Explore The North Aegean
While blessed with a superb setting on the Dardanelles straits, ÇANAKKALE has little to detain you except for the few traces of a multicultural past that can be found in its compact old quarter, and a busy seafront that’s home to a replica of the Trojan horse used in the 2004 film Troy. Most people, however, use the town as a popular base for visiting the World War I battlefields at Gallipoli on the European side of the Dardanelles, as well as the ruins of Troy. Çanakkale is also the starting point for seasonal sea-buses to the Turkish Aegean islands of Gökçeada and Bozcaada.
The Dardanelles (Çanakkale Boğazı in Turkish) have defined Çanakkale’s history and its place in myth. The area’s Classical name, Hellespont, derives from Helle, who, while escaping from her wicked stepmother on the back of a winged ram, fell into the swift-moving channel and drowned. From Abydos on the Asian side, the youth Leander used to swim to Sestos on the European shore for trysts with his lover Hero, until one night he too perished in the currents; in despair Hero drowned herself as well. Byron narrowly escaped being added to the list of victims on his swim in the opposite direction in 1810.
In 480 BC Xerxes’ Persian hordes crossed these waters on their way to Greece; and in 411 and 405 BC the last two naval battles of the Peloponnesian War took place in the straits, the latter engagement ending in decisive defeat for the Athenian fleet. Twenty centuries later Mehmet the Conqueror constructed the elaborate fortresses of Kilitbahir and Çimenlik Kale opposite each other to tighten the stranglehold being applied to doomed Constantinople. In March 1915, an Allied fleet attempting to force the Dardanelles and attack İstanbul was repulsed by Turkish shore batteries, with severe losses, prompting the even bloodier land campaign usually known as Gallipoli. These days the straits are still heavily militarized, and modern Çanakkale is very much a navy town.Read More