|The view from Assos across to Lesvos|
Some things stay the same. The fish in the photo above were hung out to dry over our restaurant table in Assos, a tiny harbour north of Ayvalik. We were there on Sunday (to look at ruins, of course). Yesterday we ate lunch in Mytilene on the harbour front and, lo and behold, were seated below octopi hung out to dry in much the same fashion. The people of these parts, who are so firmly bolted onto each other's history, put great store on their differences, but fishing habits threaten no-one's sense of identity.
I promised ruins in the previous post, and I hate to disappoint.
I knew nothing about ancient ruins until I got the Lycian bug last August, and for all my enthusiasm now, I can only just keep a simple timeline of the ancient world in my head. So I didn't quite know what to make of my response to Pergamon. It's one of the Big Ruins sites - but for the first little while it left me cold. We prowled around the acropolis, trying to make sense of the layout. The view down to the modern town of Bergama on the plain was extraordinary. What a strategic holdout. Pergamon was a rich and powerful city in its heyday (between 335 and 159 BC). We knew that. But still, where was the magic? Where was the famous library? Where was anything?
|The Roman temple of Trajan at Pergamon|
There was another 'ah' moment in the Middle City where, off the beaten track, there is a tenderly restored Pergamon house, once two-storied, with the mosaic floors designed to impress with their expanse and intricacy.
We hiked back up to the acropolis. Pergamonians would have been a fit lot. The cable car which takes modern visitors between the parking area for buses and the entrance at the top is not even at the lowest level of the ancient city which spilled right down to the plains.
|Reconstruction of the Pergamon acropolis|
There's no sculpture left on the site. The Pergamon school of sculpture was hugely influential in its day, and the museum has some nice busts. But we saw many more and better sculptures from the Pergamon school in Istanbul's archeology museum, including the famous bust of Alexander. That's the way it goes.
|The road to Asklepion, looking back up to Pergamon|
|The Asklepion compound, healing rooms at bottom left|
I switch quickly now to Assos where, on a perfect day, after our lunch in the harbour under the pegged fish, we climbed up to what is left of the ancient temple of Athena, and the Byzantine walls which later enclosed it and, alongside the walls, one of Turkey's oldest Ottoman mosques. History piled on top of itself, as is usual in Turkey.
|Choosing mezes for lunch at Assos|
|What the temple of Athena might have looked like|
|Looking back towards Turkey from the castle at Mytilene|
|Main street Mytilene|
Here in Lesvos, we've begun hearing different stories. But they can wait for the next post.