Day 16: The uninspiring ruins of Pergamum - or maybe I'm just spoilt?

Bergama Travel Blog

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dark clouds looming overhead

The disadvantage of doing day trips while staying in a hotel in the centre of a large Turkish city is that you have to travel a long way to the bus station. The Izmir bus station is a good 7 kilometres from the centre, which in Izmir traffic means you need to add an additional hour travel time to your trip.

I took a bus to the town of Bergama, the site of the ancient city of Pergamum. This city was founded by one of Alexander the Great's generals in the 3rd century BC and in its heyday this was one of the most important cities in Anatolia.

As the sites of Pergamum are spread around the modern town of Bergama, I decided to hire a taxi for half a day.

The remains of the Temple of Trajan
It took some serious haggling, but we finally settled for 50TL (25 Euros) to drive me past the 3 main sites and spend an hour or so at each.

First stop was the Acropolis, which is perched high on a hill some 5 kilometres from central Bergama. What is left of this place today is little more than a pile of rubble, with a couple of columns still left standing (or re-constructed).

I scrambled over the ruins, while dark clouds loomed overhead, but couldn't help but feeling somewhat underwhelmed. I don't know, maybe I am just spoilt after seeing the magnificent ruins in Syria and Jordan three years ago, but this just didn't do it for me.

The only part that did genuinely impress me was the theatre. This Greek theatre was built along the side of the hill, using the natural slope and rounding (as was customary in that time).
Theatre: don't look down!
However, it is built in a very steep section of the hill, overlooking the valley, resulting in a fantastic (if vertigo-inducing) setting.

Even so, the theatre could not save my experience from being rather underwhelmed. I must say I found the entrance fee quite steep as well (TL20 , or 10 Euro, as opposed to the TL10 mentioned in my year-old quidebook - that is a hefty inflation correction, if you ask me!).
By the time we got to the Asclepion, a supposedly very interesting ruin of a Roman era hospital, it had started to rain. The Asclepion required another entrance fee (TL15 this time) but after the underwhelming experience of the Acropolis I couldn't be bothered any-more. Judging from the map this was another very small ruin, and I could not make out whether of not much was still standing.
for old times' sake
So I asked the driver to drive me to a good kebab place instead.

It is sad but true, the highlight of today was the kebab. The driver was not kidding when he said he knew the best place in town. Wow, what succulent meats they served.

My spirits lifted after a great meal, the driver decided to dampen them straight away. �This is the end of the tour. If you want to get back to the bus station, you must pay me additionally.�
WTF!? That was not the deal. C'mon, we agreed on a price to go see the ruins, and it is only obvious that you bring me back to the same place.
He continued to drive to the station, all the while pleading that I should pay more, after all, I had already gotten the trip very cheaply. Gheez, that is called haggling, if he didn't like the price he shouldn't have agreed.
Part of the foundation of the Temple of Trajan
I thought he was getting a great deal of money for a trip which had taken him less than three hours in total. By not going to the Asclepion, and only looking at the Red Basilica ruin from a distance, I had saved him a considerable amount of time.
I thought he was a nice guy, and had been considering giving him a tip, but no way was I doing that now.

Fortunately by the time we reached the bus station the bus to Izmir was just leaving, so I threw a TL50 note at him, jumped out of the car and into the bus.

I have a love-hate relationship with taxi-drivers. On one hand they are usually good for a chat and will often have great advice on hotels or restaurants. While on the other hand they will almost always try to rip you off. No matter where you go (I know my home country has some of the worst in the world) they will always try to rip you off one way or the other. I think they are a complete separate species, far removed from human beings.

Back in Izmir the rains had arrived here. It was as if Allah himself wanted to punish me for disagreeing with the taxi driver's need for more money, and he set the heavenly flood gates wide open, changing the little street in which my hotel was located into a fast-flowing river.
Fortunately he came to his senses quite quickly, as 20 minutes later the sun came out again as if nothing had happened.

Memo says:
I think if you could imagine that everything in Pergamum Museum in Berlin , were would more impressive in Pergamum town...this is up how you looking into history...
Posted on: Nov 15, 2010
Ape says:
Couldn't agree more. Scum of the earth. Very few exceptions.
Posted on: Apr 27, 2010
Jeroenadmiraal says:
You have a very nice writing style. I wonder, do you think of what to say of a place while you are visiting and walking around, or do you think of what to say afterwards on the pc?
When I visit some tourist site, I often know what my blog entry is going to be like beforehand, and I just need to see the place to find the correct words and get my on-site observations. Also, it is fun to make a coherent story out of the entire day, like you say "It was as if Allah himself wanted to punish me for disagreeing with the taxi driver's need for more money, and he set the heavenly flood gates wide open". Thats a very metaphysical mindset :-) I found that travel encourages thinking like that, and it is rewarding to put unrelated things together to make your trip into a story. Do you know what I mean?
Posted on: Apr 25, 2010
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dark clouds looming overhead
dark clouds looming overhead
The remains of the Temple of Trajan
The remains of the Temple of Trajan
Theatre: dont look down!
Theatre: don't look down!
for old times sake
for old times' sake
Part of the foundation of the Temp…
Part of the foundation of the Tem…
a bit of column
a bit of column
The remains of the Temple of Trajan
The remains of the Temple of Trajan
Modern day Bergama seen from the P…
Modern day Bergama seen from the …
resevoir of the nearby hydro-elect…
resevoir of the nearby hydro-elec…
City walls, most likely built in a…
City walls, most likely built in …
In front of the Temple of Trajan
In front of the Temple of Trajan
Pergamum acropolis
Pergamum acropolis
photo by: Biedjee