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One Morning When the World was still Asleep in Troy (Travelogue Series – Turkey)

Posted by intellisg on April 14, 2007

troy.jpg“There is nothing in Truva,” said the one legged man as he cupped his hand and lit another cigarette. Scanning the seascape, I couldn’t agree more – Troy, or Truva must rank as one of the Mediterranean world’s greatest disappointments; even the most forgiving guidebooks insist it’s not worth the bother.

In fact, the ancient ruins are so notoriously abject there is nothing here that compares to the Hollywood depiction of Brad Pit’s glimmering Troy. Walking aimlessly I strained to seek out traces of the great wall which the God of Apollo had built. Instead I found a hill clothed with thorny scrub and decaying trees along with a mountain of rubbish the sea had swept in.

Having said that, it doesn’t mean Troy doesn’t have an allure. In fact, Truva in antiquity was perhaps the first documented destination ever to be commercially marketed by the prototype tourist industry. A sort of de rigueur Parisian Da Vinci code tour of its time, where Achilles – the Homeric archetypal “weapon of mass destruction” was often portrayed as the invulnerable “Rambo,” except for his famous heel – to keep the Roman interest at fever pitch, the “Ilians,” (the proto-type tour agents) frequently held expositions in Rome, where actors depicted the various montages of the Iliad. In such an emotionally charged rendition, the Iliad must have been seen as a sort of modern day “Sex and the City,” complete with even its complimentary set pieces of honor, valor and illicit sex.

Here was where Achilles, threw a tantrum before the commander of the army of a thousand ships, King Agamemnon, and in his grand sulk threatened to abandon the campaign. Over the hill was where Achilles slew Hector, the greatest family man and just twenty paces from where I am standing once stood the wooden horse with a handful of soldiers secreted in its tummy a gift from Poseidon…

The tale hardly needs repeating – there’s only one problem to all this. There’s nothing here, not a sliver of stone that once spoke of the great wall of Troy built by Apollo. Not even a wooden carcass of anything resembling what was once a majestic wooden horse. Instead what the modern visitor is confronted with today is not so very different from the sight that once greeted the ancient Roman tourist – the completeness of desolation, in the words of Julius Caesar that seems to,

“Reach out into the eternity of the sea leaving one to imagine that these ancient sands once echoed with the howls of soldiers.”

To Romans, the disappearance of Troy’s legendary fortifications was logical and expected – after all, the city had been caught in a,

“Whirlwind of doom and ground to dust and held up before the wind to disappear forever,” as Aeschylus said in one of his plays.

So the absence of major ruins actually adds an air of poignancy to the poetry of the Iliad, allowing visitors through the ages to muse on the fragility of human endeavor. Empires pass only fame and memory endures. Only the wind knows it all for she has carried the hopes of man on her wings into the oblivion of time, so the first stanza of the Roman poem in the Odyssey reads.

To the modern tourist this may seem like a con job only because our senses has been spoilt by the traditional expectation of witnessing that which once to be there – standing in modern day Troy amid the desolation, one would indeed be a tad disappointed as there is nothing to see here, not to the unpracticed eye at least. This is something that Singaporeans should keep in mind; standard tourist expectations will remain unfulfilled.

Having said all that there are plenty of metaphors such as the elm trees lining the peninsula along with the legend: Every time their leaves reached a height where the Asian shores are visible, they miraculously withered – reenacting the warrior’s sad fate. Troy is written in an alphabet that only those who have loss can only read and understand – it’s a place that commemorates the hidden cost of heroism.

For all their bluster and saber rattling about glory, the ancients weren’t blind to the scouring effects of war and how it reduces man to nothing more than animals, it’s a perilous enterprise that is repeated again and again even in the Iliad – the prospects of Hades offers only the respite of cold comfort.

I traveled here to meet up with a few gamers, but it now seems trivial as I have just heard about the tragic death that had befallen a friends brother. In these few days I have searched in vain for the right word, yet none appeared till now as I stand amid the desolation of Troy.

