Sports in Turkey for both men and women have taken on a different look over the past couple of decades or so.
Nearly everyone knows that Turks love both playing and watching soccer. Basketball is also popular. Gyms are everywhere in the major urban areas. Indoor pools are becoming more common but are generally only found in major hotels and gated communities. Some tennis courts are available for a fee. Turks are becoming more aware of health; some even jog. Jogging has become popular in recent years in urban areas, particularly among the middle and upper classes. You see some motorcycling, bicycling and roller blading around.
Sports of the elite: Skiing is possible during the winter months at Uludağ near Bursa, Kartalkaya near Bolu, in Erzurum and Antalya. Facilities are expensive and crowded at weekends.
Another sport for the elite is golf. If you like to play golf, there are some country clubs on the outskirts of İstanbul, or golf resorts near Antalya. There is now one located in Söke-Kuşadası.
Back in 1981, I remember meeting an American man living in Turkey who said he had obtained his work permit by designing golf courses. When I heard this I thought, “That beats teaching any day!”
I lived a few of my childhood years in a resort town called Hot Springs, Arkansas, on the shores of Lake Hamilton. It was a great place to live as a child. The city has many fun attractions and indoor/outdoor activities. Anyone who loves water sports and golf and horse racing and spas could be entertained for days. The city has three lakes and is situated at the foothills of the Ozark Mountains. It is a haven for nature lovers. There are just a few places in Turkey that remind me of Hot Springs.
Since the early 1980s Turkey has become a hot spot for golf tourism. Golf is for the privileged. It is an expensive sport here due to the cost of upkeep of the greens in a hot climate.
Belek is a popular tourist attraction. It is considered one of the centers of Turkey’s tourism industry and offers special packages for golfing holidays. The Ministry of Tourism claims to attract tourists from all over the world, and hosts numerous golf tournaments throughout the year. The Belek area has other interesting sites. You can see the Kurşunlu Waterfall, which boasts over 100 bird species. Not too far away is the Hellenistic city of Perge and the nearby Aspendos amphitheater, which holds 15,000 spectators. Tour guides say that the ancient Roman ruins of Perge are some of the best preserved archaeological sites in the country.
While visiting the Kuşadası area this past week, I came across a new golf spa resort that just opened on May 19. This is a special date in Turkey. It is known as Youth and Sports Day (Gençlik Bayramı). This commemorates the day Atatürk landed in Samsun to organize the revolution and start the War of Independence. On this date every year every sports arena hosts a parade of children and young people. There are folk dancing and sporting displays, and speeches commemorating Atatürk and the nation. This is a huge celebration in the city of Samsun, of course, where a whole neighborhood and also the university are called “19th May.” Flags hang everywhere across the country, and the usual commemorations take place in town squares. It seemed to me an appropriate date to open.
Belek may have some competition in the future as just outside Soke-Kusadası is a new golf spa community resort. Kuşadası International Golf course claims to be the only 18-hole championship golf course on the Aegean Sea. It is located near a national park and has stunning views of sea and park. The clubhouse offers both Turkish food and international cuisine. While you eat dinner you can enjoy a beautiful sunset over the forest and across the Aegean Sea.
In my next piece I will share some information about a popular sport that dates back to the Ottoman Empire, at a time when Edirne was the capital.
By the way, the motto of the newly opened golf course resort is inviting! “Come as our guest and live as one of our family.”
Note: Charlotte McPherson is the author of “Culture Smart: Turkey” 2005. Please keep your questions and observations coming: I want to ensure this column is a help to you, Today’s Zaman’s readers. Email: [email protected]