The first hospital in the world?

Days: 524 (1 December 2015)

Total distance travelled: 133,247.8 kilometres (82,762.61 miles)

Another bus journey over, the last light of dusk found us wandering along a busy motorway into the city of Bergama, and as is often our way, we had nothing in the way of accommodation planned.

Luck smiled on us yet again, as we soon found a sign suggesting lodging could be found beyond a vine covered patio, and after a few minutes haggling, an elderly gentleman had his first customers in several weeks.

With a bed sorted, we wandered out intent on finding dinner, by now beginning to sound rather repetitious as once again it was kebab that provided our sustenance (come on, we’re in Turkey).

As the town was now dark, there wasn’t really all too much to see besides some interesting angles and locations for vehicles to be parked, so we retired for the evening to take care of some housekeeping duties.


Every car in this photo is parked…

For so much of our journey we’d travelled in warm climates, the only cold periods or locations being our recent months in the Balkans, our time in Iceland, and the couple Winter months we’d spent in South America.

As a result of this, and also out of a desire to travel light, socks were not something we had in abundance, nor were the ‘Three Pack’ I’d picked up in a Bolivian market all that good quality (in terms of their fabrication, think non breathable and high in polyester), so this meant the desire and need to wash them regularly was pretty high.

A spot of hand washing in our small basin, the aforementioned housekeeping duties.

But how to dry them by morning, on a cold Turkish night?

It was time to get all ‘MacGuyver’… well okay, not really. We didn’t use several coat hangers and wire them up to an electrical outlet, using several ceramic mugs as insulators to assemble a makeshift bar heater… although that would have been very cool!

Instead, I used an iron.

Far less exciting I know.


Drying socks in our Bergama pad (left) & Waking to yet another stunning Winter morning (right)

At least we woke to another lovely morning, and were able to enjoy breakfast on that grapevine covered terrace!

The traffic was light, and after briefly considering paying the entrance fee to visit the scaffold clad ruins of the Red Basilica (we ultimately baulked), it was on through the very cool, yet very decrepit, yet very inhabited old Bergama.


The Red Basilica… or what’s left of it

Here was a warren like series of laneways, rusted shutters, flecked facades and overgrown gardens.

It was a beautiful place, and I couldn’t help but snap to my hearts content.

We were also here for a reason, and our path was taking us steadily upwards.


Wandering the cobbled streets of old Bergama


A local family watched our progress with interest (left) & As I said, not devoid of life in old Bergama  (right)

Our destination sat high above the town, and as long as your view remained clear, it wasn’t something easily missed.

This was the ancient Greek city of Pergamon, yet another UNESCO World Heritage site.

It was one of those ascents that was both sweaty work, but somewhat chilly as the air was cool, and the sun was at this early hour certainly not generating much additional warmth.


Pergamon, perched high above Bergama

Our adventures in Pergamon itself, well that is for another story.

We did spend several hours exploring the ruins, before making our way back through the city in search of another slice of history.

This was supposedly the first hospital in the world, but in truth that is perhaps something of a misnomer.


A woman’s lot, prepping vegetables for the kitchen (left) & At the cafe, it’s a mans world… (right)

This was Asclepeion, a temple to Asclepius, the Greek god of healing, so it certainly would be one of the oldest centres of healing in the world, but in all likelihood not the first.

As we stood at the main entrance, ready to pay our fee, we noticed a sign advertising something known as an Ionian Museum Pass.

It turns out, we could have purchased this in advance, as it allowed entrance into a large array of historical sights, one of which we’d already paid in individual entrance fee for that very morning!

Somewhat wiser, we snaffled a pair of these passes, and walked the grand promenade into the Asclepeion itself.


Welcome to Asclepeion and its boulevard of broken dreams…

This particular site was a wide, essentially flat sprawl, the centre that once stood here given scale by the tall pillars that remain allowing us to imagine the height, width and length of it all.

Springs fed pools of apparently healing waters, and by all accounts it was not uncommon for snakes to be deliberately brought to these places both for use in healing methods, as well as simply to roam about, as to the worshippers of Asclepius, the reptile was sacred.

As we wandered about, having the place pretty much to ourselves, of snakes, there was no sign.


The Sanctuary of Asclepius


The healing waters, now little more than a trickle (left) & This and the Red Basilica all fall under the Pergamon UNESCO listing (right)

A small amphitheatre even stood towards the rear, but whether this was for debate or for performance, I have no idea!

With the hours spent up in Pergamon, this site felt small in comparison, so it took but a fraction of the time to explore this ancient hospital.

Our plan was to travel on to Selçuk that very day, so after grabbing something to serve as lunch, it was time to collect our bags and await the microbus our host had called on our behalf (they collect you from your address).

That morning as we’d packed, a shirt I’d picked up in the US (it was a womans shirt, but it was all I’d been able to find that was lightweight… I had struggled however with the back to front buttons) had been deliberately left in the wardrobe, as I figured that the locals would find a good home for it.

We’d not mentioned this to anyone at our accommodation, and as we entered ready to collect our backpacks, there it sat on a nearby table, all neatly folded.

At no point was there a query as to whether we’d forgotten it or not (nor was it offered back to us), and as I’d abandoned it I cared not, but I did wonder how many others had legitimately forgotten something, that had simply been claimed by this spacious home, in downtown Bergama



* To travel by bus from Canakkale to Bergama cost us ₺30.00 Lire each.

* Entrance into the ruins of Pergamon cost us ₺25.00 Lire per person.

* At Asclepeion we discovered there was an Ionian Museum pass for ₺75.00 Lire that allowed entrance into 32 sites (including the one we’d already paid a separate entrance fee for)!

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