The Worlds oldest Whirling Dervish and a Turkish bath
afyon Travel Blog› entry 528 of 658 › view all entries
People i met here who contributed to, and improved my trip: Emre, Akif, Burcak, Sinem, Akif and Pinar (Turkey), Christina (Lithuania), Patriycja (Poland)
My first impressions of Afyon were not the greatest. The bus terminal is located in the middle of nowhere and coupled with gloomy, cold weather, i wondered whether i should even be getting off the bus. On another day and under different circumstances maybe i would have remained on board, but i had a couchsurfing host lined up and i have also come to learn that things aren't always as bad as they might first seem.
I caught a dolmush into the centre (0.75YTL) and exited at Hukumet Meydani, which is the towns central square. I located a phone and called my host Emre, who was nearby and thus came to meet me.
Entering Emre's house for the first time was a little intimidating, as it was bursting with people, some who lived there and some who didn't. As a university student, he shared his house with seven other people; 2 Turks, 4 Poles and a Lithuanian, making it a hub of activity. Trying to remember the names of so many people all at once was impossible, so i did my best to listen to what they called each other and try to imprint them in my brain one by one.
Three of the Polish people were leaving for a holiday to Syria, so that left Emre, Burcak, Sinem, Patriycja, Christina and myself.
On our first evening we bought some vodka and beers and sat in the living room talking until 03.30, which i was warned would be the norm for most nights in the house. To be honest i was happy to have some late nights and lazy mornings, they are something that i throughly adore - although too many and i start to feel a touch guilty and restless.
On Saturday we ate a communal breakfast/lunch and then a group of us decided to go sightseeing in the City. Emre was a good guide and took us to all of the interesting local sights, which included the Imaret Mosque, Imaret Hamami, a crumbling caravanserai and the Mevlevihane Mosque, which is where dervishes have traditionally gathered and now has an interesting Museum attached.
After having our free guided tour around the Whirling Dervish exhibition we were informed that the Worlds oldest living Whirling Dervish was there and that we could visit him if we liked. Of cause we jumped at the opportunity, in Sufism this is a hugely important and respected figure. We ate some Lokum (Turkish Delight) that we were offered and the guide then played the flute for us. Hearing this music made the Dervish begin to cry and he was insistent that he stand up and managed to do one rotation.
By now it was nearly 16.30, so the day was drawing to a close, but we still had time to walk through some attractive streets that were lined with beautiful Ottoman houses, on our way to the steps that led up to Afyon Castle. The climb up to the castle was sweaty work, but the views from the top were wonderful and well worth the effort. After 15 minutes at the summit we were all in agreement that it was time to descend for some Dinner.
When i had originally contacted Emre on couchsurfing, one of his first questions had been 'have you been to a hammam yet?' I hadn't been before for a couple of reasons; firstly it was quite expensive in tourist areas, second i hadn't had anyone to go with and third i found it a bit uncomfortable, to be surrounded by countless fat, sweaty, hairy, naked men. But Emre had told me that Afyon had special thermal waters and he and Akif would accompany me, so it seemed like the perfect opportunity.
Now a Hammam is nothing like i envisaged, mainly because the guys were wearing clothes. It had the feel of a swimming pool more than anything, with shorts the common attire, although i had agreed to dress in the traditional red and white Turkish sarong style covering.
Now how can i describe the guy who was going to clean me? For starters, I'd have to say that theres a movie just waiting to be made out of him. Dressed in just a pair of shorts he had a stomach larger than a pregnant woman, was bald (head) and hairy (body) at the same time, had a love of torture - which he claims was massaging - and wore orange washing up gloves. Now what the fuck is THAT all about!? Hostel 3 has its star.
I lay on the central table and let this man scrub, stretch, rub and rinse me for twenty minutes, which had its nice and nasty moments. As i heard my spine cracking for example, I was assured that the pain i was suffering would all be worthwhile the following day. Easy for him to say, he wasn't the one with a beached whale pressing down on his vertebrae. He also seemed to enjoy exposing my arse for all to see. What could i do, i was a soaped up slithering wreck, talk about taking advantage! By the time he had finished, i had lost several layers of skin and had turned a deep crimson. After toying with the thought of reporting him for assault and indecent exposure, i decided that it wouldn't hold up in court, so instead handed over 20YTL ($12.50) and tried my best not to collapse in a heap.
On Sunday morning i must confess that i did feel reasonably good, but not particularly better than most other days. We sat around the downstairs table and had a communal breakfast, before Emre, Pinar and i decided that we would go to the Phrygian Valley, which was actually the reason why i had come to Afyon in the first place. Originally i wanted to drive around the sites for a day, but the car rental place had told us that the roads would be impassible, so we were opting to just take a dolmush to the nearby village of Ayazini.
The weather really sucked and after waiting for half an hour it began to rain. With no sign of the dolmush, we decided that we'd had enough and returned to the warmth of the house to play Tavla. After Emre gave me a thrashing in the first set, i regained my dignity by winning in the second and we called it an honourable draw.
On Monday i decided that i would once again try to go to Ayazini, but this time i would be on my own. I returned to where we had waited the previous day and waited for an hour, before the guy who had been insisting that this was the right place to stand, came back and told me that there were no minivans from there! I was cold, miserable and tired, so opted to go for a haircut and eat some food, rather than mess around with the frustrating Turkish public transport. In the evening we had another enjoyable communal Dinner and shared a few beers before bed.
On Tuesday i was scheduled to meet up with a couchsurfer in Kutahya, but this wasn't until after 18.00, so i decided to stay in Afyon, even though i had nothing to do.