Day 5: Aegean Coast, Turkey

by - August 03, 2011

The Red Basilica, Bergama
We visited so many places today that it is impossible to choose any one city name for this blog title.  We roughly stuck to the Aegean Coast, so I guess that will do.  I don’t think I have ever visited so many places in one day on my travels, which shows just how useful having a hire car is.  Having arrived in Bergama fairly late last night, we got up early for a look around what the town had to offer.  The name Bergama comes from the ancient city of Pergamum, the acropolis of which still overlooks the city from a huge hill.  Before we drove up to this however we visited the Red Basilica in the town itself.  This Basilica, coined as a ‘pagan temple’ to Egyptian gods is a huge structure that was famously named as one of the 'churches of the Apocolypse’ and the throne of the devil by St John in the book of Revelations.  If anything this inspired our curiosity rather that put us off and, having got there early, we wandered around the ruins in relative peace.

The Acropolis, Pergamum
Next stop was the Acropolis, which was accessed via an extremely steep road up to the windy summit.  The views over the surrounding countryside were amazing - at the foot off the hill was a vast flooded valley that had been made to provide water to an extremely parched area of countryside.  The Acropolis wasn’t quite as impressive as Ephesus or Aphrodisias, but its position was far more impressive.  The most impressive section of the ruins was the theatre, cut into the hillside and with a stunning view out over the countryside below.  Knowing that we were trying to fit a lot into the day, we rushed around the ruins (and probably missed some stuff, but that can’t be helped) and then headed off to the coast.

The theatre, Pergamum

Ayvalik Port
When mum and dad had visited all those years ago, they had stayed at the coastal town of Ayvalik and as it was on our way north to the Gallipoli peninsular we decided to stop off and have a snack.  When my parents had been there last they said that it would be completely different if they came back, due to the vast amounts of construction work that was going on.  It was a really nice location, with a view over to the Greek island of Lesbos and with clear blue seas, but it was also very busy and we spent a long time trying to find a parking space.  We didn’t stay long - only long enough for mum and dad to do some reminiscing and for us to grab a bite to eat, before we carried on our drive around the coast.

Assos Port
The next town on the itinerary was the combined villages of Behramkale and Assos, perched up on the hills above the Aegean Sea and again with views over to Lesbos.  This was the longest section of the drive and took us two hours, but (despite the pretty poor road conditions) was pleasant due to the fact that the road snaked along the coast.  Behramkale was another gem from Lonely Planet which we had never heard of.  The villages are at the top and bottom of a cliff.  We started off in Assos, the old port which has now been re-discovered and is home to lots of classy hotels and restaurants.  It is like those little coastal villages in Italy which are a bit classier and more exclusive than the rest.  We had a drink by the front, before heading back up the windy cobbled paths to the other part of the village, Behramkale.

Athena Temple, Behramkale
This part of village is the kind of picturesque little place that you would probably conjure up if asked to describe a traditional Ottoman settlement.  The cobbled streets ran up through the town at an improbable angle, with little stalls perched along side them.  At the top of the village however was a sight that most places don’t have however - the ruins of a Temple of Athena.  The ruins weren’t hugely impressive and had been partially reconstructed, but the view over the Aegean and to Lesbos was very much worth the climb.  At the top however there was a catastrophe of the highest order.  While trying to take a panorama of the bay on a windy outcrop, I had to put down my Lonely Planet.  All of a sudden, and to my horror, a gush of wind took my precious guidebook off the edge of the cliff.  I hope it is testament to my love of Lonely Planet that instead of just leaving it, I took the long walk around to the bottom of the cliff and then climbed back up to the outcrop that it was wedged on.  This was pretty precarious and the book had landed in a mass of spiderwebs which I had to dip my hand into.  Mum and dad were fretting at the top of the cliff, but thankfully both me and the Lonely Planet made it back to the top with only a few bruises and scratches to show for it.

The horse at Troy
All of this massive time wasting had threatened the chances of us getting into our last sight of the day - the ruins of Troy.  We powered through the Turkish countryside, desperate to get to the Gates of Troy before it shut (though we were ready to try turning the car into a wooden horse, we didn’t think they would fall for that one twice).  Luckily we made it with about half an hour to spare, so I went and got a ticket and made my way through the turnstiles of Troy.  I have to admit, few sights anywhere can conjure up such images of grandeur and deliver so little - the ruins are extremely average and are nothing on Ephesus, Aphrodisias or Pergamum.  What these three ruins don’t have on Troy however is the name and the history, so I think the best part of going is to know that you are following in the footsteps of the A-listers of antiquity.  Perhaps the most amusing part of the ruins was the wooden horse that they had built which you could climb up inside - the windows must have been a recent addition.

It took me about half an hour to quick march around the ruins at Troy before we got back into the car and completed the last stretch of our journey, up to Cannakale on the Asian side of the Gallipoli peninsular.  From there we took the car ferry across the Dardanelles to the little town of Eceabat.  Thankfully our hotel - Crowded House, was literally opposite the ferry terminal and we were able to roll in, shower and then head out for dinner.

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