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"Our friend blurted something guttural to the burly proprietor who resembled Saddam Hussein. Begrudgingly, he let us in."
- Greg Salow

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Turkey

Mediterranean of a different kind
by Greg Salow, Portland, Maine, USA
Dec 11, 1999

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Temple of cats

After the one-mile hike up a dusty sagebrush hill, we arrived at the Pergamum ruins. We toured the remains of the acropolis, temple of Zeus, and amphitheater. What sets Pergamum apart from these other sites is the fact that it is located on a hill isolated from the town below. Hence, schlocky souvenir stands are kept to a minimum. One can sit in relative peace and quiet and imagine what it was really like to live 2,200 years ago.

Wandering through the ruins, you run into the only living residents of Pergamum - lots and lots of kitty cats. While the cats give the area a mysterious and wild flair, their overwhelming numbers serve as a sad testament to the problem of feral dogs and cats. Throughout the region, funding is not allocated to pet shelters or neutering programs. Therefore, wild cats and dogs fill the streets throughout the region. We found ourselves throughout the trip feeding leftovers to the cats. Since these cats are really wild animals, itís best to keep your distance.

Dinner and a bath with a new friend

After the long walk down from ancient Pergamum to Bergama, we stopped by a local cafe for the essential beer and lamb specialty of the house. Everything was fresh and delicious. The breads and lamb were laced with special seasonings unfamiliar to an American tongue.

As we capped off the feast, a cigarette smoking Turkish man in his 30s asked if he could join us to practice his English. Despite our suspicious Northeast American inclinations, we welcomed him over, and preceded to talk up a storm. This man was a shopkeeper who lived in a village a two hour bus ride away in the mountains. He traveled weekly to town for business. He was very inquisitive about popular culture like John Wayne, The Beatles, Bill Clintonís extramarital affairs. He shared his hopes of one day visiting the United States.

As the beers went down and conversation flowed, our friend said he was a former masseuse who used to work at a 500 year old Turkish bathhouse just around the corner from the restaurant. He offered to take us there for a free bath. Adventurous and beer happy, we took him up on the offer, settled the bill, and followed him through windy backstreets.

We entered a white stucco building. An immense raised white marble slab filled a large room. Surrounding this main room were many dressing areas, steam rooms, and bathing rooms. Our friend blurted something guttural to the burly proprietor who resembled Saddam Hussein. Begrudgingly, he let us in.

After changing into towels, and securing our items as best we could, our friend brought us into the soap room. Since he seemed to show more vigorous interest in what was beneath my wifeís towel, than at the task at hand, I volunteered to get the royal treatment from this former masseuse, as my wife scurried to the side protecting her camera lens from the steam. Our friend started the process with a pressure rub of the major arm neck and muscle groups. What I expected to be a light motherly rub town felt more like a fish being skinned by hungry grizzly bear.

Is Greg going to survive the Turkish massage?

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