Anybody that has ever enjoyed reading The Iliad (or for the less classically-minded, watched the Brad Pitt/Orlando Bloom movie “Troy”) would be fascinated to have the opportunity to visit this ancient city. Yes, Troy is a real place, and historians and archeologists have spent decades unearthing everything they can about it. While it doesn’t have as many standing ruins as many other ancient cities, it does have the distinction of its history and the famous story of the Trojan Horse (an important parable on why not to accept gifts from strangers). Some backpackers have mixed feelings about historical sites if they aren’t impressive to look at—they often are just too boring and stuffy to be worth visiting when there are so many other exciting and amazing things to see and do around Turkey. But come on, it’s Troy!
Looking back that far in history with any degree of accuracy is difficult, but there is a lot of evidence that Troy was an accident-prone city from the start. The Trojan War, which occurred at some point between the 12th and 14th centuries BC, was only one of many calamities to befall the ancient city. It was rebuilt at least nine times after various wars, fires, and earthquakes, which makes dating ruins difficult. Regardless, little is left standing today. The crumbling walls lie overgrown with poppy plants and long grasses, inhabited by lizards and cute stray cats. But this doesn’t prevent a strong sense of history from pervading everything about it, from the broken pillars to the remains of amphitheaters to the Temple of Athena to the gate where Hector and Achilles dueled. Western civilization is built on the stories of antiquity, and this is one of the best ones.
Located along Turkey’s Aegean coast, Troy lies very close to Gallipoli, the site of an important WWI battle with special significance to Australian and New Zealand visitors because of the loss of ANZAC troops there in a brutal campaign against Ottoman forces. Over the course of eight months, there were almost 500,000 casualties in land and naval battles, ending in an eventual retreat by Allied forces and the promotion of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, who would go on to be Turkey’s first president. Troy and Gallipoli are easy to visit from Istanbul and other major cities and sites. Some companies, such as www.headwater.com, offer walking tours that include them and other historical and cultural attractions such as Ephesus and the Lycian Way. This region is full of adventures, and Troy is just the beginning of a well-rounded trip that can include history, beaches, and extreme sports. Western Turkey is justifiably famous, and any visit here is bound to be worthwhile.