Assos and an extraordinary man, Troy and Gallipoli
26 Sep 2010
|Dear family and friends
After leaving Serince we drove roughly in parallel with the Aegean for five hours through fairly ugly areas as you get in any place. A great many new apartment buildings throughout Turkey which we wonder about - is it a population boom, public housing - we are not sure. By the way the turquoise coast really is turquoise.
Wondering, with sinking heart, what this place we were heading to might turn out to be, in the last half hour the scene changed as we got off the main road and drove along the coast and our spirits rose.
The tiny town of Assos is also known as Behramkale, Assos being the ancient Greek name but still in use here for tourist purposes. The ancient town was perched high on a hill and the old town now is there too. You follow a very skinny road that falls away scarily on the side as it winds steeply down hill to the more touristy coastal fishing village which is very picturesque but also a bit of clip joint. An ancient theatre cut into the hillside overlooking the sea. We loved this place. Bare and rocky, imposing and spare. Winding cobbled streets, little touristy shops but they somehow didn't impact on the place.
Climb to the top of this mountain on which the town sits, past the old stone buildings and beyond the cobbled streets and you will come to the acropolis and the remains of a very ancient temple to Athena - 530 BCE - see the picture. It sits up there over looking the Aegean and the island of Lesbos. Homer refers to this ancient town though by a different name in the Iliad and Aristotle visit it - there is a statue of at the main village intersection.
Next day we headed out to visit Troy. We weren't expecting much but were surprised by how much there was. Substantial sections of the walls of the 10 cities including those from the city in Homer's story. A thrill to look out from the 'city' across the plains where Homer's Hector and Achilles fought to the sea where the Greeks would have landed -much further away now as the sea has retreated. We were surprised by how rich and fruitful the land was, not at all how we had imagined it.
Back at our lovely hotel we were in for a treat for dinner. We haven't been all that impressed with Turkish food, at best it is tasty and fresh but it isn't what you would describe as food alchemy. But the owner of this hotel who is also the chef dished up delicious imaginative food.
We spent some time talking to him and found him a life force. He had been an actor in London't West End, and on film and TV, run his own theatre company, worked for the British foreign office, returned to Turkey, taught drama at a university and then resigned from his position when he had been told to pass a student who had attended no classes and done no work (the second dark personal story I mentioned in an earlier blog). He said, 'Keep your job' and packed his bag. Now he owns this hotel and manages several others in Assos. He is also a diver, and is about to take off from this job and go sailing.
The Biber Evi, our hotel, made lots of its food from its own produce specialising in chillies (Biber means chilli). Lots of chutneys and jams made from chillies that came with dinner or breakfast.
We left the Biber Evi and drove to Istanbul via Gallipoli. A moving experience and the only place that we have been to in Turkey that looked exactly as we had expected it to - it being so much a part of our own history. The impossible cliffs put together with the quiet dignity of the cemeteries and the stories we all know so well made us both very sad and angry at the futility and waste of life of this campaign.