As we left Troy in the hands of bus-loads of other tourists, we headed on to the ancient spa city of Pergaman (Begama). This was a Greek and Roman healing center. People came here to take the cure in the thermal springs that bubbled up from deep underground. Here too, they would have their dreams interpreted, or at least recorded, by scribes– the early stages of psycho-therapy! Judging from the columns, theatre and other remnants in the area, it must have been quite a site in its day. As we walked along, we could see the image of the snake which was the precursor to the medical symbol we see today. This is the town where, Galen, one of the first recognized doctors, resided and practiced. He mapped much of the human muscular system by doing autopsies on gladiators killed in the games to entertain the population. What I love most about the site is that wonderful ampitheatre on top of the hillside where artists would perform their craft with that incredible view under the stars! We ended this day in Izmir, a city on the Mediterranean coast. It is a fairly good-sized city with a terrific promenade along the harbor. People go there to fish, sit in the cafes, meet and talk to friends, buy some roasted corn, mussles or other goodies, or just sit to admire a colorful sunset. I left my traveling companions to do just that. I sat there breathing in the sea air until the sun went down and the lights came on. I must say I have been lucky with this trip. Our tour director, Alemdar, is incredibly knowledgable on Turkey as he has been doing these trips for years. The others on the tour come from a variety of places— Australia, New Zealand, the US, and Singapore. And through it all, despite or possibly because of dramas and illnesses, we all hung in there and supported each other. Everyone was extremely friendly and helpful. As the trip unfolded everyone’s expertise helped to resolve a particular problem or answer one question or another. for a first- time guided tour traveler like me, this was helpful. I can see the very positive side to taking a tour in that you have a shared experience with others and you do see a lot more than you might otherwise have had the time to see. However, that said, there is something about traveling alone or with one or two others that is mighty attractive in that you are left to your own devices and that gets you engaged with the culture on a more profound basis.
This was brought home to me when we were in Pamulkkale, another hot-springs town famous in antiquity, but now a mere small town on the map. However, the real treasure here is that it is the only small town where we actually stayed overnight. I headed out with a few people from the group to explore this main-road town an see what it had to offer. The market was still in full-swing such as it was. I was happy to start engaging the children playing in the street and that lead to friendly encounters with the adults as well. It was just the place I would have loved to stay for a few days. The hotel was nothing great except for the hot springs—- pumped right into your room if you were really lazy and wanted to create your own in the bathtub, which is exactly what I did to relax after that magical day in Ephasus.
Before going to that amazing city, we took a steep, winding road to one of several places claiming to be where Mary fled after the death of Jesus. As quaint as it is, I think it is now more a tourist trap that even Mary herself would avoid. Evidently, the religious orders who run the place are not too happy that the Turkish government gets the entrance fee, but I am sure they get a healthy amount from the donations of the faithful who flock there daily.
I kept hearing the same complaints about Ephasus—- too crowded and too little time to explore it! Both have some justification! It is a magnificantly intact Roman site. A lot of work has been put into the town to give the impression that you are seeing things at times much as they would have appeared in its heyday. It is surrounded by low mountains. as we approached we saw farmland filled with cotton and all types of grains. We also saw two fortifications built over 800 years ago by the Crusaders. It is somewhat hard to fathom that in its time, Ephasus was a city of major significance. Paul the Apostle wrote to them and even visited to preach here several times. He was even imprisoned once as some of the powerful locals did not like him converting the people. There are many wonderful little places at Ephasus, especially the old library (now just an ediface), and the colloseum that can seat thousands. I took some time to wander the pathways radiating out from the ruins. One lead me to the remains of a church that I’m sure gets few visitors as it is off the beaten track. That is just fine with me. Although there is little left of the church itself, it gives me the opportunity, like at Troy, to just disconnect from the group long enough to soak in the quiet and reflect on all that is around me.