Troy’s at the centre of it all. It’s the fountainhead. From the tale came the images – painted pots with Hector and Menelaos, Achilles and his many victims, a moulded Trojan Horse on the neck of a vase in a child’s grave. It inspired Homer who lit the fuse that detonated so fruitfully in so many minds – a spur to the pregnant genius of Greek poetry, to Herodotus and the origins of history-writing, down the line to Virgil and the most enduring Roman epic. The cultural impact of its tragedy is enormous. Right now on your screen or in your hands you have its echo.
Ever since Homer sang, pilgrims have sought out the site, to stare out over the fateful plain, or gaze at the beetling walls, hunting for the baneful Scaean Gate. Troy’s is the fate that launched a thousand trips, real or imagined and loaded with meaning – Xerxes, Alexander the Great, Caesar, Julian the Apostate, Mehmed the Conqueror. It’s always been a place of power; even the story of its release from the soil by Heinrich Schliemann and its modern identification has a touch of the epic. Can you not feel the siren call even thinking about it?
Now, through to March 2020, we have a major new exhibition at the British Museum, Troy: Myth and Reality which is sure to renew interest in the poet, the tale, its influence and the site. Will it create the same spirit of pilgrimage in you as it did in Alexander? If it does whet your appetite, if you’ve been circling round the idea for years and need an excuse, or if you’ve been before and want a richer appreciation, we have a specially-crafted itinerary taking you to the wellspring of the ancient world to explore the magnificent Troad and Hellespont.
This tour is just an example of what we can do either as a standalone or as the perfect accompaniment to enrich your trip to a blockbuster exhibition. If you’ve yearned to see a region we don’t seem to cover, or have a bucket-list dream of visiting the sites whose story has long touched you, remember, our knowledge extends far beyond our standard schedule. Get in touch – you may have thought your fantasy itinerary wasn’t in reach, but with our help, it just might be.
Day 1: Arrival in Istanbul. Transfers to our hotel in the centre of the city, and a welcome drink before dinner, over which we will discuss our itinerary and the travels that lie ahead.
Day 2: We take our leave of Istanbul and encounter a name forever associated with a doomed attempt to take it: Gallipoli. This peninsula, a long thin finger by the Hellespont, draws a trailing line where Europe and Asia stand almost as one. It’s beckoned travellers, traders, and colonists for millennia and brought peoples together as a superb route by land and sea. But that’s also drawn conflict, most famously in the Dardanelles conflict of a century ago, when Churchill’s plan to force the Dardanelles descended into tragedy. We’ll see the rugged, impossible terrain, the flanks of hill to which the Allies clung and the bright white memorials they’ve left under the peninsula’s blue skies. We arrive at our hotel for a fine meal. Asia’s coast awaits us.
Day 3: Sing, goddess, of the rage of Achilles… Like Alexander or Xerxes before us, we cross the narrow waters, and like both we come to fabled Troy. There are so many reasons to visit Troy: we can come here to encounter the beginnings of European literature and history, to romantically connect the site of the greatest epic to an archaeological reality, like Troy’s controversial first excavator; or we can come for an almost unrivalled depth of archaeology that sets the scene for an entire region. Troy goes beyond the Fall – we have a site that saw the earliest Bronze Age and classical Greece come and go, while still having Alexander himself and a Roman city in its future. We revel in this exceptional site and its acclaimed new museum before visiting the burial mounds scattered in a loose halo around it, including the ‘Tumulus of Achilles’ and maybe sparing a thought for Hector, tamer of horses.
Day 4: We continue our journey into the Troad and come to the great Hellenistic and Roman city of Alexandreia Troas, founded in the wake of Alexander’s conquests. We explore evocative remains that have eluded the grip of nature and Istanbul’s temptation to use its handy location as a convenient source for fine ancient stones. The hoops of vaults and solitary columns eloquently tell of the vanished prosperity of this leading city. Ghost structures of a different kind meet us after the short journey to Yedi Taşlar, a beautifully atmospheric ancient quarry where unfinished monoliths speak of buildings never completed.
After lunch, we reach back to the beginnings of Troy’s history and go to a rural sanctuary in the territory of Alexandreia Troas. Here we meet Apollo Smintheus, the Lord of Mice and visit the remains of the Smintheion, his pretty Hellenistic temple with its lovingly-sculpted columns. We spend the night in a water-front hotel at the foot of the once mighty Greek city of Assos.
Day 5: After breakfast, we make our way up to Assos, the one-time home of Aristotle, in an extraordinary location. This ancient Greek city stands above the Bay of Edremit. From on high, the stark, stern Doric columns of its Archaic temple of Athena make a fine frame for the amazing seascape we see stretching to the famous island of Lesbos. Behind, the flourishing of the later city fills terraces down to the suitably dramatic location of its theatre. From here, we skirt the southern flanks of Mount Ida, on the summit of which Homer envisaged the Olympian gods gathering to watch the long Battle for Troy, at the beginning of our drive back to Istanbul.
Day 6: Our tour having ended, you may wish to take some time to explore some of the magnificent Ottoman buildings created from stones taken from the ancient sites of the Troad, otherwise it is time to depart from one of this magnificent city’s airports.