first time there I tried both the natural (uncooked) version and the baked version served with Turkish Ice Cream. and WOW, this dessert was amazing, especially the baked version. The baked version had a slightly crunchy top and the rest was slightly firm and chunky yet mostly just creamy sugary (not overly sweet though) goodness.
After returning to the hotel, I stayed at Hotel Artur in Canakkale (not too bad), and taking a break I headed out for a beer at a bar on the Promenade as recommended by Lonely Planet called Benzin, with its 1960s decor. Indeed as they say a more laidback and friendlier nightlife than in Istanbul. After that I couldnt help but try McDonald’s in Turkey and ordered the McTurco, an exclusive item on the Turkish McDonald’s menu, basically a Turkish burger (wrapped in a pida like bread).
The next morning I had a decent breakfast at the hotel then headed on my day of touring. My morning was spent touring the ruins of Troy. Now there are still many scholars who contend whether or not this site is actually Troy as there really hasnt been enough evidence to 100% say this is indeed the Troy we are familiar with from the legend of the Trojan War as described in Homer’s Iliad. But until proven otherwise I will believe for now that this is indeed Troy. It was pretty nice to see the remains of the thick walls that so famously protected the city, but for the most part there was not much to see in the ruins, a few walls, some ramps, toppled columns, a bath, a small theater, and a few well preserved houses. I did find it interesting that archeologists have divided Troy into 9 eras, and the walls themselves belong to each era from Troy 1 to 9, and it is believed that the Legend of Troy took place in Troy 7. The different eras did not build on top of the previous one’s buildings but rather they expanded the city until the final Roman era of Troy 9. Despite the signs laying around, it was still nice to have a guide to explain what exactly it is we were seeing and how it related to Trojan life and even the Legend itself.
Is it worth a visit? Sure if you have time to make it out to Canakkale, but there really isnt a need to venture out here to see Troy as it really will disappoint those who imagine a grand ruin like Ephesus, because its really just a pile of stones, and again who knows if this really is Troy. But visiting Canakkale is not only to see Troy, its to see the Gallipoli Peninsula (see the post on ANZAC Battlefields).
I do believe that Canakkale is well worth a visit as it is not overly touristy, despite it being a base for many to see Troy and Gallipoli, and it holds on to a local and traditional Turkish charm and feel that seems to not exist in the hustle and bustle of Istanbul. In fact, some Turks I have met were surprised and happy that I ventured to Canakkale because they think its a great town and a very Turkish place to visit. So definitely check it out, and its up to you for Troy, if you have 2 hours to spare, sign up for a tour or take the shuttle bus and just walk around it. If you just like the legend and want to see the horse, then stay in Canakkale and awe at the 2004 movie’s Trojan horse.
Crowded House Tours: the company I used for my full day Troy and ANZAC tour, they also own a hostel in Eceabat, and its runned by very friendly and professional people!