Bergama is an everyday Turkish town with utterly amazing history. It was an urban center of 400,000 in the ancient world with a groundbreaking medical center (they discovered the heart and circulatory system here) and a city up on its own acropolis. The ruins are spectacular. Above is the Roman road leading into the medical center. Below is the same road with the acropolis rising up in the background.
In spite of all this richness, it is impossible to buy a postcard along the main street. Unfortunately, most people pass through Bergama on a bus tour, stop to see the two sites, and keep going. For people like me, however, who fall in love with the place, that means that staying here gives you a real sense of day to day life in Turkey. I've seen election campaigns, circumcision parties, the family get-togethers at the end of Ramadan, and, just this morning, a wedding procession.
Bergama is also a little out of time. Yesterday I was passed by a pony cart on my way to paint the Roman road, and in the afternoon two guys on a motorcycle trotted a horse on a lead line past me as I worked. This morning, two tractors went down the main drag.
I painted here two years ago and stayed for 14 nights. I loved painting the ruins, but pastels weren't right to capture the town itself. When Dad proposed our Greek trip, I immediately thought I would come back and paint more in Bergama. Partly for the painting, and partly to revisit the fabulous Gobi family who run the pension I stayed in.
The Gobis are marvelous and have taken me in so warmly. Mrs. Gobi let me watch her cook last night (I had asked to learn how), and then I joined the family evening over dinner and after dinner tea. I am thrilled to be back with these friends again.
Martha Kelly is an artist and illustrator who lives and works in Memphis, Tennessee.
Get occasional studio email updates.