Today I am excited to share the second installment of my “A Fish Out Of Water” guest post series. Women from around the world will tell their stories about living in new cultures. I am hoping it inspires some of you to travel and if you can’t travel right now (like me) to at least dream about it.
I am proud to introduce Catherine Yiğit from Turkey. She blogs about reading and writing in both English and Turkish. She is originally from Ireland.
Finding my way around Troy
Sitting beside the bookshelf I was entranced. The book covering my whole lap had lines of tight text and a few grainy photographs. It was about the discovery of the archaeological site of Troy in northwestern Turkey. It had lots of big words. Archaeology, Heinrich Schliemann, and a numerical storm of Troys. One picture fascinated me. It was of a trench Schliemann dug right through the centre of the mound, destroying all sorts of things as he did so.
The bookshelf was in my grandparent’s front room in Dublin, Ireland; beside the big china cabinet. There were Bobbsey twins and Hardy Boy’s and children’s encyclopaedias left on the shelf from my aunts’ childhoods. I was sitting on the floor almost under the edge of the huge dining table. The front room was the good room, rarely used outside of special gatherings, and when the table was needed for spreading patterns on cloth or for doing 5000-piece jigsaw puzzles. I was lost in the descriptions of a historical place so remote and exotic, testing my growing vocabulary.
A little over 15 years later I found myself living a mere 20 km (12 miles) away from the site I’d read about as a child. I was newly engaged, looking forward to starting a new life in this new country, while not knowing a word of the language. We’d travelled from my husband’s hometown on the Black Sea coast with my soon-to-be brother-in-law and his wife, 1500 km across Turkey to visit the town where we would live.
We arrived at Troy to find stalls selling bad-quality souvenirs, one wooden horse, a small excavation house and a rather jumbled pile of stones. It was hot, windy and dry, very dry. Every turn claimed to be a different layer, with earlier seemingly on top of later and no idea of how to distinguish them. The signs were non-existent. The wind was strong but at one turn in the path through this maze of stones I looked back, and recognised the view across the plain through the first trench Schliemann dug.
Once we settled into life in our new town, we had opportunity to visit Troy again. And again. And again. And again. My visits have been with bored teenagers, disinterested adults and knowledgeable scholars, accompanied by babies in slings and then toddlers and now children. I read the Iliad and the Odyssey and the Aeneid. I read up about the history of Troy and the site itself. I learnt more about Frank Calvert the man who had introduced Schliemann to the location. Calvert’s family had a large house in Çanakkale, but all that remains now is the small city park with shady trees. The plain had once been an inlet where the sea had met one of the two rivers Troy is known for. The inlet was Troy’s wealth as ships would shelter there, waiting for the right winds to send them up the Dardanelles into the Sea of Marmara and the Black Sea. The site was inhabited from about 3000 BC and was lived in almost continuously for 3000 years. The town survived earthquakes and fires as well as wars. The Trojan War occurred about 1200 BC, though Homer’s Iliad was written down about 600 BC.
On our subsequent visits we saw new signs erected with information in three languages. The excavation house became a mini-exhibition, explaining the history of the site and recent excavations. We found the cave where the water supply was collected. You can even virtually visit Troy now. The horse was completely renovated.
Each time I’ve seen a little more of Troy I’ve understood the layers a little better. I’ve imagined the legends made real. Xerxes and Alexander the Great and Mehmet the Conqueror and Lord Byron and Irish President Mary MacAleese have all paid their respects at Troy. For my part I named my blog and business after it.
And on my latest visit a new gift shop with tiny café was open, selling quality gifts.
Catherine Yiğit, is a writer, editor and translator, who lives in northwestern Turkey. Having spent many years trying to catch up on English literature her latest project has doubled that task by adding Turkish literature to her reading list. She blogs about reading and writing at The Skaian Gates.