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SOMA

Population: 100,000

East of Bergama, the small town of Soma will always be associated in many people's minds with a terrible mining accident that happened there in 2014 and claimed the lives of 301 coal miners. It's not a town where you would expect to find much of historic interest although there are slight remains of ancient Apollonia to the west. Otherwise in the town centre a few old houses still survive in what was the Greek quarter.

The single finest building in town is the Emir Hacı Hıdır Bey Cami, an extraordinary building that reminded me of the Çakırağa Konaği in Birgi. It was apparently paid for by the eponymous emir in 1791-92. The lovely paintings that cover the interior walls and ceilings and those of the  son cemaat area are presumably contemporary. The images of Mecca and Medina are especially striking but there are also lovely pictures and fruit and flowers too. 

Beside the mosque are the battered remains of what look like an old bedesten and hamam, suggesting that there had been an older mosque on the same site. 

From the centre of Soma it's a 4km walk uphill to Darkale (Tarhala, Trakhoula), a virtually abandoned village (100 people) above a stream that feeds water to the lovely Kırkolak Cami (Forty Waterspouts Mosque). This too is painted inside and out, presumably by the same artist or artists as the Emir Haçi Hıdır Bey Cami. The spouts run out from carved stones some of which must date back to Byzantine times (there are other Byzantine fragments embedded in the two mosques right inside the village).

There's a plane-tree-shaded tea garden in front of the mosque as well as a summer-only restaurant. It all gets very busy at weekends and over Turkish school holidays. At other times it will be silent. 

Sleeping

On the whole the Soma sleeping scene is pretty basic. Only the La Bella arises to any stars but it's quite a way out from the centre. 

La Bella Hotel. Tel: 0236-614 1020

Otel Arslanlar. Tel: 0236-612 8500

Transport info

There are half-hourly buses to Soma from Bergama where they leave from the Köy Garaj in the old town.

There are also regular buses to Manisa and to Akhisar where you can connect for buses to Salihli (Sardis).

Although there is also a station at Soma it's 3km from the town centre (along Atatürk Caddesi served by city buses) and there are only a handful of services a day. 

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