Day 5 – Pergamon

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Breakfast on holiday can at times be stomach churning. Not because of the unusual array of local foods on offer around the buffet. Foods that you might normally associate with lunches or dinners. Instead it is the experimental combinations of concoctions that the kids, mainly the boys, decided to devise from the choice available and the mess than normally ensues. This morning has been a classic illustration.

We're leaving the beautiful Assoss Kervansaray Hotel having only spent one night and we sit down for breakfast on the decking at the front of the hotel overlooking the Aegean Sea. There is a small souvenir market which has not yet opened for the day on the right and on the left you can see the beach with only a handful of tourist umbrellas open and ready for business. The ones that are already occupied are at the front of the hotels exclusive beachside area, probably by people who are desperate to get the front row. These people take their relaxing so seriously that they forgo their sleep to get up early and grab the best position!

We find our seat and sit down before wondering around the buffet offering. There is something for everyone as always although possibly a little less that we would normally see of the foods we like. That's what prompts the experimenting. I just have some bread and jam/honey. Kate settles on a chocolate coated breakfast cereal and milk (probably called Choco-Rocks in the UK). Callum sits down with a similar bowl of Choco-Rocks but with an added ingredient. On the side of his bowl his bowl he has a small flat ice cream cone which is shaped like a small bowl. This he has filled with honey which he now proceeds to pour over the cereal. Not to be outdone, Tom arrives with quite a reasonable plate of green olives stuffed with chilli peppers, a couple of slices of ham and a small pile of red sausages.

However, he too has an ice cream cornet filled with honey and be too pours this over his breakfast creating a weird honey soaked stew. When he is finished there is nothing else I can do but march him to the toilet to remove the honey which he appears to have had a bath in!

The sun is already strong but there is a cool breeze blowing off the crystal blue waters of the Aegean as we clamber into the van with our guide Tim and set off to today's main destination, the ancient city of Pergamon. Our first stop however is an olive oil museum and shop. This area is famous for its olive oil as well as a growing reputation for wines. We learn how the olives are picked (early for green, later for black) and then turned into a paste before being pressed in large sacks that allow the oil to run out and is separated from the black water and syphoned into containers. The acidity measured and determines the prices that can be charged. Less good oil is turned into olive oil soap. After a small purchase of olive oil we are on our way again but as we make our way inland and further south and the sun reaches its height the temperature rises further. I don't have a thermometer but I would guess that it was reaching the upper 30s as we arrived at Asklepieion of Pergamon.

20130731-211924.jpg This complex is at the foot of the hills upon which the Pergamon acropolis is situated and was mainly a spa but also an early hospital situated around a water spring which was said to have healing properties. Later examination has revealed that the water has a very mild radioactive property which probably does provide some beneficial effects. We are drinking as much water as we can to keep ourselves hydrated but the sun's rays makes our clothes stick to us, slick with sweat so we gratefully take the opportunity to wash ourselves with this healing water that still runs even today.

After lunch we drive to the upper city of Pergamon where the acropolis is situated high on a hill overlooking the modern city of Bergama. There is a hot breeze blowing at this height but it can't really touch the sun's blazing heat so our concentration is probably lower than they otherwise would be! In short therefore the upper city is pretty well preserved (restored in places) although Tim says that this is just the starter before the main course of Ephesus tomorrow. The most impressive structure is the extremely steep theatre that rises at a narrow angle from a small stage far below. The seats are large and surprisingly comfortable (until the heat makes its way through your clothing!).

20130731-212530.jpgThe stage has no space for scenery to be placed but given the stunning natural view of the valley and river below this seems a small shortcoming. The site also has a temple to the Roman emperors, a temple to Athena, the remains of a huge library which contained over 200,000 scrolls, rivalling the one in Alexandria and the site originally had an enormous altar to Zeus which could easily have been one of the ancient wonders of the world. However unfortunately this altar was removed by German archeologist and now resides in the Pergamon museum in Berlin.

Britain is as guilty, if not more so than other countries, of taking precious historical objects from there original locations and it is understandable why it happened at the time with limited travel opportunities to see such treasures and a natural desire to protect them. However, with travel cheaper than ever before places like Pergamon are accessible to many more people and it seems about time many of these important objects are returned to their rightful places. We'd had an interesting day but it was with some pleasure that we returned to our air conditioned bus after purchasing several cold bottles of water (plus some chocolate biscuits and a pack of Pringles) for the final journey of the day to Selcuk where we'll be staying for a couple of nights before we move south again.