The word is called “Huh-zun.” It’s an Arabic word that I gathered on my way to Troy in between stops in sheds and cottages which pockmark the countryside, it’s an apt description of Troy capturing both its sadness millennia of crushing defeat.

To be part of this “huh-zun” is to see the scenes, evoke the memories, in which Troy itself becomes the very illustration, the very essence of the word, ‘Huh-zun.” I cant really describe this, not in words at least, but I see it all around me in Turkey, that balance between East and West, and how it has all failed – that great contradiction that I seem to see shadows of everywhere from the thin wisps of smoke from a locomotive, swirling up in circles and loops like the old Arabic script abolished in the 1920’s by Kemal Atatruk – to the moment when a old woman offered me a slab of cheese with trembling hands with a apologetic smile beneath a crumbling roof that once been the resident of a Grand Vizier in Istanbul – its all there if only one cares to stop and look – “Huh-zun.”

As I walked along the ancient sands before day break – I noticed in the far distance fat pudgy fishing boats had begun to return from the nights fishing trip. On the thin sliver of land women folk lined up silently counting the mast. It’s an old tale of puny fishing boats struggling against mighty waves as they try to make their way back ashore and how one boat less simply means a husband, brother or friend has simply passed on leaving those ashore to continue on the best they can.

The ‘Huh-zun” of Troy is not just the mood evoked by its poetry of solitude, but also its tragedy, it’s a way of looking at life that implicates us all…a state of mind that is ultimately as life-affirming as it is an association of not just of death and loss but also echoes of rancor, love and fragility – to the dear unfortunate who stands on a lonely morning awaiting the first fingering rays of the sun – Troy exposes the decline but never the fall, not convincing at least – of countless men and cities that once stood proud and strong against the terror only to be ravaged to the ground. Does this litany offer solace? Perhaps not, but as merciless as it is, it serves to remind despite how these letters has come to stand for “worldly failure, listlessness and spiritual suffering.” To understand the impact of ‘huh-zun,” on the Turkish psyche and how it has come to dominate much of Turkish poetry, music and the arts speaks of some distant hope of a race and creed that has seen the coming and passing of glory as it wanes only to convalesce into the tedium of ordinariness – where even the simple act of living is the embodiment of courage.

There lies the hopes of “huh-zun,” in its is apparent nadir of inexorable defeat there’s also the promise of redemption where the simple act of waking up everyday requires a higher quality and quantity of courage as compared to even the most glorious military exploits. Here I am speaking of the ordinariness of everyday existence, when old women return home from the markets carrying plastic bags. Of the old and weather beaten as they prepare their nets for tomorrows fishing expedition pulling on Turkish cigarettes as they strained their ears to the latest lottery results, hoping that the numbers just line up, it never does of course, but life goes on, that’s “huh-zun” ; of the hopeful student who studies through the night or the man who feels fate has somehow cheated him from his rightful heir, yet he continues turning the great page of the book of life….of the patient housewife’s tending to the ordinariness of preserving…of the old street merchants who smile apologetically as they he says,

“No, we don’t have that, but will this do?” Its compromise my dear friend and the courage of it all – do you hear me?

With these thoughts, the first rays of the morning sun began to filter through the murkiness of the sea of grey transforming everything a rummy red. Though it lasted only a while, I drank in as much of the majestic view as I could. The sea the men of ages simply called, the “Uhad – Ujabimin” – “the vermillion red of a thousand crying souls.” It doesn’t happen often I told perhaps only once or twice in a year – I was lucky – I gave thanks.

I was emotionally spent and exhausted by the journey to Troy – it was all too profound, this life and death contemplation – and as I lay on the beach and looked out at the first pages of a new day as it began to unfurl – a swift caught my sight from the abyss of the awakening splendor, it’s wings arched against the blustering sea wind stained blood red, and for a while it disappeared almost completely under the eaves.

I stood up wondering to myself: how far had it traveled? How many had fallen for this one bird to cross the creamy sea in the night? As it came in for the final sweep, I realize it had something bright in its beak, something that caught the glint of the sun as it flew in off the water.

