Turkey for £99 part 2: Troy, Sardis, Pamukkale and Laodicea – 27th – 29th November 2015   Leave a comment

For an explanation of why this wasn’t really ‘Turkey for £99’ see my first post on this trip, published a few days ago.

This post covers the second, third and part of the fourth day in Turkey and our journey from Istanbul in the European part of Turkey, across the Dardanelles, to the ruins of Troy, Sardis and Laodicea and the calcite formations at Pamukkale.

IMG_1678 Dardanelles ferry

it took all morning to drive along the northern shore of the Sea of Marmora to the ferry terminal at Kilitbahir.

IMG_1675 Ferry terminal European side

Here, accompanied by many Black-headed and a few Yellow-legged Gulls, we left Europe behind. Few other birds were seen on the crossing with the exception of a distant skua which was harrying Black-headed Gulls. From its size and jizz it looked like a Long-tailed. Whilst most skuas will travel from their breeding grounds in the Arctic to more southerly waters for winter via the coasts of Europe, those in central Siberia will follow rivers southwards and then head for the Black Sea and then on into the Med. Even so, seeing a skua this late in the year was a surprise.

IMG_1684 Galipoli memorial

The peninsula south of Kilibahir on the European side was the scene of the disastrous Gallipoli campaign in WW1. There were over 200,000 British and ANZAC casualties and a similar from the Turkish side, yet little was achieved militarily. Here, photographed at some distance and from a moving bus, is the War Memorial to those who died at Gallipoli.

IMG_1690 Trojan war era walls

It was dry up to the moment we arrived at Hissarlik to see the ruins of Troy, it then started to rain and rained heavily until the moment we got back in the bus! Nine city levels have been excavated dating from 3000 BC until the start of Byzantine period, but the walls seen above have been dated to the 12th or 13th century BC, making them concurrent with the Troy of Homer’s Iliad ie the setting of the famous Trojan Wars. It is still a matter of debate whether the Homeric Troy actually existed, let alone whether any of Homer’s heroes are anything more than fictitious characters.

IMG_1695 Troy early levels

The earliest walls are not built with stone but with mud bricks and have been covered with an awning to protect them from the elements.

IMG_1700 Schliemann's ditch

The following is copied from Wikipedia: ‘In 1865, English archaeologist Frank Calvert excavated trial trenches in a field he had bought from a local farmer at Hisarlık, and in 1868, Heinrich Schliemann, a wealthy German businessman and archaeologist, also began excavating in the area after a chance meeting with Calvert in Çanakkale. These excavations revealed several cities built in succession. Schliemann was at first skeptical about the identification of Hisarlik with Troy, but was persuaded by Calver and took over Calvert’s excavations on the eastern half of the Hisarlik site, which was on Calvert’s property. Troy VII has been identified with the Hittite city Wilusa, the probable origin of the Greek Ἴλιον, and is generally (but not conclusively) identified with Homeric Troy’.


Schliemann’s young wife Sophia, wearing the ‘Jewel’s of Helen’ part of the so-called ‘Priam’s Treasure’ that he unearthed at the site. Schliemann smuggled the treasures out of Turkey to Germany where they were taken after WW2 by the Red Army and now reside in the Pushkin museum in Moscow. The level the treasure was found corresponds to Troy II, dated to about 2500 BC whilst the Troy of the Homeric tales lies at Troy VII some 1300 years later, so they have no association with Helen or King Priam! Photo taken in c1874 copied from Wikipedia.

IMG_1703 Troy layers

As I said before nine layers have been excavated at Troy and most can be seen in this photo. According to Wikipedia the layers have been dated as follows: Troy I 3000–2600 BC, Troy II 2600–2250 BC, Troy III 2250–2100 BC, Troy IV 2100–1950 BC, Troy V: 20th–18th centuries BC, Troy VI: 17th–14th centuries BC, Troy VIIa: c. 1300–1190 BC, most likely setting for Homer’s story, Troy VIIb: 12th century until c. 950 BC, Troy VIII: c. 700–85 BC, Troy IX: 85 BC–c. AD 500.

IMG_1710 Troy theatre

We were pretty wet by the time we reached this Roman theatre (apparently not an amphitheatre, as that only applies to theatres that do the full 360 degrees).

IMG_1715 the horse

The archaeology does not disprove that this site is the Troy of Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey nor that there was a war between Greece and Troy; but was Helen of Troy abducted from Sparta by King Priam’s son Paris? did her ‘face launch a thousand ships’? did Hector and Achilles fight a duel? and was Achilles killed by an arrow to his only vulnerable spot, his heel? and finally did the Greeks take the city by hiding in a wooden horse? Journalists, then as now, never let the facts get in the way of a good story!

