Day 18, Thursday - Bergama, Pergumun, Canakkale
We awoke to the sounds of chirping birds and the bray of a donkey. Breakfast in Turkey was again bread, butter, jam, olives, and feta cheese. The tea is always served in little tea glasses with a round bottom and a funnel top. I had gotten used to yogurt in Greece, so I asked for some. Unfortunately, it did not include honey, and had a watery consistency. This was very different from the thick creamy texture of Greek yogurt. I accepted the fact that we had moved on to a new culture and did not request yogurt again. Sali picked us up at the appointed hour as promised.
Pam's father thought we ought to visit Begama. On his visit to Berlin, Pam's father had seen many artifacts from Pergamon, the Greek name for Bergama. It took several extra days in an all too brief vacation to take this side trip, but Pam had insisted. Her father had seen some impressive artifacts from here at the Belin Museum and was very enthusiastic about our going. Being still in the process of establishing a relationship with my new father in law, and having had great difficulty convincing Pam to go to Turkey, I wasn't about to argue about everywhere in Turkey we had to go.
We went directly to the ruins of ancient Pergamon, from which the Turks obtain the name Bergama. Pergamon began as a mountain top fortress which eventually flourished into a city built down its hill sides around 600 BC. The people who settled here were early Hittite Indo-Europeans who became Greek speaking after Alexander the Great's conquest. Around 100 B.C., the king bequeath his kingdom to Rome. By the time Constantine The Great founded New Rome, in Istanbul, these people were totally Hellenized. The ruins are at three different levels. The acropolis was disappointing. The German archaeologists had left little behind.
The mid city was in better condition. At the bottom, was a temple to an Egyptian god built in Roman times. The entire building is still standing. Its marble facade has been removed, exposing an ugly inner layer of red brick and is therefore is called the red house. There are two towers on either side that are 15 to 20 feet in diameter. The entire structure is about three stories high. It is very large and very ugly. Across from the temple was a small shack with a marble portico. It wasn't hard to figure out where the portico came from.
Sali ate lunch with us at my insistence after visting the Bergama museum. He squirmed in his seat and appeared uncomfortable to be with tourists at lunch. Perhaps he thought the price was too high. Everything in Turkey is cheap for Americans, especially in the middle of nowhere, which Bergama is.
Sali drove us to the Asclepsion after lunch. These were the most interesting ruins in Bergama. The Asclepsion is a hospital dedicated to the healing god, Asclepsos. There were some impressive columns and an extensive underground passageway where sick people were required to wander until healed. We walked through it, but it didn't help my allergies. There was also a theater nearby which was mostly rebuilt. Next door to the site was an army base. Tourists are not allowed to take pictures in that direction. We were very careful about that. We didn't want any trouble with the Turkish army.
When it was time to leave, Sali took us to the same spot he found us at the night before. There we waited for the bus to Canakkale. Sali spent the time trying to convince me that I owed him an extra 2000 Turkish lira ($4.00), claiming miscommunication. He didn't get it.
Two Gypsies, a mother and a daughter were also there waiting for the bus. They were each carrying their worldly belongings in a tied up sheet. The mother was an old heavy set woman with a hooked nose and a mouth literally full of gold teeth. The daughter was about 26 and also heavy set. Both were in need of a bath. They were dressed differently from most Turks. Their clothing was more colorful and included bandanas around their heads, like, well, Gypsies! I wanted to take their picture, but they wanted money. I did sneak a photo from behind the old woman sitting on her bundle waiting for the bus. One of my regrets on this trip is not having paid her price. Eventually they got a free ride on a milk truck.
The bus came at 4:00 p.m. As we went further and further north, the villages looked more and more like the ones in Greece. We were no longer on the standard tourist route. We were the only foreigners on the bus and were seeing more of the real Turkey. I'll never forget seeing a small rural village without electricity or water pipes. An old man sat braced against a hand pump for water in the village square. More men sat in the local taverna sipping tea with their cloth caps on. The homes were in the same state of disrepair as in Greece.
The only difference between Greek and Turkish villages out here is that the average Turk is a shade darker than the average Greek and all the men in the taverna wear their caps. The Turks also seem more wiry than Greeks, their shoulders narrower, their hair straighter, and their eyes more oriental, not as deeply inset. The Turks drink tea, the Greeks drink coffee.
The ride to Canakkale took much longer than expected. All day long we rode through endless monotonous fields of commercially grown sunflowers the size of corn stalks. We didn't arrive in Canakkale until 8:45 p.m! Canakkale is a pretty Asian town overlooking the narrow water way separating Europe from Asia. In ancient times, this sea way was called the Hellespont (Greek sea). Now, it is known as the Dardenells. Tourists come here primarily as a stopping place on their way to the ruins of Troy. This was not a tourist town, however. This was a real town with real Turks which predates the tourist invasion. A walk several blocks inland revealed an old mosque and a medieval stone army fortress still in use. Elaborately painted horse drawn wagons carried the goods of itinerant merchants.
Evan C. Economos
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