Assos (Behram Kale)

Assos is an ancient ruins high on a rocky hill — reputedly “the most beautiful place in Asia Minor” (Eyewitness Turkey) — where in 340 BCE the philosopher Aristotle founded an academy. St. Paul was in Assos; it it was mentioned in Acts of the Apostles. The vicinity goes by the name Behram Kale or Behremkale and is now a cultural retreat.

We missed a turnoff on the mountain road and spent much time searching for a place recommended in Lonely Planet Turkey. At length and doubling back, we found ourselves on a steep cobbled road leading down to a tiny harbour. At a hairpin turn an old woman, tiny, selling her stitchery in the road, came at the car, ferocious, trying to grab the door handle, exhorting all the while, I was afraid she might get hooked onto something, but would not stop, godavemercy. She was still exhorting as we drove away.

At the bottom, about two blocks of a sort of village, all made of stone, quite inviting. We went into the first hotel we saw:

0442 Kervanseri

The lobby was all of stone, with thickets of plants under skylights. A mezzanine ran along all four walls giving access to the rooms. For a room overlooking the water, dinner and breakfast, 220 Turkish lira (about $110 Cdn). We decided to stay two nights.

(Don’t get the room front right — it was so noisy, with the kitchen underneath, and after the numerous kitchen staff had finished banging drawers and doors and gone home at midnight in a hail of yelling, the pump or some damn machine down there cycled on and off. All. Night. Long.)

The food was pretty good, the service on the stiff-and-formal side; there were newlyweds and a convivial table of four the first night; after breakfast we were the only customers in the dining room with it seemed like a dozen waiters watching our every fork and spoonful. The dining room  looked out on the rocks, where there were humble waterside eateries and vendors and women hawking their fabrics near the window (who if they caught your eye could be quite persistent).

Found a photo and an account of the hotel’s founding on the wall:

0411 old hotel0410 hotel plaque

A tourist development! Come to think of it, this entity (not really a village) didn’t look that old. This little enclave is known, confusingly, as Assos.

0443 Assos street

The other feature was a tiny constructed harbour …

0439 Assos fr road

… with a small fleet of net fishers. 0440 fishing boat

We set out to hike up to the ruins and were offered a lift by the newlyweds. They dropped us at the intersection, where there was an ATM:

0422 Assos corner

We made our way up through the old village, past rock formations that looked of volcanic origin.

0414 rocky0421 Assos rocks

We looked in on the place recommended in Lonely Planet Turkey, Assos Alarga, passing through a tiny garden in the rocks to a glass door. It was an old house, with deluxe fittings — lots of big windows, floor to ceiling, original abstract paintings on the living room walls. A woman came to the door, invited us in and introduced her parents, who were sitting in the kitchen. The father was formerly an architect in Istanbul. On his retirement they moved here. This guest house was his retirement project, the daughter explained. She showed us its three rooms. Two looked out on a rocky upland plain. Delightful. Quiet. Next time.

Continuing to the ruins, where as everywhere in Turkey there is a ticket office, a set of turnstiles with scanners that read your ticket, and lots of fencing. Admission was 10 Turkish lira, for both of us if memory serves. I gave the man a 200 lira note just obtained at the ATM. There was someone else in the booth, and after discussions and lengthy to-and-fro gave me change. Wham, the window slid shut. I counted — 50 lira short — !? — Displaying the bills — The window opened — wordlessly a 50 lira note was produced — Wham went the window.

Up and up we went until …

0419 templeAcropolis of Assos, with “Archaic temple [of Athena] “in the Doric Order,” only such “known so far in Asia Minor,” built in the later 6th century BCE, overlooking the Aegean Sea and Lesvos Island.
0420 temple plaque

Oboy, a Necropolis …

0429 necro0425 necro plaque0426 necro map0428 P at the gates0431 inscription

The site was extensive. Eastward the Agora followed the contours.

0432 agora0433 lookout

The terrain dropped away to south. Below, it met the road at the hairpin curve where we were accosted by the ferocious saleswoman …

0434 amphi

A tiny perfect theatre set into the hillside  …

0438 amphi + plaque 0437 amphi plaque

Back at the bottom we treated ourselves to ice cream cones from a street vendor — but they were gluey and disgusting. Could be The Worst Ever.

That night I wore ear plugs.

One thought on “Assos (Behram Kale)

  1. At that theatre set into the hillside which would seat 4000 if I remember correctly there was a stage from which a jazz singer in our group performed. From the highest seat one could hear her perfectly. The acoustics were completely amazing. Made me wonder about how horrific the sound when Christians were being thrown to the lions or whatever similar spectacles took place in some of these outdoor theatres.

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