I was all set to get a bus from Istanbul to my next destination, Canakkale, a small town across the Dardanelles strait, opposite the Gallipoli peninsula. It would probably take 7+ hours all up, door to door. Then I stumbled onto another option: catch a fast ferry from Istanbul to Bandirma, and from there, a bus to Canakkale, in around 5 hours. It cost a bit more to do it this way, but for the ease and reduced travel time, it was worth it. And I could make use of the ferry time to write some blog updates and sort through photos.
The ferry was very comfortable, similar to the Cook Strait ferries at home. Unfortunately the weather closed in just after I walked into the ferry terminal, so there was nothing to see out the window during the journey – which was one of the points of taking the ferry!
A friendly woman sat next to me on the bus and looked after me. She didn’t speak a word of English, but throughout the journey, she pointed to different things out the window and gave me a detailed explanation of what I was looking at. Of course, I understood nothing. Except when we passed what was obviously a chicken farm. She said the word ‘tavuk’ (chicken) which I had learned about ½ hour earlier when listening to some language lessons. I nodded very enthusiastically in acknowledgement. She probably thought I was ecstatic about the chicken farm, but no, it was just that it was the first thing she said that I understood, after 30 minutes of “conversation”. I was also happy that she woman was even trying to communicate with me – it’s a rare occurrence to get the older women to even talk or even acknowledge me.
Canakkale (pronounced ‘Cha-nock-a-lay;) is a very pleasant university town – it had a relaxed yet modern and vibrant vibe about it. And there didn’t seem to be too many tourists around so there was no hassle from touts and restaurants – bliss! I felt that I could happily relax in Canakkale. There was a noticeable difference in the women here too: there appeared to be more young women out and about, shopping, walking with friends, eating at restaurants and just generally having a happier existence here than I saw in Istanbul.
I stayed in Canakkale for 3 nights (in a nice hotel this time!) and met 3 Australians at the hotel. It was nice to just have someone to hang out with in the evening for drinks, dinner and conversation. (That seems much harder to find here than in Asia –there are far fewer independent travellers around that want to chat and hang out.)
My first day was spent wandering around the waterfront promenade, soaking up the sun (which came out after a horrid day of cold rain when I arrived) and just absorbing my new surrounds. There are quite a few interesting statues and art pieces around the place which I always enjoy.
Canakkale appears to have a sense of light-hearted fun and humour with some of its more whimsical features around the place.
One stand-out feature on the promenade is the Trojan Horse which you may recognise from the 2004 movie ‘Troy”, featuring Brad Pitt. This is the real McCoy from the movie.
The ancient city of Troy, where the Trojan War took place in 1200BC, is about 25km south of Canakkale. I understand that there is an inferior replica of the horse at Troy – I’m not sure why they didn’t put this one there. Anyhow, in case you’re not familiar with the movie or the legend, here you go:
The Trojan War was between the Achaeans (Greeks) and the Trojans. After a 10 year war, the Achaeans had failed to capture the wealthy city but finally achieved it through a devious plan. They made a wooden horse in which they hid their own warriors and left it in front of the gate of the city. Then they sailed away in their ships, out of sight of the Trojans.
When the Trojans woke up the next morning, they saw a wooden horse rather than the Greek ships. After some hesitation, they hauled the horse into town and celebrated their supposed victory. When everyone had gotten drunk and fallen asleep, the Greek warriors came out of the wooden horse, opened the city gates for their own warriors waiting outside, set Troy on fire and plundered it. I’ll bet the Trojans felt a bit silly after that.
There is also the Canakkle Pot – a horse-headed pitcher – found on the main road running through town. This style of 18th-19th century ceramics were made either on a lathe, or by hand and is unique to this region. I found a nice ceramic/pottery story in town and ended up buying a smaller version of this to send home. Mum – it’s wrapped up in dirty laundry and coming to a postbox near you very soon. Hopefully in one piece. 🙂
I loved the older side of town and regularly got lost in the maze of cobblestone streets. My general good sense of direction was letting me down here. Fortunately, the hotel was next to the central Clock Tower so I could always use that as my beacon home again. There were so many nooks and crannies, and quaint coffee and tea shops in little alleyways. Backgammon is popular past-time of the men who frequent here.
The peaceful park-like Naval museum had a fortress undergoing renovations, and more boy toys than most boys would know what to do with. There were all sorts of cannons, mines and other artillery remnants left over from WW1.
And it was in Canakkale that I discovered the bestest restaurant ever (and no, I don’t care that bestest isn’t a word!). Here is my 7.50 Turkish Lira dinner (that’s about $4 to you back at home). It was seriously big, and seriously tasty. Try not to drool on your keyboards.
Since you asked, dinner was spiced grilled chicken meat served on pilaf rice, covered with a tomato-based sauce, and accompanied by lettuce, cucumbers, pickles, pickled red cabbage, tomatoes, roasted chili, fries and slices of pita bread grilled with a light coating of chili flakes. It’s so healthy and tasty. They serve it with the obligatory basket of bread as well – like I really need more carbs with this meal. But in Turkey, EVERY meal comes with a basket of bread – breakfast, lunch or dinner. Whatever few pounds I managed to shed while being a beach lizard in Asia are now in serious danger of returning since being in Turkey. But at least I’m doing lots of walking and hill climbing to try to counter it.
I really enjoyed Canakkale, and was turning point for me in being really able to enjoy everything that Turkey has to offer. Especially the food. 🙂
The primary reason for coming to Canakkale, of course, is to see the Gallipoli battlegrounds. That was a fascinating and educational day – and thought-provoking on the futility of war. I’ll cover that in my next post.