Side II

Antique Side town from the sand dunes

Today was a beautiful day; after yesterday’s white-grey cloudy mugginess, this morning was fresh and blue, with a strong wind blowing off the ocean. Big white cumulous clouds rolled across the sky from the sea, moving quickly over the beach and off to the hills in the distance. I rode my bike down the sandy track across the sand dunes, parked it next to a metal pole on the beach and walked along the edge of the water, dodging the waves kicked up by the raging wind. The surf was high and big rollers crashed into shore, much to the joy of several young guys who were frolicking in the water.

Later, I rode further down the sand track along the beach towards Side’s old town. Next to the ruins were two men with an old beat-up truck from which they were selling freshly squeezed orange juice. I stopped for a glass, next to an umbrella under which four camels sat eyeing me. Two English tourists opted for a ride and the handler helped them on and led them off through the sand dunes. Every once and a while, the two remaining camels emitted low moans and snorts at the passing crowd. I have no idea whether camels actually are quite intelligent but these certainly seemed so. I love their profiles.

After a bit of time examining the government agora ruins, I rolled into town and down some of the back streets looking at the wares for sale. I paused briefly in the Ataturk Square next to the harbour to watch the crowd drift by, then made my way back again through another series of back streets.

On my ride back to the ranch I noticed that more of the extensive ruins in Side have been uncovered and cleaned up. Sponsored by the Barut Hotel chain, people are in the process of excavating still further in and around the forum, Roman baths and theatre. The man from whom I rented my bike told me that the Fire of Anatolia show I’d seen in Side’s wonderful antique theatre two years ago no longer plays here because it’s too damaging to the structure of the building – too bad because it was a marvelous spectacle. “Fire” has been moved to the new Aspendos Arena, down the road from the ancient theatre. However, the International Opera and Ballet Festival in Aspendos Antique Theatre is still going on this year, although who knows for how much longer because the same problem exists there, of course. I hope to be able to catch either Aida or Giselle in that venue before I leave Turkey.

I went back to the beach in the afternoon and sunned myself on a lounge chair, after having enjoyed the huge waves that were still rolling into shore. I was reminded, watching people play in the big surf on beaches without lifeguards, of the number of Turks who die by drowning every year. As I lay on my lounger, I could watch gigantic cumulous clouds form, seemingly almost instantly, above my head and then disappear across the sky just about as fast. Back at the apartment once again, I did some laps in the pool before making myself an omlette for dinner. I had forgotten, because I hardly ever swim in pools anymore, that I am allergic to chlorine – it makes me congested and sneezy – so after every time I swim I take a decongestant.

Later that evening, after an omelette with my favourite green roka (Seray told me that this green plant is the secret to good health and a long life – who knew that the fountain of youth was actually a plant growing wild in Turkey) and mushrooms, I once again boarded my bicycle and rode down along the beach track to take some photos of the amazing early evening sky. An Englishman I had been chatting to on the beach earlier had told me that tonight was the last evening of the Children’s Festival and that there would be a performance on a harbourside stage at 8. So, as usual, I was early and nothing much was happening harbourside at 8, except a man in a gigantic bunny rabbit costume teasing kids. I decided to have a glass of wine at the Fiesta Tapas Bar and Turkish Restaurant (yes, an interesting culinary combination) overlooking the harbour and stage so I could catch the action on disc. Note: even though the restaurant billed itself as a tapas bar, there were no tapas on the menu, and no Mexican specialties at all that I could identify; the only evidence of something “Mexican” was a bad mural painted on the wall of a sombrero and Mayan figure. When I asked the waiter about the “daily tapas special”, he just looked at me with a black stare – no tapas to be had at the tapas restaurant. After having looked at the menu, and seen that the prices were extortionate, I had a bowl of chicken soup and a glass of wine while I watched the bunny rabbit and waited for the show to begin. The wind was whipping through the palm trees, the waves were crashing against the harbour rocks, and large dark cumulous clouds were massing in the sky above as the minutes passed. At some point, when the sky looked like it would pour, someone must have decided that the show was over before it had even begun and the children and rabbit marched away again. Maybe tonight … (Note: the chicken soup was excellent)

See pictures here.

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