Turkey is blessed with archaeological sites; a few well known ones like Troy and a wealth of other small treasures you stumble upon unexpectedly. Today we were making our way towards Bergama and the famous acropolis of Pergamum when we saw an excavation by the side of the road.
We were amazed to discover that this site, not even marked on the map, had not only all the traces of a large town – shops, homes, streets and a small chapel – but also a still-working bath house. Down a set of rickety stairs a series of rooms opened up, each with a different pool. Cold, warm and hot spring water poured into each bath naturally, just as it had in Roman times. Today only turtles and frogs seem to soak in the waters but we were still able to get a vivid picture of what the atmosphere must have been like so many centuries ago. As we left we were dismayed to read a sign in English, saying the whole site would soon be flooded because of a nearby dam, but when we reached our hotel in Bergama the owner (also a fan of this site) gleefully told us not to worry. Although the dam has been built, there hasn’t been any water in the river for years, so for now at least the site is safe.
Once settled in Bergama, we set off to cycle up to the acropolis, a steady hike up and around the side of a mountain. We got there in the late afternoon and had an hour to explore the site before it closed, which wasn’t really enough. We probably could have spent twice as long wandering around the extensive ruins, including several temples and a huge ampitheatre, all overlooking the modern town of Bergama. The next stage of our journey sees us on the bus again, down to the famous ruin of Efphesus. This gains us a little more time and gets us around some nasty stretches of motorway around Izmir, something we probably could cycle but really prefer not to now that we’ve already had a taste of that coming into Istanbul. Not to fear though, we are getting on our bikes again soon. Our plan at the moment is to take a little more than a week to cycle inland from Efphesus, via some beautiful natural rock formations, and then down to the coast again.