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Bergama’s houses reminisce
2002 / November

With their thick outer walls and small windows, the old houses of Bergama protect the occupants from the heat of summer and the cold of winter. Just a few of the houses have wooden bays or balconies, but most have iron railings, Ionic capitals, medallions and cornices inherited from Greek architecture, and tiled roofs without eaves. Their flat façades without alcoves or projections lend them a massive appearance, and since they are usually adjoining, the streets are bounded by a single extended façade. Although this has its disadvantages, the single façade gives a sense of protectiveness and measured conservatism that keeps outsiders at a distance, not allowing them to poke their noses into everyonrsi business; in short, they are wary of danger and the unknown. ‘What is there to be wary of?’ you might ask. But of course you know that this is something that varies according to place, country, time and gender.

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Bergama’s houses reminisce
2002 / November

But let us get to the heart of the matter: Every house, like every soul, is a quiet harbour or cove where people escape from a tumultuous sea. The desire to seek such a refuge is nothing to be ashamed of. I understand the worth of the composed tranquillity associated with home. Perhaps one appreciates it more as one grows older.
Speaking of growing older, I recall the time years before when one of our teachers asked us to write an essay about the language of houses. As I think about the houses of Bergama and endeavour to write about them, my mind wanders always around this theme. If a house could talk what would it say about itself? Would it speak of its own experiences, its own private history, its adobe, its windows, and other appurtenances? Does its memory consist of these? Or does it take its identity from the land where it is built, drawing upon it on many different levels?

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Bergama’s houses reminisce
2002 / November

Let us assume the second alternative, since it encompasses life itself, a process which takes account of everything. Let us look through the windows with their stone frames and inevitably fitted with iron grilles or shutters, and surmounted either by flat or arched lintels.
Does anyone not know Bergama, the ancient Pergamum, with its remarkable Hellenistic and Roman ruins? The town lies in the province of Izmir in the northwest Aegean region, on the plain of the Bakirçay River bounded to the north by Mount Madra and to the south by Mount Yunt. Pliny the Second describes it in his history as ‘the most celebrated and most splendid city of Asia Minor.’ The acropolis with its royal palaces, the Asclepieum where the sick were treated with music, and the red brick Temple of Serapis can still be seen, although the Altar of Zeus on the acropolis has long since been dismantled and carried away.

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Bergama’s houses reminisce
2002 / November

The ancient Pergamum was not only a place of marble, temples and palaces, but home to the great physician Galen, Asiros, Sophocles, and the art of theatre, which originated here. Then it became one of the last points in the westward conquest of Anatolia which began in the 11th century. Bergama is Türkmen kilims on Mount Madra, and the land of wedding celebrations and swashbuckling efes on the high pastures of Kozak.
The economy of Bergama is based mainly on agriculture, making it the most developed and prosperous part of the province today. Tobacco, cotton, olives and grapes are cultivated on the fertile Bakirçay Plain, and pine nuts are harvested on Kozak Yayla. The region is also rich in natural resources that include perlite, lignite, granite, and thermal and mineral springs. Tourism and carpet weaving are other important sectors here.

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Bergama’s houses reminisce
2002 / November
But I digress. Whether houses have a language or not was the question. Those of Bergama certainly do, breathing the life of the past into the present and the present into the past. I was in so much of a hurry that I entered through the windows, but you can try the doors. If you wonder why, it is because their door knockers are beautiful beyond description.

Müge Iplikçi is a short story writer.

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Bergama’s houses reminisce
2002 / November

Do not miss visiting this wild unspoilt spot in the heart of the Beydaglari Mountains next time you are in this part of the world. Baba Sedir and Koca Katran are expecting you.

* Nusret Nurdan Eren is a photographer and freelance writer

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