It was hope – the same hope that I hope to bring to you my best friend.

(By Harphoon / The Travelogue Series / Troy / Turkey / EP 9902302 -2007 – The Brotherhood Press 2007.)


23 Responses to “One Morning When the World was still Asleep in Troy (Travelogue Series – Turkey)”

  1. boatman said

  2. Harphoon said

    There are two roads to Troy from Istanbul / the first is the northern route by highway via Kesan, takes less than a day by coach, but I am told there is nothing to see along the way except concrete / the other way skirts the edge of the sea of Marmara to the south through Uskudar / Bursa / Bandirma / mostly dirt tracks through the country side / single lanes / it’s a lonely trip can travel for hours without seeing a single soul / no hotels, shops or even eateries, but along the way there are farm houses / best to travel by motorbike, get something above 1300cc anything less and you will struggling / March is wet a weather proof anorak is a must / bring along a toolkit for punctures had at least 3 on the way to Troy / locals said its due the ancient arrowheads / found 3 / kept one for luck / navigate by keeping the sun to your left, don’t need any maps unless you have no sense of direction, if you get lost just head north and follow the edge along the sea / food is plentiful mainly home cooked / no need for words just say, “Asalam Malaikum,” and leave the rest to them, they are used to lone travelers, no need to talk, they know you tired, they always do / money is never mentioned but what you leave behind will greatly appreciated / simple folk / simple lodgings/ a barn or straw bed.

    The long road to Troy from Istanbul is about 530 km and takes you across one of the most beautiful collages of Turkey / there is little or not cell connection / if you really need to communicate bring along a global satellite that connects to your computer. /

    Harphoon 2007 for the Brotherhood Press – Travelogue Series.

  3. astroboy said

    I was wondering harphy would it be possible to travel from istanbul to Truva by mountain bike?

  4. repairman said

    What kinda motorbike r we talking here? 1300CC???????

    How much is the rental – give specs pls $ etc.

    3 punctures in less than 600 km.

    Did you enjoy? You sound a bit strained in yr report.

    Can I go with my gf? Is it safe?

  5. astroboy said

    1300cc I dunno thats alot of power between my legs – no?

  6. harphoon said

    cant post something must be wrong with my set up

  7. harphoon said

    Go for the “K” series rentals BMW – the outlet in Istanbul has an offer till July 2007 – USD$120 flat rate.

  8. harphoon said

    Bike is the best way to travel in Turkey if you dont want to be caught in the legendary traffic jams in the city and it can really shuffle in the dirt tracks – the K series 1200 holds the line very well – performance is clean and power delivery is smooth as silk.

    Darkness gave me the tip so u need to ask him for specifics.

  9. harphoon said

    Though its marketed as a racer, I feel personally it performs much closer to a tourer with its extended back end “give” which means it will do your back a favor – no osim chairs in Turkey – make sure you bring along some bak kuah bc the southern route to Troy gets very very lonely – the longest run I had was nearly 8 hours without seeing a single soul! No one ever goes there not even the locals.

    March is the best time – not too dusty and the trail is tight as a drum. Besides no one ever takes the long road to Troy.

    I checked with local tour guide he told me,

    “why do you want to take a 6 hour journey when you can get there in 2!”

    That puts it all into perspective, but be prepared, it’s a lonely ride nothing in between for miles just you and the trail but the sights are just so beautiful – bring along a sleeping bag as well. I had to spend a few nights in the open and freshened up in a stream, but it was nice, you can do that sort thing in Singapore, not without the National Parks uncle giving you a ticket – so if you like the solo thing, it will ease in just fine – just remember to throw away your watch and PDA.

    I dont have a gf, so I cant really comment – security is relative – if you respect ppl, they will respect you most of the time. I had no problems.

    I stopped mostly at gypsy sites – they feed me well and all of them were friendly. Even made friends with this gal, her name is Anousha, but I dont think we will ever met again.

    hey they think singapore is a province in China LOL – the cities can be quite hairy, but in the country the ppl are simple and nice.

