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The Troad is the ancient name for the region that included Troy plus nearly 100 other ancient cities (most still deprived of the light of day). Among the most important of these are Assos, Alexandria-Troas, Dardanos, and Chryse, spread out amidst olive groves, fertile plains, undulating mountains, and crystal seas. The city of Çanakkale presides over a region that for centuries -- even millennia -- was forced to defend a legacy of geographical advantage. The region became victim to the ambitions of empires, as emperors and armies swept through to stake their claims.

The lands of Turkey's Northern Aegean provided the first taste of Asia to those successful in crossing the Bosphorus or breaching the Dardanelle Straits, and the last obstacle to any attempted conquest of Istanbul, as an army's advancement into the Marmara region left the great city surrounded and isolated. Throughout history, each of these civilizations left its own personal mark, from Xerxes through Alexander the Great to Gazi Mehmet the Conqueror. The layers of culture superimposed over the pastoral countryside make for an enriching visit to any of the destinations outlined in this chapter. Plus, the Hellespont boasts some of the Aegean's most scenic beaches.

This region of the country, while popular among the city slickers of Istanbul, remains blissfully ignored by the tourist hoards, leaving you and me to still (for now) experience the Turkey of yesteryear -- before its era of Europeanization. If you're crunched for time, make any of the destinations an overnight or weekend trip; literally hundreds of tour companies in Istanbul advertise affordable excursions with guides.