Ancient Pergamum

July 28, 2007


Ancient Pergamum dates back to the 12th century BC, has a connection to Alexander the Great and Lydian King Croesus, but most of the extraordinary monuments and buildings date to the period it most flourished (197-159 BC) under Eumenes II. We were delighted and pleasantly surprised by the Acropolis, Archaeology Museum and Asklepion and had them mostly to ourselves on a beautiful  day. They were the best ruins we had seen up to this point.

Getting to modern nearby Bergama is another story entirely and a shock we did not like. After seeing Troy we hopped on another modern bus headed toward Bergama as it a few hours away and the closest place to stay near the ruins. All was going great, until they dropped us in the middle of the busy and deserted freeway with nothing and no one in sight except cars, busses and big semi trucks zooming and roaring by.

We are always warning Mozart about cars as one has to be extremely on guard in Europe, so she was almost hysterical and we weren’t too much better, but managed to calm her down. I can not walk that well to begin with because of a bad knee, there were only steep inclines of dirt outside of this junction of several busy roads, not to mention our heavy bags and the 100 degree heat. There was nothing in sight and we were four miles from town & the small busses seemed to not be running. Yikes!

This might be normal in Turkey, but we were a little stunned, yet had no choice, so we got off and carefully and painstakingly made our way to the only tree and piece of shade I could see in sight, some distance away. We were fiddling with our global phone, which never seems to work when you need it, and its unending numbers, trying to reach our hotel for someone to pick us up, while Mozart whined and fretted. I tried to get her to see the humor in the situation.

After some time we finally saw a taxi in the distance and little Mozart was flagging like mad with DaVinci as they tried to get his attention. He probably over charged us, but we were still glad to see him, but it did not do much to add to our first impressions of this small town. It could have been worse and at least it leaves us with a good story and shared experience that we will never forget. Mozart learned that even something that looks disastrous at first, can turn out fine and be something funny to joke about for some time.

The small Anil Hotel was adequate and clean and the staff friendly with a lovely view to the Acropolis, but we really did not care for Bergama much as it is just not set up well for tourists to enjoy. All of it was worth it though, when we got to the ancient sites with the luxury of time to explore them (instead of on a quick day trip on a tour bus like most people see it, sandwiched between two 4 hour drives.)

The views from the Acropolis are stunning as it is at the summit of a hill 1000 ft (300m) high. Despite
the fact that many artifacts have been hauled away to the Pergamum Museum in Berlin, it is a very impressive site. Parchment was invented in Pergamum and they once had a library to rival the one in Alexandria.

The theatre was built on a hill with stupendous views and held ten thousand people. The panorama was awe-inspiring and one can get a sense of the scale a little by our photo with the man walking along. It is amazing, but not a good place for a person with vertigo, so DaVinci got the daring photos.

The Asklepion was also interesting as it was a famed medical center and world’s first psychiatric hospital built in the honor of the god of healing, Asklepios. We walked along the Sacred Way and imagined what it would have been like when Hadrian, Marcus Aurelius, and Caracalla were patients here. Seeing pictures in the museum and other details of how it looked in its prime added to the intrigue.













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We spent a few days in Bergama years ago. I seem to remember being dropped off in the centre of town, but we were on a dodgy bus with a cracked windscreen, so maybe that's the way to go. I really enjoyed the fact that it wasn't set up for tourists and we just hung out in the local tea shop, visited the baths etc. I particularly remember walking all the way up the hill to the temples at the top, which took most of the day, but we saw some fantastic ruins including a shopping arcade and gymnasium. Thanks for reminding me about Bergama via Twitter!

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