The Cats of Troy!

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March 29th 2018
Published: April 1st 2018
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Gunyden - good morning. Another day in Turkey and it’s looking a little brighter. No rain. We are on our travels again; this time from Canukkale to Selcuk. We have our own little bus and our driver Ali welcomes us on board.

As we are leaving Canukkale we pass a mosque and Burak explains that it is a relatively new building known as a foundation mosque - the Government pays for the foundations of the building and donations have to be raised to pay for the rest.

Now to the cats… well Troy really, but it's all about the cats. We are met at the entrance gate by a hoard of fluffy lovelies. Some are happy to be fussed over so I get a little distracted by cat cuteness and fall behind with my usual notebook scribbling having instead to rely on some info boards until I catch up.

Troy, what's it all about then? Who knows? It all seems really confusing with myth, legend, Hollywood movies and fact intertwined. There's a big wooden horse at the entrance along with the cats so I'm guessing that's significant, but let's start with the archaeology. Over a period of around 3,500 years there have been a succession of 9 different settlements on the Troy site usually growing bigger at each iteration. The first was a small fishing village, 3000BC (I'm not entirely confident about this specific date so plus or minus a few hundred years and that'll do!). At that time the coastline was much further inland than it is today. Wars and earthquakes destroyed the burgeoning city over the centuries and each time it was rebuilt right on top of the previous ruins. I'm guessing slopes rather than ladders were used to access this higher elevation each time. The final city, number 9, was a good 15m higher than the first little fishing village. The hey day for Troy was number 6. At this time 10,000 people lived within the city walls.

The towering fortifications and gateways to the city played a big part in the Trojan Wars that are supposed to have taken place at his time (if the stories told by Homer in his Iliad and Odyssey are to be believed). Walking around the site at Troy it's hard to work out from the ruins what exactly you are looking at. There are parts from different eras uncovered making it hard to work out what’s what. A scale model at the start helps but it would be good to have interpretation boards that work like the flip page books that superimpose an image of what archaeologists believe are how the completed buildings would've looked like over the top of photos of their current day, ruined state. At one spot we see a section of earth and stones showing the levels of the nine different cities. All very confusing.

Moving to legend and stories, we have to rely on the poetic musings of Homer, who lived centuries after the events he is describing supposedly took place. His story tells of the 10 year Trojan war where the Greeks were trying to take the city of Troy (the 6th version with 10k inhabitants) from the Trojan army defending from within the city walls. How that many people could survive siege conditions for ten years seems to be stretching belief somewhat but let's give old Homer the benefit of doubt for now.

You might wonder what was so important about Troy that 10 years worth of fighting was deemed necessary. Well this is where it gets even more confusing. A love story comes into play. Helen, wife of the King of Sparta, was kidnapped and taken to Troy to become the prize possession of Paris (Trojan dude, not the capital of France). She must've been some sexy hot mamma to have all these guys so hot under the collar for so many years. I like to imagine her swanning around the city rolling her eyes at the stupidity of men.

I don't know how this next bit fits into the Helen, Paris, King of Sparta thing but let's just call it a side battle for the sake of argument… Homer tells of the great Trojan warrior Hector challenged to a duel by the Greek warrior Achilles. Realising he’s no match for Mr Heel, Hector decides to 'run away, run away!’ doing three laps of Troy. The gods get bored of all the running and chasing and make Hector stand and fight. Of course he was right all along - Archilles wins and Hector is no more. He forgot the last bit of 'run away, run away’ …. ‘HIDE!’

I almost forgot about the famous wooden horse. This story, from Homer’s Odyssey is even less believable than the Trojans surviving a ten year siege walled up inside the city of Troy. Allegedly Troy was finally taken by the Greeks because somehow they managed to get a wooden horse through the city gates (a gift from Poseiden, horses, intelligence, something along those lines. I'm afraid I was so confused at this point I wasn't really paying proper attention). Hidden inside this horse were supposedly enough warriors to take over the city and end the ten year war. Hmmm. I saw the gateway of that era of Troy for real and a wooden horse small enough to fit through it would only have held about five men at most, hardly enough to overcome the entire Trojan army. I think maybe there was fire involved or something too. Let's call it poetic licence and leave it at that.

Troy eventually met its demise through natural geographical processes rather than anything quite so dramatic as described in Homer's Iliad and Odyssey. The rivers brought silt down into the area near Troy eventually blocking up the means of navigation to the sea meaning it was no longer in a prime ocean going trading spot.

Nowadays the area is known for growing olives, the best tomatoes in Turkey and ceramics to put these edible treasures on. We learn that nomadic people from Asia moved to the nearby mountains and now there is government support for workshops where the woman use their traditional skills to make exquisite rugs. We stop at one of these workshops to see how the silk used in making some of the rugs is spun. We also get to meet the women and watch them at work. A few people sit at the looms with them and learn how to tie the double knots that make up the patterns. The women learn these intricate patterns off by heart, each keeping at least three in their heads. Depending on the fineness of the thread used and size of the finished item, they can be working on a single rug for 3 months to up to a year or more, usually working about five hours a day. We are taken to another room where rug after rug is rolled out in sumptuous beauty. Sadly none of us can afford to buy any of these works of art and it makes me feel sad for the women who put so much time into creating these gorgeous rugs.

A bit more of a drive and we arrive in the pretty town of Selcuk and our cute little hotel which is more like a bed and breakfast.

More fun times tomorrow. Goodnight.

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2nd April 2018

Greek Whispers are even more weird than Chinese Whispers
Hello Mooma, Nice to hear Greek stories coming from you, and I'm glad you all went to Troy! Homer just wants to let you know that the wooden horse was given as a pretend gift by the Greeks to the Trojans. The Greeks pretended that they were abandoning the siege of Troy; they burnt their tents and sailed off around the corner, and left the horse with a few men inside as a pretend peace offering to Athena, for the Trojan temple to Athena that the Greeks had trashed in previous siege years. The men inside the horse stayed very quiet, and then in the middle of the night opened the city gates, to let in all the Greek warriors who had snuck back in their boats in the dark. Back to Poppy. I think you went to the same carpet place as me! It's where I got that blue and white plate, as there were lots of plates hanging on the wall in the same complex. We all felt a bit weird knowing no-one could afford to buy the carpets too. I expect they get paid enough to display them to groups of visitors that it's worth them doing it anyway, even if no-one buys anything?

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