I’ve been putting off writing this blog because I felt like it’d end up being pretty negative. Ferda’s friend, Şebnem, does lots of these weekend bus tours. She convinced Ferda to come on this tour last spring, and Ferda, in turn, convinced me. It was a three-day tour, spending two nights at a comfortable hotel in Altınoluk.
The tour itinerary went something like this: Bozcaada and Assos on day one; Kaz Dağı and Adatepe on day two; Cunda Adası, Ayvalık, and Bergama on day three. Since I’m such a big fan of Roman ruins, I was most looking forward to Bergama (aka Pergamon). Additionally there’s an old church in Ayvalık that I wanted to visit, and I had heard nice things about the small historic village of Assos.
Certainly the tour wasn’t a complete disappointment, but we could have used our three days in the area much more efficiently. The worst waste of time was on the third day spending so long at dirty Cunda Adası where there’s really nothing to see (our guide ate breakfast here, but the rest of us had eaten at the hotel), followed by an hour at a viewpoint (Şeytan Sofrası) where 10 minutes for a photo would have been more than enough. In the end our guide decided we didn’t have time to stop in Ayvalık that day. Oh, by then I was pissed.
But, wait, I didn’t want this to be so negative.
We started with an overnight bus from Antalya to Geyikli where the ferries leave for Bozcaada. How Condé Nast readers chose this island as the world’s second most beautiful remains a mystery to me. We spent a couple hours to visit the fortress and wander around the cute center. I’ve only been to a few islands in the Aegean. Chios is far and away my favorite.
Our next stop that day was Assos where, like I said, I was looking forward to seeing the village. Well, big buses can’t make the tight curves down to the village so all we saw were the ruins at the top of the hill. Still being the first day of the tour, I made the mistake of waiting for the guide thinking he’d have something informative to say and that he’d take us down to the theater and the interesting part of the site. Wrong, on both counts. Had I started down right away I would have had plenty of time to explore more, but our guide never seemed to be able to tell us ahead of time when we ought to be back at the bus.
The jeep safari of the Kaz Dağları on day two sounded really bad. I was worried about too much dust and sun, but neither were a problem. The biggest problem was the crowds, but this was a problem all weekend because it was a three-day holiday weekend. I can hardly blame the guide or tour company for that. They organize the tour when they can get clients, and we knew before signing up that it’d be a busy weekend.
After spending too much time driving around (with a stop for a good fish lunch at some point), we had some time in the afternoon to visit the wonderful village of Adatepe. This Greek village was the surprise of the weekend. The Greeks are gone now, but any construction in the village needs to be in the historic style. This isn’t typical Turkish cheap concrete construction. Adatepe seems like a fun village to spend a week in, both to relax and visit the nearby sites.
I already mentioned wasting time the morning of the third day. That’s a shame since there’s really a lot to see in Bergama. Everyone knows about the famous acropolis, but there’s also something called Asklepion which, judging from the photos, looks as interesting as the acropolis itself. We didn’t have time to go to Asklepion. There’s a museum in Bergama which we didn’t see either. In our very limited time in the city (before going up to the acropolis) Ferda and I had time for a quick lunch and a run through Kızıl Avlu (Red Basilica), “one of the largest Roman structures still surviving in the ancient Greek world,” according to Wikipedia, and an early center of medicine, according to on-site information.
Finally, what I hoped would be the highlight of the tour, the Acropolis at Pergamon. I’ve seen the famous Pergamon Altar at the eponymous museum in Berlin and was interested in putting it in context. However, when you’re actually at the site, it’s not clear where the altar was. Somewhere near the theater, I believe. The theater is built into the hillside and has “the steepest seating of any known theater in the ancient world” (Wikipedia again). With its UNESCO World Heritage status, I had very high expectations of Pergamon. I felt, I guess, a little disappointed. In my notes from that day I wrote a short list of Roman sites in Turkey that I prefer to Pergamon: Kibyra, Termessos, Aphrodisias, Arykanda, Efes, Anamur. Six months later I still agree with that assessment, but I do hope to get back to Bergama, specifically for the Asklepion!