Today we headed for Antalya on the south coast.
En route we stopped for another authentic experience, having lunch in a little town whose name I can no longer figure out, but it is renowned for its annual oil wrestling festival. Oil wrestling, I know you’re asking? Of course I’m about to digress.
Oil wrestling, yağlı güreş, is one of the oldest sports in Turkey, the favourite and the national sport, which includes a historic festival with music and lamb barbecue that has been held annually since 1346. Doused in oil, male wrestlers from young novices to trained professionals battle it out for matches that can last for hours. The object of oil wrestling is to get your opponent in a position where his belly button faces the sky, at which point he loses the game. The oil makes things fair, as it’s not about the size or strength of the wrestler but the technique, since both have the disadvantage of being doused in slippery oil.
You may think they look a bit silly:
Here’s another view:
Anyway, back to the little town for lunch. It was Ramadan and services were just ending. Men poured out of the beautiful mosque to walk or ride their bicycles home. Only a couple of restaurants were open and we chose one with several locals inside. We could not communicate using language so they invited us into the kitchen to point out what we would like to eat. There were a lot of men behind the counter; it was likely a family-run cafe. Service was warm and friendly. A bowl of tomato-based spinach and poached egg with rice pilaf on the side made the perfect brunch to be followed with an exotic sour cherry and lemon ice cream cone.
Arriving in the beautiful city of Antalya, we were in for a big treat. This city of 1.5 million feels like a charming village. The bus could not get into the central old town with its narrow streets, so we passed through Hadrian’s gate (a Roman gate dedicated to Emperor Hadrian when he visited the city in 130 AD) and walked to the hotel.
After settling into our stone hotel (a couple of converted old mansions),
we headed out to stroll the narrow streets and medieval buildings.
With some help from locals, we made our way to the ocean, a protected harbour. We walked around the harbour and took an elevator to a viewpoint.
On our way back, we bumped into Murat who told us to sit down and have a drink at a lovely overlooking restaurant rather than go back to the hotel and then walk back. We happily complied and enjoyed our front row view over a glass of wine, followed by a delicious lamb kebob dinner.