Friday 31 December 2010

Turkish Sports - Camel Wrestling

It's not what you think. Besides, I'm not sure a man would stand a chance against an angry camel. No, this is the winter pass-time of pitching two dromedaries against each other in a fight to the ...flee.

It's not as bad as it sounds. Camels are fairly passive creatures. This isn't like cock or dog fighting. This is the blood sport equivalent of two kids shoving each other in the playground until one runs crying to the teacher.

So how do you get a camel fired up and ready to rumble? You show it a lady camel, of course. Two males watch a female being paraded in front of them. They froth at the mouth and a fight ensues. A similar scene can be found in bars up and down the country.

The real attraction of a camel fight for the spectators is the copious consumption of alcohol. The nudging camels are nothing compared to the fighting in the stands. Men wearing the traditional flat caps and scarves binge on the fruits of an open grill whilst quaffing raki. The real excitement comes from drunken spectators scrambling to avoid the hooves of fleeing camels. Fun for the whole family (as long as your an adult male).

Thursday 30 December 2010

Songs About Turkey #5

And the Band Played Waltzing Matilda - Eric Bogle

I first heard this performed by The Pogues at the end of another manic album. A spectacular song written by Eric Bogle. It tells the story of an Australian soldier being shipped off to Gallipoli.

I wont go into the detail of the war; that deserves a much longer post. All I will say is that it's not something we learnt much about at school in the UK. We were told it was the greatest retreat in British military history and that was about all.

It is, however, a subject Turks like to remind me about and tell me their version of events. I think both sides agree that it was one of the biggest fuck-ups in British Military history. A war filled with bad luck, communication, timing, strategy, reasoning and execution.

I watched a documentary in Turkish with my cousin and uncle. Not understanding the commentary, I looked to my cousin to pause and translate from time-to-time. He often paused just to laugh at the comedic incompetence of the allied strategy.

One story I remember vividly... Anzac troops take two weeks to finally clear and mount a strategic point on a hill at the cost of hundreds of lives. Finally reaching the top, allied ships see them, think they're Turks and bomb them. It's something from the pen of Mel Brooks.

Anyway, here is the song sung by Mr.Bogle himself. Take a moment to think of the thousands who lost their lives and remember the quote of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk:
"Those heroes that shed their blood and lost their lives.
You are now lying in the soil of a friendly country. Therefore rest in peace.
There is no difference between the Johnnies and the Mehmets to us where they lie side by side here in this country of ours.
You the mothers who sent their sons from far away countries wipe away your tears. Your sons are now living in our bosom and are in peace.
Having lost their lives on this land they have become our sons as well"

Wednesday 29 December 2010

Turkish Sports - Oil Wrestling

Leather chaps with metal studding and muscular men dripping in oil and sweat could only be one thing. Somewhere between Smackdown and a rub-down, we find the ancient sport of Turkish Oil Wrestling. Though, at first glance, it may appear akin to a street brawl in Soho, this challenging feat of endurance takes strength and stamina.

Not being particularly au fait with the rules and regulations, I decided to do a little research.

Thanks to the work of Dr. Donald Stewart Miller, I found more than enough facts, puns, double meanings and homosexual references to write this article.

"The Kirkpinar (“Forty Springs”) in Edirne, Turkey is the annual world series of Yağlı Gűreş (greasy wrestling), the Turkish national sport." (I'm not sure I would class it as Turkey's national sport, but anyway...).

Wrestlers are divided into thirteen categories:

  1. Chief wrestler
  2. Under chief (sometimes literally)
  3. Big medium (my shirt size)
  4. Small big medium (sorry, what?)
  5. Small medium small (OK, forget it)
  6. Supporting big size (braggers)
  7. Supporting medium size (most of us)
  8. Supporting small size (it's what you do with it that counts)
  9. Kickers of the dust (the wrestling equivalent of window lickers)
  10. Encourager (they don't need any encouragement)
  11. Small and sweet 2 (hardly a title for WWF)
  12. Small and sweet 1
  13. Best beginners

It is said that true wrestlers should have been rolling around in oil from the ages of seven to seventy. Today, ages usually range from twelve to forty ...though, that would seem a slightly unfair match should they ever be pitched against each other.

"Each fighter wears a kispet, sturdy leather trunks from the waist to below the knees." Worn to cover their nudity, according to Dr. Miller as "an act of male modesty commanded by Mohammed".

"He also wraps coarse cloths around his knees in order to block the opening of the cuffs against his opponent’s probing fingers. The writing in metal studs on his butt indicates his name or his sponsoring club, usually his home town."

The bout is won by pinning the opponent to the floor. Once decided, "often winner and loser will walk off the field together arm in arm". Sweet.

Not surprisingly, googling 'Turkish oil wrestling' produces a fairly healthy number of gay results. There are even tours organised to go to the rather conservative Kirkpinar for a weekend of group man on man action:

"Oil Wrestling Traditional Festival is a unique and 1500 years old festival. This is the festival where the strongest and helathiest men from all over Turkey come together and wrestle which form up a very "sensual" scenery. The world was ruled by Ottoman Empire from the event hometown city of Edirne for 100 years. You will discover this beautiful city and also the city of Istanbul in a very gay environment."

Good luck with that, chaps.

To prove that Turkish oil wrestling is far from gay, I've put together a short video:

Turkish Oil Wrestling - definitely not gay.

Monday 13 December 2010

Arse About Fez gets a Christmas No.4!!!

I love the Turkish Travel Blog. It's official. In fact, I thought I couldn't love it more. And then I see they've got me listed in their Top Ten Turkish Blogs list. So now my love is bordering on creepy.

Thank you very much!

Monday 6 December 2010

Songs About Turkey #4

Telephone call from Istanbul - Tom Waits

My all time favourite drunk crooner. Self-claimed to have a voice like "Ethel Merman and Louis Armstrong meeting in hell", this is a track from his 1987 album "Frank's Wild Years". I'm not really sure what it's about but I like it ...and it mentions Istanbul. Enjoy.