The city of Pergamon is located in in the Turkish Aegean region, about 100 km north of Izmir on a promontory above the river Bakirçay. This beautiful site was added to the UNESCO World Heritage List on June 22nd 2014. The Turkish name for the modern city is Bergama.
Spending a couple of days in Pergamon will allow you to fully enjoy everything the site has to offer: its archaeological treasures such as the Asclepeion and the Acropolis, the museum and the old-town in Bergama, where time seems to have stood still.
This is where we start our visit with the Red Basilica (Kızıl Avlu in Turkish), a monumental ruined Roman temple from the 2nd century, dedicated to the worship of the Egyptian gods. The edifice is currently being renovated (the works started in 2015 and will last two years) but it remains open to visitors. Its name comes from its brick walls. Those were, however, cladded in marble in the past. Two rotundas, one of them a mosque, stand on each side of the sanctuary.
Numerous stones are exhibited in the yard and some of them have carved reliefs and friezes. In the South part of the esplanade, you can see the 8.5 metre high statue of the Egyptian goddess Sekhmet. Fragments of the statue were uncovered during the archaeological searches that began in the 1930s and it was reconstituted thanks to the financial aid from a foundation.
Not far from the Red Basilica, when you head toward the museum, you will find the Hacı Hekim Hamamı. This authentic Turkish bath was renovated in 2007 and is a beautiful example of Ottoman architecture. Originally built in 1513, it has two domes and two sections: one above the ground for the men and a slightly lower one on the right for the women.
Across the boulevard starts the covered bazaar with its countless shops and sometimes tiny workshops, where you will discover some rare craft professions. If you look up while strolling through the alleys you might even be lucky to see the remains of a han (caravanserai) old of many centuries. Don’t forget to stop at one of the many pleasant cafes, where you can enjoy a traditional Turkish tea while observing the life of the bazaar.
In the vicinity, you will also find the Küplü Hamamı, which was recently renovated. The use of this bath is exclusively reserved for men. It was built in 1427 and owes its name to the marble urn that was originally placed at the centre of the building. It was later given as a present to King Louis Philippe I by Sultan Mahmud II and can now be seen at the Louvre Museum in Paris.
We will continue our visit of Pergamon in the next article.