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"With my spine still intact, we graciously declined his invitation to take a 2 hour bus ride and meet his wife and children.."
- Greg Salow

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

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Then came the hard bar of soap rubbed vigorously on the torso and scalp. This is designed to open the pores, I thought it was going to open the blood vessels. Then comes the splashing of cool bowls of water thrown everywhere, but mostly in the eyes and up the nose. Then comes the shampoo which feels like more like a phrenology exam gone terribly wrong. Fortunately my love for calcium rich ice cream paid off preventing my scull from being crushed.

The former masseuse began walking on my back, which actually felt pretty good. As his heels dug between my shoulder blades, the session was suddenly interrupted by the loud burly proprietor who yelled something at our friend. Our friend yelled something back. After a slight pause, our friend cleared his throat and informed us that we’ve been asked to leave. The only work I could make out from the irate proprietor was amateur. It seems our friend had taken advantage of his alumni status one too many times. With my spine still intact, we graciously declined his invitation to take a 2 hour bus ride and meet his wife and children. After this not-so relaxing introduction to Turkish massage, we took his card, split ways and called it a night.

Market Day

Bergama is city of 56,000. On Mondays it seems to double in size for the big regional market day. From end to end it takes an hour just to walk a straight line past the booths through the throngs buyers and sellers. Locals, gypsies and residents from the region buy and sell goods like sheep, fruits, vegetables, crafts, and exotic spices. Modern westernized Turkish women rub elbows with brightly colored robes of traditionally dressed women from the village. Boys with Nike shirts run circles around fez-topped men.

Color bursts everywhere: green olives, long firehose-like purple eggplants, fat stumpy orange carrots. Aromas from strange spices, incense, huka pipes, fresh breads, roasted nuts, and musty black market clothing mix and hover at nose level.

Besides the women covered in traditional garb, most locals are very photogenic and almost amused by having their picture taken. One particular group of men gazed heartily at the camera as they played cards, sipped strong Turkish coffee, and smoked from pipes.

What we thought would be a two hour stopover in Bergama became a two-day adventure, and highlight of a two-week backpacking honeymoon of Greece and Turkey. Bergama is an offbeat alternative to Istanbul, and a slice of Turkey that should not be missed.

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