Skip to content

Time-Travel Turkey

Turkey is a palimpsest of civilizations, piled like the layers of shale that surround the farmland of the Agean coast. You could discover its past by visiting ancient ruins, but may instead want to time travel to the living, breathing gathering places of Turkey’s farming communities.

You need only take a local dolmus (bus) from Selcuk to the massive market at Side, to find the modern agora of the local farming communities of the Bozdagler Mountains. Sickles, spades and scythes pour across the street vendor tables; this is still a land worked by the salty sweat of women, men and real horsepower. Nothing for sale at these tables needs batteries or cables, only nails and sharpening stones. From massive piles of green onions and red peppers, to meagre offerings of olive oil in reused pop bottles and foraged chestnuts, no vendor here is turned away. This is the day for everyone to do their shopping, get their pants hemmed, shoes cobbled, harnesses fixed and (most importantly) catch up on local gossip.

Surveying selections of individually picked grape leaves, eggs and figs, displayed in hand woven baskets garnished with wreathes of aromatic jasmine, I wandered, happily lost under the red awnings which poured a dusty glow onto the faces and headscarves of the shoppers. Just as my stomach started to grumble the market yielded a cheese stall, offering ayran, (a Turkish drink of yoghurt and salt water) and tulum (a soft, creamy and pungent cheese, ripened in the skin of a goat). Distracted by all of these dairy treats, I almost stepped on a pop bottle full of leeches which were displayed in the middle of the street. Apparently bloodletting is still quite popular here, though I declined the invitation to try one on myself, waiting for the more appealing options of lace scarves and hand-knit slippers.

Could this be what life was like 100 or 1,000 years ago? Could these be the sounds, smells and tastes that once flooded the ancient Agora of Ephesus? The market at Side captures the ephemeral elements of life that cannot be dug up or restored: the voices of local men, women and children, and a web of interactions and interwoven lives that flow seamlessly through generations back to ancient times. It’s a trip worth taking, in space and in time.

Mara Munro is a travel writer and yoga teacher settling for flights instead of time machines for the time being. Contact her to share your own favourite trips back in time.

The market at Side captures the ephemeral elements of life that cannot be dug up or restored.

Destination Details