A Tale in Red: Family, Friends, and one of the Seven Churches of Asia in the book of Revelations.

Another day in Akhisar. It was time to find out more about the region and the city. My Turkish was now good enough that I could begin by considering the two parts of the city’s name: Ak and Hisar. Ak means ‘white’ in Turkish, and Hisar is ‘fortress’, so Akhisar means ‘White Fortress’. While I was discovering such little curiosities about the city, Firat and I were heading to the centre, where we could see some ruins.

The remains of the ancient town of Thyatira were there. I could touch, walk in, and try to imagine  what the city was like in 3000 BC. Located in the Lydia region, Thyatira had begun life as an outpost to protect the region against invasions in the 7th century BC. Later, during ancient times, it became a busy trade centre at the intersection of important roads from Pergamum, Sardis, and Ephesus to Constantinople (Istanbul).and is thought to be one of the first places where money came into general use.

Thyatira remained important; it was mentioned in the New Testament of the bible, in the book of Revelations, as the location of one of the Seven Churches of Asia.  In 214 AD, the Roman Emperor Caracalla promoted the city to be an administrative centre. Thyatira then flourished and became a metropolis, and its trading importance continued throughout the medieval period.

There are many interesting historical sites and artefacts:

Tomb of the State Hospital  in the city centre where there are some Hellenistic ruins. Archaeologists believe that this was the location ofThyatira’s acropolis.

The tapemezari consists of the ruins of an ancient building complex located in the town centre. Probably, it was the entrance to one of the largest buildings in the acropolis.

Akhisar’s coinage. Initially, Thyatira minted coins bearing the images of Apollo and Artemis; later the coins bore the images of Roman emperors, local governors, and city administrators.

Plateia Petra (Sahin Kaya – Falcon Rock). This is a high rock in the Eastern part of the city, and there are the ruins of a fortress here. The location, and the remains, indicate that it was both defensive and a lookout structure. To access the Falcon Rock, you need to climb an ancient 3050 step stairway, carved into the rock–not an easy task!

Lydian tombs can be seen beside the road to Gölmarmara.

The Great Mosque, is based on a more ancient building, converted into a mosque in the 15th century. There aren’t  much information about the building.

The Jewish graveyard, synagogue and school.

From the visit to Thyatira, our next stop was more personal: Firat’s grandmother’s house. Cemile (pronounced “Jemile”) was an old lady, with a serious face, calloused hands, and no smile on her lips . She had been sad ever since her husband died a few years earlier. She still feels his absence deeply. Fırat commented that she had been complaining about pains and feeling ill all the time; I suggested that it might be her way of getting attention and affection from her beloved grandson.

That day, Cemile was happy to see Firat, but when she saw me behind him, her face changed. I saw a suspicious look in her eyes. Firat introduced me as someone who was working with him on a book. After he explained, in detail, the book project, and why he saw it as something important, she relaxed and welcomed me into her home.

After some tea and sweets, Firat asked if I minded us taking Cemile to the cemetery. “Every Friday my grandmother goes to visit my grandfather’s tomb, but today she’s missed the minibus that takes people to the cemetery. She is so happy we’re here and have a car.” I smiled and said it was ok by me. It would be interesting to visit a Muslim cemetery.

Cemile guided Firat through the maze of cemetery paths. Leaving the car in the shade of a tree, we went to Firat’s grandfather’s tomb. It was a simple stone rectangular box filled with earth, with a simple tombstone. No writing, no images, only flowers growing around it. Cemile pointed to the tomb next to it. “It’s for her, when she dies.” Firat told me. “She is anxious to be with her husband again.”

We left Cemile so she could have her traditional conversation with her husband, tears rolling down her face, and prayers coming from her mouth. Firat guided me to a region in the cemetery where soldiers, killed while fighting for their motherland, were buried. Each grave had a tombstone with the soldier’s name, his rank, and the Turkish flag painted on it. Firat explained to me that they were the “Sons of Akhisar.”

After giving Cemile a lift home, Firat invited me to have a Turkish coffee. The place was a bar, decorated in modern style, but the delicacies and beverages served were typically Turkish. I enjoyed my coffee in silence, observing Firat as he looked out through the windows. Suddenly, the silence was broken… He was saying that his parents had invited us to a late lunch. More food was waiting for me.

The place was a kind of steakhouse, serving meat, salad, and bread. I had had meals in many different steakhouses in the world– USA, Chile, Argentina, Mexico, France, the UK, but the Turkish style was very different. The meat came on small skewers and was served with salad, white rice, and bread. Fırat’s mother insisted that I had to eat liver (again!); as a guest, I couldn’t refuse. Another sacrifice to the good of my project…

After the meal, Zeki (Firat’s dad) invited us to walk along the river bank, but not only to walk…we stopped to buy some beers (Efes) and a cola (what they call Coke) and then continued to the place they usually go when Fırat or Serhat (Firat’s brother) visit the city. Firat told me that they often went fishing there, and took beers, nuts, and cigarettes to make an occasion of it.  It was cold– freezing, if I’m honest – but I tried to enjoy the time we were having together, with a cold beer bottle in my hand, the wind in my face, and the proud parents cherishing their son.

We said goodbye after about an hour. Returning to the hotel, we had a good rest. The next morning we were going to be back on the road…

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