It was 90 F during July, the month of Ramadan, as we drove our rented Fiat into Bergama, Turkey. A few women walked around the busy town in beige raincoats with colorful headscarves, managing not to droop in the July heat.
That contrasted with the scene we just left in Yalikavak, on the Bodrum Peninsula. There, Europeans and Turks sunbathed without their tops, and few Turks wore conservative clothing.
We headed to Bergama, population 60,000, once the ancient city of Pergamon, home to several civilizations: Byzantine, Islamic, Roman and Greek, as well as serving as the Hellenistic capital of the Attalid dynasty. Parchment was invented here
Sandima 37, a cute bed and breakfast that served typical Turkish dishes on our private patio. It had a pool and the room was really a suite, complete with living room and large bathroom. The
We spent one night at the newly opened Pannonica Jazz Bistro listening to jazz and old standards. The next evening, we went downtown shopping for mobile phones and hand-embroidered pillow cushions.
Gallery Mustafa, on Dr Alim Ekinci Cad, no48, sells iconic suzani and Ikat pillows and to start shopping in Bodrum City..
At Xuma Beach, people moored their yachts all day in the blue Aegean, making me think, “must be nice.”
Poised on a 330-meter-high ridge overlooking the Bakirçay River valley, Pergamon in its heyday held palaces, a theater, a library and temples devoted to Trajan, Dionysus and Athena.
Bergama landed on UNESCO’s World Heritage list June 25, 2015. The ancient city and its “multilayered cultural landscape alongside Bursa and Cumalikizik” were noted for their importance to the birth of the Ottoman Empire in the 14th century.
For the first time, we saw women in shalwars (loose trousers that narrow at the ankles). A large AKP (the Islamist Party for Justice and Development) banner straddled the city centre, a dusty, congested intersection with intersecting streets. We stopped for directions to the Hera Hotel, but the directions to go right and then straight only succeeded in leading us to the Red Basilica, not the place we wanted to spend the night.
Bergama is home to the Askleipion, or healing center; one of the highest amphitheaters in the world; the Red Basilica; and other ruins. Pieces of the Zeus Altar, transported to Berlin by the German engineer, Carl Humann, who discovered the Turkish site in 1855. The altar, built in the second century A.D. under King Eumenes II, has been restored and sits in the Pergamon Museum on Berlin’s Museum Island. Scenes on the frieze illustrate the life of Telephus, supposed founder of Pergamon and son of Hercules and Auge.
The Turkish government has been trying to reclaim the altar for quite some time, arguing that the structure should be back where it was built.However, the officials agreed to the
A VISIT TO OLD TOWN
Right above the Red Basilica, built under the reign of Hadrian, are the windy, narrow streets of Eski (Old ) Bergama. Our reservations were for the old stone Hera Hotel.
It didn’t look like we were going to make it up there, though, because a couple of the streets were narrower than our Fiat! The city map we had proved useless, as some roads were one-way.
Bergama is known for its silk as well as its wool carpets. We passed a few rugs displayed outside the shops. Women wearing printed cotton shalwars and headscarves sat on stoops, waiting for sundown, when, according to Islam, they could break their fasts. Men sat in cafes nursing their coffees.
Finally, we found the cute Hera Hotel with its sign in Greek lettering, on Tabak Kopru Street. Two friendly women helped us with our luggage. Each room had a god or goddess assigned to it, and ours was Artemis, goddess of the hunt, forest and hills.
We weren’t fasting like most people, but we were starving, and asked where we could eat. The younger woman told us to follow her up the steep, meandering streets to Les Pergamun, Hera’s sister hotel, where Kybele Restaurant was open. We ordered kebabs and a regional eggplant specialty, which were nothing special. The owner introduced himself, and I felt slightly guilty eating in front of the staff. The waitress assured us that she wasn’t fasting.
The next morning, we rode a gondola to the top of the Acropolis, enjoying a sweeping view of the 10,000 seat amphitheater. For only 15 Turkish Lira, about $5 each, we arrived at the ruins of the Zeus Altar, the white marble Temple of Trajan, finished under Hadrian II’s reign from AD 125-138.
Not mentioned much in the guidebooks are the lovely painted doors. All the front doors in the old section feature different designs and colors that add a joyful feeling to the rundown buildings.