IMG_1716 Sardes temple

We stayed a bit further down the coast and we woke up the next morning to more wet and windy weather.

IMG_1728 Sardes temple

Today we headed inland to Sardis, to visit the Greek Temple to the goddess Artemis.


IMG_1726 Sardes temple

Unfortunately, like yesterday the rain started just as we arrived and eased off just as we left.

IMG_1732 Sardes temple

Dating to the third century BC, much of the temple became buried by landslides allowing for a high level of preservation.

IMG_1762 row of shops

A few miles away are a synagogue, a gymnasium and other buildings dating from the Hellenistic, Roman and Byzantine periods. These buildings were once a line of Byzantine shops.

IMG_1739 the Loo

And here the public toilets, with stone seats (rather too close for modern-day sensibilities) and channels of flowing water to provide the necessary sanitation. Apparently in cold weather slaves would be sent in advance to warm up the seats for their masters.

IMG_1746 gymnasium Sardes

We were surprised that we were allowed to walk on these wonderful mosaics close to the synagogue, but our guide said that there were so many ancient mosaics in Turkey, many with even better preservation than these, that is wasn’t deemed necessary to cordon them off.

IMG_1755 gymnasium Sardes

The partially restored Roman gymnasium was a fine sight, even on a wet day.

IMG_1757 gymnasium Sardes

The River Pactolus, that runs nearby, contains gold and silver washed down from the nearby mountains. In the 6th century BC during the reign of King Croesus metallurgists learned how to separate gold and silver by smelting and produced coins of great purity and value, which made the king very wealthy and led to the phrase ‘as rich as Croesus’.

IMG_1758 gymnasium Sardes

The legend of King Midas, who was granted his wish by the god Dionysus to turn everything he touched into gold, appears to originate in this area. The story says that after he accidentally turned his daughter into gold he pleaded with Dionysus to remove the ‘gift’ and was told to wash it away in the River Pactolus. King Midas’ golden touch can still be seen along the river banks today.

IMG_1759 Sardes

After a final look around the gymnasium we headed off to Pamukkale for the night.

IMG_1764 baloons

We woke the following morning to blue skies – at long last. These balloons are running sightseeing flights over the famous calcite formations of Pamukkale.

IMG_1765 calcite formations

It looks like snow but in fact it is white calcite formations, the name Pamukkale means ‘cotton castle’.

IMG_1777 calcite formations

The white rock is travertine ….

IMG_1784 calcite & baloon

….deposited by a series of hot springs.

IMG_1769 calcite formations

The hot water is super-saturated with calcium carbonate which comes out of solution as the water cools.

IMG_1766 calcite formations

The best views seem to from the hotel grounds at the top. I never found out if this was reserved for hotel guests but we were not offered the chance to go there.

IMG_1799 Syrian Road

We continued on to Laodicea, originally built in the 3rd century BC and occupied first by the Grecian and then Roman empires.

IMG_1789 Syrian Road

This (and the photo above) shows the so-called Syrian Road, a well-preserved Roman Road.

IMG_1812 Laodicea excavations

Excavations are still going on and we were able to walk on glass partitions that cover newly excavated areas.

IMG_1813 Laodicea

The city was destroyed by an earthquake in the reign of Emperor Nero in AD 60 but was restored by its inhabitants.

IMG_1807 Laodicea

The city is mentioned in the Bible in the Epistle to the Colossians and is mentioned as one of the seven churches of Asia Minor in the Book of Revelations.

IMG_1795 Laodicea

Many stones had interesting (presumably Roman) carvings.

IMG_1796 pipe connections Laodicea

This stone was used to connect stone pipes together, either to transport water or as part of the hypocaust for under floor heating.

IMG_1816 Black Redstart

Birding was good around the ruins with plenty of Black Redstarts (above) and Crested and Wood Larks. A group of eight Lesser Kestrels was unusual at this time of year. Of particular note was a Finch’s Wheatear, a winter visitor from eastern Turkey or Central Asia but it was flushed by a tourist before I could get a photo.

IMG_1821 m at Laodicea

Margaret enjoying the sights of Laodicea.

IMG_1826 Laodicea

A wonderful colonnade.

IMG_1808 group photo at Laodicea

We tried to get a group photo but people kept leaving the group to take their own shots. There were 32 clients plus the guide Sarkan (crouched at the front) so I suppose I did well to get 28 in one shot.

IMG_1832 Laodicea

After the tour we were given just 20 minutes to go round on our own ….

IMG_1805 Laodicea

…. I would have liked a lot more time as not only was the architecture awe-inspiring but the birding was good too. 

IMG_1829 Laodicea

So with a final shot of the colonnade (without a load of tourists in front) I had to rush back to the bus. Unfortunately the next destination was nowhere near as exciting but that’s a story for the next blog post.

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