    I prefer the countryside, but let me warn you there is nothing to see in Troy / they have this excavation site but its just a giant mess so be warned, but the beach is nice.

    Its a nice place to just chill out.

  10. darkness said

    BMW built alot of crap – but they made very good with the z series – imho the best bike they ever built, the power train is easy, she is spreads out evenly after 3K, for a rental she worth the dive. You can never get to do that in singapore without TP painting you, but in Turkey who cares.

    You can spread her out in the country roads and have your way with her in Turkey.

    No one cares, nice report harphy – I enjoyed it.

  11. astroboy said

    I dont like big bikes they frighten me. I just want to know can I ride my bicycle from istanbul to Troy?

    I was also thinking of bringing along my grandma -she is wheel chair bound so how are the handicap facilities?

  12. third wife said

    Hello all,

    I don’t mean to intrude, only I don’t know where to post. I just want to ask why the brotherhood hasn’t written anything substantive abt the pay hike issue.

    Please don’t get me wrong. I enjoy the travel stories just like most people, but I feel quite disappointed that nothing has emerged from the brotherhood concerning this issue.

    I really hope my mail will not ignored. Thxs

  13. Harphoon said


    Mountain biking is of course possible any where, but you got to bear in mind its never 100% single track or trail conditions ALL the time. The long road to Troy from Istanbul is tiring some of the steeps can go on for miles at a time. Are you going to really enjoy the ride when you are struggling to keep up the pace? So sustained fitness is an issue, bear in mind, if you are cycling you probably need to spend at least 10 to 12 hours on the saddle for at least 4 days to cover the distance!

    I know you a fit but to do it consecutively 4 days in a row is a bit demanding. I personally found even keeping the focus on the saddle for at least 6 hours at a stretch proved very challenging, so I really can’t see how anyone can do it with a bicycle. I am not saying it cannot be done only you will definitely be pushing the envelop physically and mentally – something like the mythos transalps.

    So it is hardly a leisurely ride. Furthermore one needs to practical, there are periods when country roads are simply impassable due to weather or terrain conditions – for example after Bandirma, there is a 50 mile stretch where the trail just disappears the merges with the shoreline – its impossible to ride sensibly without getting stuck in the mud. In such conditions, a motorbike will allow you to switch over to trunk roads and possibly even the highway. Trust me you don’t want to cycle on the main roads in Turkey, the driving culture doesn’t seem to respect the cyclist.

    Taking your granny along is feasible but only in Istanbul, I really wouldn’t chance it anywhere else due to the poor medical infrastructure outside the capital.

  14. Harphoon said

    3rd wife,

    We have no comment. This of course doesnt mean that individually some of us do not have our respective opinion on the subject.

    It is still early days so let us see what comes out from the on going debate. We are observing the developments.

    Currently we just dont have sufficient data and the whole matter remains quite baffling to most of us, so we dont quite know how to make head or tail of it.

    Neither do we feel we can add any value to the debate which is quite well covered by the rest of the singapore blog scene. We would certainly encourage all of you to read what the rest of the bloggers have to say – much of it has already been compiled by the IS here.

    I am sure after the scheduled Parliamentary debate in the real world a clearer picture will emerge.

    Perhaps then we may even write an article about this whole pay rise issue.

    For the time being it remains a very emotive topic which we do not know how to manage constructively.

    So we really prefer not to jump the gun, best to remain patient and keep an open mind.

    I am confident once the dust settles a clearer picture will emerge.

    Otherwise we will just be wasting a lot of energy speculating and that can only breed frustration and a sense of powerlessness.

    We dont see the value of pursuing such a short term strategy. We really need to pick and choose what we can de-fragment and analyze sensibly and just be very honest to tell you what we cannot accomplish.

    This pay issue is obviously jugular, its one that has strategic long term implications so we need to exercise great care and attention. Otherwise many of our readers will say that we are irresponsible.

    You will be pleased to note the brotherhood press will be extending the travelogue series for another 2 weeks.

  15. darkness said


    Can I borrow your shirt pls Harp? I am feeling a bit naked.

