It’s funny how you look at a guidebook and it’ll mention the one thing to do in a town. In the case of Bergama, it’s to visit Pergamon, an ancient Greek city with a tumultuous history dating back to at least 300 BC. This isn’t a 'pile of old rocks’ - it’s compact, easy to visualise, has the impressive Temple of Trajan, a jaw-dropping theatre, and makes for an unforgettable highlight of any Anatolian itinerary.
The town of Bergama has more than this though - a 500-year old Hamam, bazaar, and a Basilica which was one of six addressed in the Book of Revelation. It was even the home of Galen - a hugely influential medical professor circa 200AD. But, strangely, it’s the small residential area in the north of Bergama, at the foot of the Acropolis which inspired the creation of this article.
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It is hilly, winding and quiet. The sun is roasting overhead and there’s the distant rumbling of traffic - yet my only companion is a sleeping canine. My presence attracts the attention of some old women who poke their heads out of antiquated windows.
I wander aimlessly, seeking out textures, but it’s like being a child in a candy store. The whole district is full of these buildings - some has been structurally restored, and are adorned with a plaque, similar in style to London’s blue heritage plaques. But most seem neglected by their ageing owners. A motorbike whizzes around the corner at breakneck speed, nearly taking my camera out of my hands.
I wander around a few corners and crouch down to get a better angle. A police car somehow manages to sneak up on me, blocking my view.
“Where you from?”
This may be the most-heard phrase to a foreigner in Turkey.
That’s how it sounded to me, but I suspect it was more “s’tray-ya”. But nothing could clear his big happy grin:
“Welcome to Turkey!”
He drives off, and I’m left with a peeling yellow wall in front of me.
I keep wandering the peaceful streets, but before long the local kids spot me. They look at me expectantly, and so, naturally, it’s photo time:
Kids will be kids - they pushed, shoved and lurched all over the place, but their squeals of excitement when they could see themselves on the back of the camera had us all laughing together.
Everyone was having a great time - except for the two old crones peering at me from further up the street. Unfortunately I had nothing to offer the kids (noted for next time), much to the dismay of the elders. I managed a confident ‘Merhaba’ as I walked past regardless, but was met with a grunt and no eye-contact. Perhaps they thought "big camera equals big money”. If anyone wants to pay millions for these photos, please drop me an email!
This soured my mood somewhat but I kept wandering the winding streets, eventually passing another older lady. I managed another greeting and the golden enunciated ‘Merhaba’ reply, complete with long, slow nod was the warmest I had received in my weeks in Turkey.
Following the flow of the road eventually lead me over a small bridge and back onto the main road, which eventually became Ataturk Boulevard, the omniscient name found in every Turkish city. Back into all the noises and smells of a city.
I even had time for a sugary-sweet tea, before heading back to meet a well-scrubbed Emma. It's ladies day at the Hamam, after all.
EMMA & PETE
We're just two Aussie's who met in London, married in Prague and travelled overland back to Australia.