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Pergamon and Istanbul

Sorry it took me so long to file this final trip report, but better late than never.  So here are final days of my amazing trip to Turkey.

Pergamon was the final great ruin site I visited.  In Walter’s Rome campaign George and Jane and Daniel had been busy raising a new legion in Pergamon to help fight Mithradates so I was anxious to see this site.

It was nothing like what I imagined.  The city was built on a high promontory, and over the years it grew and grew until it was _enormous_.  We checked into our pension before going in search of lunch and then off to the ruins.  This hotel had the strangest bathroom yet.  There was no shower stall so the water just soaked everything, and even flowed out the door and into the bedroom proper.

After lunch we drove up the winding, narrow and very steep road to Pergamon.  And we walked and walked and walked.  Once there was a magnificent library, the second finest in the ancient Greek civilization.  It was at Pergamon that a new material for books was invented —  Pergamena or parchment made from calf skin.  The library was believed to contain 200,00 volumes, but Mark Anthony gave them to Cleopatra as a wedding present, and naturally they all vanished.  This is why I want a time machine, to save the books in the Library at Alexandria and at Pergamon, and Ephesus.

We were all getting very tired, and Pat declared she was finished walking.  She laid down on the grass and among the wildflowers at the edge of the base of the great altar to Zeus.  The alter itself is in the Pergamon Museum in Berlin.  Walter read from the guide book about some amazing mosaics that had been discovered at Pergamon, but he thought they had been covered again to preserve them.

Walter and I made our way down the hill so we could get great pictures of the theater, one of the steepest in the world.

There was a large group of German tourists, the guide was very knowledgeable and I could understand enough to get a bit of this history so I tagged after them.
We started down a long trail trailing the Germans.  Finally Walter gave up, and said he was going back to join Pat.  There was a building farther down the hill, and I said I was going there before turning back.

I entered the building and found the mosaics.  The building had been constructed for their protection, and they were so worth it.  I’ve seen mosaics in Italy, but these were the most detailed and life-like.

I returned to Pat and Walter, and told them of my discovery.  Walter considered making the hike, but decided against it.  Pat decided to go.  What we didn’t know was that the site closed at 5:00 and that they block the road at the base of the mountain.  Walter and I were standing at the car surrounded by guards, and an official looking man in a suit.  Far down the hill Pat was making her slow way toward the building.  All of us were shouting, waving, honking the car horn trying to get her attention, but Pat was in her own space, enjoying the ruins and the flowers.  Finally she noticed all of us hopping up and down and waiving.

She began heading toward us.  A handsome young guard hustled down the mountain to help her.  Pat got the handsome guard.  I found myself constantly hugged and kissed by an older man in coveralls.  Finally I retreated into the car, and read my book so I wouldn’t get kissed anymore.

Eventually Pat reached the top of the mountain, we piled into the car and started driving down to Bergama.  It’s a wonder we didn’t go off the road because we were laughing so hard.
The proprietor had offered us dinner on the terrace prepared by his wife.  We took him up on the offer, and had another fabulous meal.  Five courses, fifteen dollars American.  This meal included a green bean dish that was amazing.  I just got a Turkish cookbook from Amazon, and there seems to be a recipe for the green beans.

The next morning we explored the Sanctuary of Asclepius.  This was one of the largest hospitals in the ancient world.  I took a sip from the sacred spring.  It’s supposed to bring you good luck.

We also wandered around the Serapis Temple.  It was this magnificent brick building constructed to honor the Egyptian gods.  At this point in the Roman Empire eastern mystery cults — among them Christianity — were on the rise.

I also got some wonderful pictures of the old and the new that is Turkey.

And then it was time to head back toward Selcuk.  Pat and Walter dropped me off at the airport in Izmer, and I sadly watched them drive away.  I wanted to go back to Jimmy’s Place, and eat great kofte, and buy more scarves.  We had gotten to the airport very early.  On a whim I asked if I could get on an earlier flight to Istanbul since planes left every hour.  Unlike the U.S. this presented no problem so I was in the air and winging toward Istanbul twenty minutes later.

It was a bit of a hassle getting a hotel (I should have gone back to our first hotel), but I got settled in for the night.  Tomorrow would be my last day in Turkey, and I had places still to see and saffron to buy.

I rode the tram into the heart of the old city, and was first in line the moment the Topkapi Palace opened.  It was no two weeks later, and the tulips were in full, riotous bloom.  I wandered the gardens while all the while making my way toward the Harem.  I paid the extra fee, and entered the inner most part of the palace.

Aside from the crown prince’s room it was not as magnificent as I had expected.  In much of it there are frowning grey stone walls with touches of wonderful tile work.  You enter through the Golden Way, and just past it were the eunuchs’ quarters.  Apparently there were hundreds of them because the women were guarded around the clock.

The dowager sultana had a magnificent suite with a wide, long and deep marble bathtub.  Next was an enormous room with a bronze hearth, and a large throne.  It was heavily decorated with gold and tiles, and there was a small area where women could sit on cushions while the sultan was entertained.

The sultan’s bedchamber was dominated by a large canopied bed, and still more inlay.  But the most amazing room belonged to the princes.  The door of a cabinet was inlaid with tortoise shell, the walls with lapis, turquoise, agate, amethyst, and of course the breathtaking tiles.  The colors and patterns are so intense that you imagine you can see the flowers swaying in a soft breeze off the Bosphorus.  I tried to capture the room, but the pictures are a pale imitation.  Still, enjoy.

I left the palace as literally hundreds of people, and hundreds of children were pouring through the gates.  I had picked the right time to visit.

I walked on to the Grand Bazaar which was a maze.  Ii is one of the largest and oldest covered markets in the world.  It opened in 1461 and the wealth of Asia flowed through it’s thousands of stalls.  I bought myself a gold charm as a keepsake of my trip, and then I tried to leave.  I came out into an area that is not on the tourist track.  It was filled with locals, and I eventually turned around and returned to the bazaar.  I stumbled onto an area that had calligraphy and I bought a wonderful painting of a bird in shades of blue and gold.  All the lines that form the bird are actually Arab script that lists the various names of Allah.  It was the perfect cap to my trip.

I found another cab and went over the Egyptian spice market where I bought kofte spice, black chili, saffron, and candied almonds.  Exhausted but happy I clutched my treasures and returned to the hotel for my luggage.  The reservation service picked me up and took me to my airport hotel.  Tomorrow morning I was heading home.

The very big, very modern hotel at the airport was such a change from the small pensions that I nearly had whiplash.  It was also pretty clear that they are worried about terrorism where western travelers might gather.  The guards checked under the car with mirrors, and I had to walk through a metal detector and past more guards to enter the lobby.

I was very tired so I ate at the hotel that night.  The trip home was uneventful, but I came down with the worst cold/flu of my life, and ended up spending four days in bed.  It meant I had to miss the Nebulas, but I had all my wonderful memories and the sights, sounds, smells and flavors of Turkey filled my dreams.

I would go back again in a heart beat.

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