  16. shoestring said

    Looks like a rough long-haul journey that requires lots of stamina.

  17. anongal said


    Third wife has really asked a question that has been at the tip of our tongue.

    “don’t mean to intrude, only I don’t know where to post. I just want to ask why the brotherhood hasn’t written anything substantive abt the pay hike issue.”

    I personally feel Bambi is just being naughty. During the forum days when hong kong tax authorities were hassling him abt his online dealings.

    I remember he shut down the entire service and started posting 2 months of cookery and veggie gardening tips – it was hilarious of course, but the message was clear with a heavy hint of the sardonic bordering on the satirical. Aiyah never mind la, I like the travel tales.

    Personally I feel very exhausted by this whole thing, its time for a change of scenery. So keep the happys 🙂 coming out.

  18. helen of troy said

    After that all the intellectuals, writers, scientist, scholars and artist all disappeared. You didnt tell them this part did you?

    It wasnt satire as much as it was the art of war – he was telling them what you do will has a cost let me show you what the cost is.

  19. helen of troy said

    It is very likely they will shift the serious political discussions to the US or EU – over there their thinkers will have more room to sharpen their world views, just like how our fighter pilots are trained in Arizona – I guess.

    As for Singapore I think we can expect only the travel stories from now onwards and after that the cookery classes will follow very soon and then the gardening and kitchen tips- I see the end coming, mati lah

  20. caleb said

    Helen et al,

    I really dont think they are that emotional. What I see is the direct opposite. These people are cold and meticolous not the sort who are likely to regret the decisions they make.

    Besides blogging is just like singing in the shower. I really think some people really take it too seriously that is why they get disappointed when their expectations don’t quite add up with reality.

    Just my 2 cents

  21. jeannie chong said

    Hello 🙂

    Helen for someone who claims to know them so well. You seem to know very little. Bambi is the last person in the world to be affected by all this. If I read them correctly, this will just make them stronger.

    I remember during the forum days it was not unusual for him to stand alone and hold off maybe one or two hundred forummers who just wanted him either out or dead. Did he care?

    When they shut him down. Did he die? No he just re-appeared somewhere else. Its like one of those illegal street vendors, close them down and they will just pop up somewhere else.

    As for the authorities when did he ever fear them?

    These people are too proud. Most of the time their pride works against them. I admit that, but at times it gives them an incredible sense of confidence one which comes from the conviction – they will never allow anyone the right to have dominion over their minds. It simply belongs to them and that simply means they CANNOT be demoralized or disheartened. That just impossible. I cant imagine someone like Bambi sulking in one corner hitting himself with a shoe repeating the words, I feel so sad, I feel so sad – I am really sorry, I cannot!

    Why do you think they have survived for so long? They are like roaches they can even survive a full scale nuclear war.

    I think they are just sorting out their computers. What we all need to do is just remain patient besides there is plenty to read here.

    Harphy boy said they have lined up the travel stories for us and I for one will really appreciate it if they started pipping it out the oven faster as the gaps are really too long. Besides there is nothing much to read these days. Its the same thing and I am starting to get that all to familiar deja vu sinking feeling.

  22. sphgirl said

    I think what they really want is to be left alone. That shouldnt be too much to ask. Blogland is after all so big. If you dont like go somewhere else lah. After all they have their own cachet of readers it runs into the thousands.

    Just because you ignore them doesnt make them weaker it actually makes them stronger. Neither does it mean you can re-invent the truth without them that can only happen if there never ever was such a thing as the brotherhood press which records every single detail.

    They just want to be left alone. And from what I have seen they leave others alone if they are left alone. But if you attack them, they have every right to defend themselves even it means they have to take the offensive.

    In my book that is fair game, people who play with fire shouldnt complain when it ends up burning down their blog

  23. sphgirl said

    Harpoon boy, Can we please have the next instalment of the travelogues? I cannot drop by here 100 million times a day just to check whether you ppl have posted. I know it does wonders for the visitor counter but if you really take a look at the no of pages it does little or nothing for those who are interested in reading.

    What u really want is no visitors but readers

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