Because of the length and depth of its history, all tour guides in Turkey have to have a university education. On top of that, Insight Vacations is very fussy in their choice of tour directors, and we’re appreciating the result of that: Barcin is excellent. Military history, architecture, Greek myths, religion, languge, traditions, economy, education and even circumcision – it’s all been detailed, illuminating, interesting and a good way to pass the time on the road.
That’s not to say there hasn’t been snoozing too. It’s a comfortable coach with ample leg-room, and we’re all still recovering from Anzac Day. It was good to get some fresh air and exercise at Pergamon, a gondola ride up a hill to the Acropolis, with long views of an aqueduct, and the steepest amphitheatre I’ve ever seen. “There will be an abundance of ancient pillars,” Barcin told us, and he wasn’t wrong: they were everywhere, upright and lying artistically in the grass, decorated with poppies. Some of the best stuff, as at other sites, is now in museums elsewhere – Berlin, Vienna, Boston, London – having been appropriated by archeologists, but there was still plenty to see.
We’re on a well-beaten tourist path, and it’s particularly busy at the moment with Kiwis and Aussies over here for Gallipoli, so the stall-holders were really going for it: “Aussie, Aussie, Aussie! Best price here! Cheaper than K-Mart!” Bit wearing after a while.
It was a lot more peaceful down the hill at Asklepion, ancient Rome’s centre of medicine, as it was meant to be: sleep was an important part of the healing process (though the frogs might have interfered with that). It's a lovely place, with fig trees, pink-flowering Judas trees and lines of cypresses here and there, birds singing, masses of gorgeous poppies (yes, sorry to be harping on, but like the autumn foliage on the New England-Canada cruise in October, they’re both everywhere and glorious), and cats (ditto). And no Keep Off signs at all – they have so much antiquity here that they’re not precious about it. Lots of fun to roam amongst the ruins searching for that perfect cat/stone/poppy shot.