Yesterday was Cumhuriyet Bayramı (Republic Day) in Turkey and in Fethiye, there was a party atmosphere. People gathered throughout the day around the new town square which now boasts a large statue of Atatürk (the founder of the Turkish Republic). Families clambered up the steps to the top of the statue to have their photos taken, and Turkish flags were waved, draped and worn. In Fethiye, Cumhuriyet Bayramı is a day of unabashed national pride.
In many towns and cities, the local council organises a short torchlight procession through the area, often lead by a band. Fethiye was no different. While sitting at home in the afternoon, we saw an update online about the procession so decided to head up into the centre to see what was happening.
As we walked along the harbour, we saw the Fethiye Belediyesi Ottoman Band outside the culture centre. We recognised them straight away – they’ve had a busy time of late, also performing at the recent Ölü Deniz Airgames. They were just setting off for the Tuesday marketplace, where the procession was leaving from, so we tagged along at the back. We guessed they were going to be this year’s leaders of the procession.
We had no idea what to expect as we reached the marketplace – maybe a solemn atmosphere if it was to be a torchlight procession? And what form would these torches take? Well that was soon answered as a pick-up truck arrived, packed with foil-tipped sticks. They were handed out – fantastically quickly – on a first-come-first-served basis and before we knew it, the whole square was aglow.
It was an amazing yet serene sight; hundreds of people holding orange flames aloft, waiting to be lead from the square by the band. And as for the atmosphere, any ideas of solemnity were quickly corrected. Smiles, families, groups of friends, photos snapped and videos being recorded.
And then the drums began to beat, the band began to play and the torches slowly filed out through the marketplace and into the street. The beat of the drums became more distant and eventually, the flames disappeared round the corner and out of sight. The previously glowing marketplace was left in darkness and we headed back to the harbour as a group of motorcyclists, bikes decked in Turkish flags, sped down the road, beeping their horns, many of them on their back wheel.
A most agreeable ending to this year’s extended bayram festivities in Fethiye.