I visited Bergama completely on a whim – I’d been planning to head directly to Istanbul from Selcuk but changed my mind about 30 minutes before leaving the hostel when I realized it meant an entire day of traveling and that I wouldn’t be able to take the train from Izmir as I’d wanted. Instead I took a minibus into Izmir’s large and functional bus station (otogar) and then found another headed out about half an hour later headed for the small Aegean near-coastal city of Bergama. I arrived in the town in the early afternoon and decided on the spot that I’d stay two nights because it seemed so sunny and cheerful and I wanted to do justice to its sights. I had only the wikitravel info attached to my little map app but I was able to find many interesting and off beat tourist experiences in my 36 hours in Bergama.
The Greek cultural heritage of the area was obvious. Stone and brick buildings like this one abounded.
I started a photo collection of mosques that were clearly converted from former Greek orthodox churches.
Note the different construction types of the main building and minaret.
The picturesque old town rises up the hill toward the acropolis.
This huge brick ruin is a relic of Roman era boom times when the ancient city of Pergamon grew so large it spread all the way down from its high acropolis into the plain occupied by the city today.
Minaret on former church.
Former Greek church
Former greek church.
The oldest part of town was charmingly decrepit.
Just before closing I hiked up the smaller of the two city hills to visit the Ascelpium, or Sanctuary of Ascelpius, an important medical center. The springs were thought to be healthy and importuning Ascelpius, god of healing, was also probably helpful. More healthful than either were the impressively designed facilities, with covered walkways for patients to get to and from their rooms out of the elements, sunbathing facilities and thermal baths for patients to bask in and a really neat round healing building that I wanted to know more about than the minimal signage allowed. I got there just as the last tourists were headed out so I spent my half hour before it shut down wandering the site with only the sheep and a guard for company. What fun.
The long processional way to the sanctuary.
The main area of the Ascelpium.
the Ascelpium was laid out as a courtyard with residence chambers around the outside and a healing complex at one corner
I’m fascinated by the fact that the healing area was Round. and three stories tall.
Its hard to capture the sense of curve in these photos but it was very clear when there.
The areas were connected by underground passages to protect patients from the weather.
I don’t know if the theater was for medical lectures or patient entertainment.
The Ascelpium theater foreground and the Roman city of Pergamon in the background.
I got there at the end of the day and was quite literally alone with the guards and the sheep . It was great.
The view of Pergamon across the valley.
Pergamon, the ancient city, I tackled the next day
The city on a hill is no metaphor here – this acropolis is aptly named.
To reach it, I treated myself to a semi-alarming ride up in the teleferik
Giant wheels at each end keep the little cable boxes moving at a steady clip.
And then circumvent a lot of landscape on the way up.
The views from the top are stunning. But I did wonder how the Greek and Roman occupants felt about having to hike up that hill.
The city of Bergamon lies below. In its most populace times, the roman city also spread out in the valley below.
The most important buildings were all at the top though.
Little bits of remaining infrastructure dot the landscape surrounding the acropolis. Here a viaduct.
There, what, the remains of a raised road?
This theater is one of the steepest in the world. And commands quite a view.
These bits of marble are clearly locked up to prevent tourists from carrying them off. But i was reminded of Regina Spector’s song about rowboats in oil paintings trying to row away.
The ruins continue almost all the way down the hill.
The best part of the whole site is well off the beaten path – a covered excavation of housing with some amazing mosaic floors.
A turning stair case cuts through the huge retaining wall/fortification.
Byzantine era repair work on the wall. They did love their bits of brick.
As much as I enjoyed the sights of the city, one of my favorite things about the stay in Bergama was the hotel – I chose it nearly at random, following a sign I saw on the street but I was NOT sorry. The Odyssey Guesthouse is a restored Greek house in the old part of the city, three floors up with sunny cheerful rooms and a really charming sitting room and terrace on the top level. I’ve stayed a lot of places that were just a horizontal surface to sleep on and a place to lock up my stuff during this trip but this guesthouse was really an experience in itself and I recommend it strongly to anyone passing through or near Bergama. Among other things, I used its charming ambiance to motivate myself into finally finishing up my tax forms, begun and abandoned nearly three months before. Thanks again, Odyssey.
Cheery little sitting area where I finally finished my taxes.