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Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Exploring the Incredible Ancient Site of Pergamon with Neyzen

Neyzen Travel have taken us to the very best of Turkey's ancient sites during our time in this wonderful country. Some have been the very popular, must visit sites whilst others have been incredible lesser known sites that you'd only manage to visit if you were travelling with a local. We've been more and more impressed everyday and they truly live up to their motto of 'Turkey by Design'. Today we visited the incredible, well known site of Pergamon and also the lesser known Asklepion. Pergamon is an enormous ancient city that has both the steepest amphitheatre in the ancient world along with the second largest library in the ancient world whilst Asklepion is an ancient healing centre that was dedicated to the serpent god Asklepius.



PERGAMON
We spent half a day exploring the ancient site of Pergamon which sits atop a hill overlooking the modern town of Bergama. Pergamon is one of the largest sites we visited during our time in Turkey and without a doubt one of the most impressive! Pergamon was a major world power and its influence generated great wealth for centuries and was among the 7 cities addressed by John in the Book of Revelations. Its amphitheatre is the steepest in antiquity and the library which was built by Eumenes II around 197 BCE was the second largest in the ancient world! Pergamon is an enormous site and we'd highly recommend visiting with a guide or hiring an audioguide. We did the latter and learnt so much about this very powerful ancient city which left us speechless by its incredible amphitheatre!





















ASKLEPION 
We then drove down from Pergamon to Asklepion which is an ancient healing centre that was dedicated to the serpent god Asklepius. Ironically, above the entrance was written ‘Death is not permitted here’as the Asklepion priests did not want death itself associated with their place of healing. Treatment involved patients taking a sedative and falling asleep amongst the curative non-poisonous snakes while the god Asklepion would speak to them in their dreams, and give them their diagnosis. The next day patients would share their dreams with the priests who would then prescribe their treatment. The patients would also make clay models of their ailing body part as a sacrifice to Asklepius. Other treatments included psychotherapy, massage, herbal remedies, mud and bathing treatments and the drinking of water. Today it is believed that Asklepion was more like a modern spa than a hospital with therapies included mud baths, music concerts, and doses of water from the sacred fountain.

We strolled along the Sacred Way which originally connected Asklepion with the Acropolis in Pergamon. From there we visited the Temple of Asklepius and walked through an underground tunnel to visit a number of treatment rooms. Throughout the site there are a number of pools and fountains which were used for bathing, drinking and various other forms of treatment. It is very impressive to walk along the northern colonnade where there are still 17 columns still in place and which leads to the restored Roman Theatre.

Asklepion was a really unique and interesting site to explore and we were again lucky enough to have it all to ourselves! If you are planning a visit to Pergamon then make sure you take the time to visit Asklepion too!






After a big morning walking around Pergamon which is a huge site we were feeling a little peckish so Muge suggested we try Çiğ köfte which is a healthy, vegetarian takeaway food. Çiğ köfte is a mixture of bulgur, onion, pepper and tomato paste, spices and herbs all kneaded together which forms a spicy ball and is either served in a lettuce leaf or in a wrap with salad! It was delicious, tasty, healthy and very cheap and we were amazed because if we had been travelling on our own we would have never thought to try it as we wouldn't have known what it is! We've loved all the different types of Turkish food that we've tried during our travels around Turkey with Neyzen which has really added a whole extra dimension to our trip!



We then arrived at the tranquil Nisanyan Houses Hotel which would be our home for the next two nights! Nisanyan House is located in Sirince Villages, a picture-postcard village located only 7km from the ancient city of Ephesus! Sirince is a charming village surrounded by vineyards and peach orchards with the sounds of birds chirping, donkeys braying and other animals all around you. You often see more tractors than cars in the village which is famous for its olive oil, wine and other artisanal products such as honey.

Nisanyan House is considered to be one of Turkey's finest hotels and is one of the most tranquil, relaxing and beautiful places we've stayed during our travels. The hotel has extensive grounds that feature three historic village houses, two elegant inns, six beautiful, rustic cottages, guestrooms, a defence tower, an aviary with exotic birds such as peacocks, a library and a gorgeous marble swimming pool that has water from Nisanyan's own spring!

We were welcomed to Nisanyan House with a glass of Murver Sherbet which is a delicious local drink flavoured with mountain spices and flowers. Whilst we enjoyed this tasty, refreshing drink we met with Mujde, the lovely owner of Nisanyan Houses and learnt how Nisanyan Houses came into being and it was fantastic to hear her passion for this wonderful hotel which we'd very quickly fallen in love with! Mujde is a wonderful lady who in addition to running the hotel also runs famous cooking classes that use produce from the hotel's garden and has authored a fantastic guidebook of the best small hotels in Turkey which is a must read.





We were staying in Shortcastle, the largest of the six cottages at Nisanyan Houses. The cottages are beautiful and set amongst nature which creates a wonderful feeling of peace and relaxation. Our cottage was rustic but had a wonderful charm and elegance to it. We loved the spacious living area with lounge, comfortable bed, beautiful decor, a fireplace which would be very romantic and cosy in winter and our breathtakingly beautiful all-marble bathroom! In addition we had a very comfortable and spacious outdoor terrace which had lovely views of the swimming pool and beautiful gardens.






We dined at Nisanyan Houses restaurant on our first evening at the hotel which was a fantastic evening of mouthwateringly good traditional Turkish cuisine using the highest quality ingredients and produce, many from their own garden! Breakfast and dinner are served in either the garden restaurant of the hotel or in the charming dining room which is elegantly decorated. Their wine selection was also the best that Turkey has to offer and we enjoyed a fantastic bottle of local red wine. The staff in both the restaurant and the hotel were friendly, helpful and professional throughout our entire stay and always went above and beyond to ensure that our stay was perfect.




The hotel also has a fantastic thirteen meter high tower which boasts the most stunning views of charming Sirince Village below and the gorgeous countryside and mountains which surround it. We spent a few hours relaxing up there one afternoon and it would be the perfect place to enjoy a bottle of wine at sunset!







Our stay at Nisanyan Houses was incredible, it is truly a one of a kind boutique hotel and one of our favourite places we've stayed during our travels! Every part of the hotel from its extensive grounds to its charming accommodation, fantastic food and friendly, helpful staff is incredible. We wouldn't hesitate to return and highly recommend booking a stay there if you are visiting nearby Ephesus which is where our Neyzen Tour is taking us tomorrow!

Again, we couldn't have been more impressed with Neyzen's recommendations for hotels, they truly have handpicked the very best in Turkey. We had the most fantastic day exploring the incredible site of Pergamon and finishing it off with a relaxing afternoon and incredible evening at Nisanyan Houses. We're really excited to be spending two nights in this fantastic boutique hotel and are really looking forward to visit Ephesus tomorrow!

Have you been to Turkey? Or is it on your bucket list? 
We'd love you to let us know in the comments!

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