It was a prototype Turkish August day in Turkey - ano cloudless s in the sky, shade temperature in the shade hovering above 40°C and a really strong Westerly wind blowing from the West. We arrived in the little town of Bergama, home to the famous Asklepieion (Galen’s spa cum hospital), Acropolis (housing the second largest scroll library in the world) and the Temple of Serapis lay at the foot of the steep hill crowned by Acropolis itself. The Its majestic theatre, wedged into athe steep cliffs right beneath the Traianeum of the Acropolis, edge, evoked in us a feeling of awe onlynot matched by that atany other site we have seen so far (and we have seen many) except the stadium the ancient city of Aphrodite.
After having tasted some wild figs at the Asklepieion we drove up the winding road to the Acropolis, walked past the library and Traianeum and had our breath taken away by the theatre. (TIP: Do make the effort to climb down. Then talk in your normal voice and those sitting on top will hear you perfectly!) I did so, leaving my husband Paul and our guide Turgul sitting on top. In addition to the sound effect there is also the unexpected big blackberry bush (yes, with ripe blackberries) growing by the stairs of the temple of Dionysus. Having read about the altar of Zeus I told thosemy twotwo very tired companions still sitting on top of the theatre that I would go and see it. On asking where it was, our guide told me to just walk to the right. And so I set out on my little quest for the altar of Zeus. It was about two in the afternoon, the scorching heat having reached its peak temperature and I trudged along what seemed like a little used dusty road towards the said altar. There was no soul in sight and I started wondering whether I walked too far. TWhen I turned back the theatre disappeared from sight, but on turning round a bendbut I saw a man, woman and small child stumbling across the thousands of amphora and marble shards on the road a few meters ahead of mestrewn all over the Acropolis. I waited for them and asked whether they were also looking for the altar. They said they had been, but were now just on the lookout for a ruin, any ruin, that isany ruin to appear. The four of usI joined this little family and we walked on, slowly approaching the bottom of the hill with the vast plains of the Izmir province stretching in front of us against the backdrop of the innumerable hills rolling on the horizon. The heat was unbearable. but the vast plains of the Izmir province stretching in front of us against the backdrop of the innumerable hills rolling on the horizon made this walk worth the scenery itself. After what felt like an eternity we finally sawcame to something resembling a ruin. I later learnt that this was not the altar of Zeus (which is in Berlin!!!) but the sanctuary of Demeter. I was so happy that II thought that this had to be the altar and happily ran down the last bit of the road down, only to reach what seemed like an ancient brick settlement. Then, sSuddenly, round the corner of one such house a modern structure appeared. Dand I, despite being quite anxious about Paul’s and Turgul’s the state of mind of both my husband and probably the guide, about my whereabouts, I entered.
The modern structure encased one of these ancient settlements.houses Aand a not so ancient guard was sitting in the middle of an immaculately restoredthe courtyard, fanning himself and askeding for the ticket which, of course, I didn’t have, having left it with my husband. My feeble attempts at an I tried to explanationin in very broken Turkish and I think my general sweatiness, and general dustiness together, with parched lips and by now almost manic bulging eyes probably made the good man take pity on me, and he let me in.
The sight that greeted me upon entering will never leave my mind. Entire pieces of meticulouslyimmaculately designed, pieced together, colourful and detailed mosaics spread themselves on the floors of two huge rooms and a corridor joining them. H I could not fathom how these marvels survived for so long almost unscathed is beyond my understanding. Perhaps they were pieced together with Asklepieion eternal spring? Be it so or not, I found my secret treasure, and didn’t even need to travel to Berlin.