Ephesus, Izmir, Bergama (Pergamon)

Ephesus, Izmir, Bergama (Pergamon)

Every bus has a bursar/steward who collects money from passengers that haven’t paid yet, assists with the luggage and also brings around water (or cola/orange soda drinks) and sometimes snacks, as well. These guys give more service and work harder than your average American airline flight attendent! We caught the bus to Ephesus from Pamukkale the next morning and shared the very back row with the two lovely women from Montreal we’d met on the dolmus the day before and a young local guy. They must have been the last seats sold because those don’t recline. Adding to the lack of comfort was a lack of sufficient air conditioning. The bursar was bringing around lots of drinks and snacks but it was still hard to make up for the sweaty conditions. Fortunately, this was the exception and the only time we rode like that.

Ephesus was once the 2nd city of the Roman Empire and its base in Asia Minor. Ephesus’ earliest inhabitants date back to the 7th millennium BCE and it has traded hands by various conquerors including Alexander the Great, the Persians, the Hittites, the Lydians, and the Romans. Interestingly, there was a significant Jewish population, too.

Menorah inscribed on the steps of the library

Menorah inscribed on the steps of the library

Ephesus draws large numbers of tourists due to its sprawling reconstructed ruins and surrounding religious sites visited by (St.) Paul and (the virgin) Mary who was reputed to have settled there. As our primary interests are historical and cultural we rarely, if ever, visit sites of religious significance.

You can imagine how some adolescents were posing at the Roman latrines.

Seats of marble

Seats of marble! Fancy schmancy but ooh that’s cold

I suppose the Roman toga provided some privacy.

The Ephesus amphitheater could hold about 25,000 people--the largest in Anatolia.

The Ephesus amphitheater could hold about 25,000 people; the largest in Anatolia.

I can’t quite remember when I realized there was a train station in Selcuk (the town where Ephesus is located) and that the train was a viable alternative to taking the bus. When I researched the options, the train not only turned out to be cheaper by almost 50%, but the terminus was right near the hotel we were staying at in Izmir. Trains are always more comfortable than buses so it was a slam-dunk. And a fun ride, to boot!

On the train to Izmir

On the train to Izmir

Izmir (formerly Smyrna) is the third largest city in Turkey and has a reputation for being very vibrant and independent-minded. I’d gotten used to not having to check restaurant bills so carefully and feeling more relaxed about not getting what we call “the tourist shuffle”, but big city rules needed to be applied once again. The cabbie who tried to add a few extra lira to our fare (mentioned in Cindy’s last post) drove us to Kadifekale castle through heaps of chaotic traffic while trying to read an English/Turkish expression guide. The summit was a bit disappointing as the houses blocked a bit of the view and the summit was littered with garbage. However, we did spy a Mount Rushmore-style head of Ataturk carved into a mountain below. Fittingly, there was a new highway under construction right next to it. Turkey is on the move with all kinds of public works projects, civic improvements and signs of growth wherever we went.

Ataturk was truly a remarkable leader

Ataturk was truly a remarkable leader

View of Izmir from Kadifekale

View of Izmir from Kadifekale

We made our way down through the steep, narrow streets of the hill of the same-named Kadifekale slum deciding to take a cab when Cindy’s knee started acting up. We thought it might take some effort to find one but immediately flagged one down who, after driving about 100 feet, told us we’d need to find another cab–or something like that–essentially telling us to get out. Upon exiting the cab, there was a city bus that was stopped at its terminus and starting it’s turn around. The driver beckoned us over for a ride down and when we explained we didn’t have change he motioned “no problem” and gave us a free ride. Wow! Cindy and I wondered if this could ever happen in Boston or NYC. I had just purchased a new backpack that morning and as we left the bus I gave the old one, still in great condition, to the driver. He balked, perhaps a bit embarrassed, but I insisted he take it. This interaction typified the genuine warmth and helpfulness we’ve felt from the Turkish people

Historic Ottoman-style clock tower

Historic Ottoman-style clock tower

We spent two nights in Izmir but were unsuccessful in catching any shows from the Annual International Arts festival. The timing just didn’t work out and we took a taxi to the Otogar (bus terminal) where we got a bus to Bergama.

Bergama was delightful. Perhaps there were no more than 20 other tourists there at the same time as us. It contained a couple of historic sites that were on opposite sides of the town sprawling in either direction. Far less visited than Ephesus, it made exploration much more enjoyable. The first was the acropolis at the north end of town. It sat high on a mountain top and was an extensive and vast site in its own right.

Bergama acropolis

Bergama acropolis

Treasury hall at Bergama

Treasury hall at Bergama

West of Bergama town was Asklepion, center of medicine and healing. No dead or dying need apply because it might tick off the gods!

Stoa at Askceplion; Pergamum in the background

Stoa at Asklepion; Pergamun in the background

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