Pergamon used to be a rich and powerful ancient Greek city, but now is a vast Hellenistic metropolis that exists now only in columns and shattered walls. The greatest of its treasures are storehoused far away at the Pergamon Museum in Berlin.
I ride the cable-car – sleek and chrome, newly constructed – to the acropolis. Below me, the ruins sprawl and snake along the ridges. The ground is bare of everything but rock. In the distance, a few dark trees dot the unremittingness of cliff, slope, plain. As we reach the peak, I start to make out shapes: once-houses, once-temples, once-streets. On this wintry evening I am alone with ghosts. Even the few souvenir sellers do not bother hawking to me as I pass. The solitude is thrilling.
The wind whips wild around me; I turn a corner, around another column, and still there is nobody but me. The savage loneliness of this place – bereft of its past, bereft even of so many of its remnants, imprisoned in Berlin – is thrilling. Every step brings another column, another shattered cornerstone, stones so big close up that it is impossible to imagine them as one of so many in a temple’s wall.
I arrive at the old Temple of Trajan, where a Roman Emperor became a god, at the narrow corridor that leads out into the gargantuan splendor of the acropolis: narrow but impossibly tall, carved into the acropolis hill itself. I am alone among the lizards, among the black leaf-bare trees, among the ruins. The sky darkens. A storm is starting. A few puppies seek refuge under a half-vanished archway. It is time to say goodbye to ghosts.
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