Places I’ve Lived #20 – Manisa, Turkey

Throne of PelopsWe went to Manisa on our honeymoon and since I’d blogged my way out of a pretty good job in Fez, I turned it into a job interview with a school there. I’d been emailing the director and he had said to come anytime and he would show us around. So we did.

The bus ride there from Istanbul was long and beautiful. We passed mountains and streams and finally came to a city with a large mountain behind it. It felt good to me. I called the director and he gave us directions.

We got to the school and met with the director. Manisa is primarily a business city and so it doesn’t have all the cheap or luxurious options for travelers that other cities in Turkey have. Otel Emirhan was fine and offered us a/c, television, breakfast, wi-fi, hot water showers, and a decent bed in a clean room. Once we had settled in a bit, we went to a great little cafe where we met with a second director from a different school.

I  had the interviews, but we both ended up getting jobs at the school with the second director! We moved to Manisa, Turkey!

There were plenty of shops, movie theaters (that even sometimes have films in English), big green parks, a beautiful old mosque, and a lively souk filled with fresh fruits and vegetables, cheese, and more. Manisa is also home to the famous “Tarzan of Manisa”

It’s  in the mountains, has plenty of hiking nearby, wild horses, it’s a 30-minute bus ride from the beach city of Izmir, and in ancient times Manisa was where Turkish Sultan’s used to undergo their Sultan Training. Furthermore, Manisa was named one of the best cities to do business in for all of Europe. So,it all seemed pretty great to us.

We went back to Morocco for two weeks and then I returned to Manisa. I was there for almost two months before my wife came to join me. The school was good. I loved my students and I got along well with all the other teachers and the directors. They helped me get a residence permit, a bank account, and to get all the things I needed. When my wife arrived, things got more complicated. Since she was Moroccan, it was more difficult to get her a residence permit. She felt like the school was cheating her. Our relationship with the directors and some of the other teachers took an adversarial turn.

She had to make a visa run to renew her visa so I booked her a flight to Morocco. Then we found out she was pregnant. She wanted to take two weeks to a month back in Morocco but was needed in classes. I was suddenly feeling like papa bear and things turned ugly when they wouldn’t agree to let her have the time off. I felt like it was important – it was Christmas and she was pregnant – she needed to be with her mom. They threatened to fire her. I gave them an ultimatum that if she couldn’t have the time off, they would have to fire me too. So they did.

She flew home and I started looking for a new job and a new place to live since I’d been renting our apartment from the school. I loved Manisa but figured I would have more luck and a better life in nearby Izmir.

Manisa, Turkey – Ancient Tantalus and Magnesia

The ancient name of Manisa was Magnesia, the name comes from the magnets which come from Sypil mountain, also known in ancient times as Tantalus. The entire mountain is, in fact, one huge magnet. Stories of magnetic gold being found here, and stories of the Olympian Gods struggling with humans also come from this amazing mountain.

Cities here date back as far as 5000 BC and some researchers have postulated that it was a highly advanced city on Sypil that was swallowed into a great lake during a large earthquake. The great lake no longer exists, except as a minor body of water, but geologic evidence shows that there was one, it did exist, and there is some evidence to show that this was actually the site of a civilization of which we know very little. What was the name of this city?
Atlantis. And of course, with stories growing and changing it is more than likely that from a relatively advanced civilization being destroyed in a large lake that the story could grow to a continent sinking into a sea. Not unlikely at all.

Atlantis in Turkey
Tantalus was named after the first King of this region. Tantalus, the son of Zeus. Keep in mind that Homer came from the nearby city of Izmir and he is the first one to write of ‘magnets’ in historical records.
It should also be mentioned that many of the sages of ancient Ionia said that the word magnet actually meant spirit. And the name Sipylos comes from greek and means ‘Gate of the Gods’.

Tantulaus in Manisa

What am I doing here? Manisa #2

The life of a solo traveler can be great, but I have to admit I’m very happy that my wife has arrived. Suddenly this house doesn’t feel empty and today, Sunday, we set out for a nice walk through our new hometown of Manisa, Turkey.
After a late morning and some pancakes for breakfast, we set out walking just to see a little bit of Manisa together. Of course, I’ve already had plenty of long walks in Manisa, so I took us in the general direction of some things I wanted her to see and to see for myself.
We strolled through Fatih park, past the statue of Tarzan of Manisa (still with a broken arm) and then up past the mosques where I told her about Mesir, the spicy candy for which Manisa is quite famous.
The museum of Manisa is still closed for renovations, so we couldn’t go in, but we did get a peek in the courtyard and saw quite an astounding number of Roman, Greek, and Lydian sculptures.
Kids playing in Sypil Mountain From there we strolled towards the signs that point the direction to Sypil Mountain Park and Niobe (which I will talk about tomorrow for Manisa Monday). Manisa is really an amazing place. It has one of the only protected forest parks in all of Turkey, there are hot springs in the mountains, it has a huge number of historical buildings, ruins, and structures, and it is clean, beautiful, and safe. On top of that it has a thriving Industrial Free Trade Zone, plenty of agriculture, and friendly warm people. So, with all of that, why isn’t Manisa a tourist draw?
Simple. Manisa sits surrounded by the cities of the Aegean Coast, the ruins of Sardis and Ephesus are close enough to draw historical tourists, and the city of Izmir is a metropolis seaside playground. If Manisa were not surrounded by so much, it would be one of the top places in Turkey.
View of Manisa Of course, the way things stand, I like this kind of city. It’s why I prefer Bellingham to Seattle, Kailua to Honolulu, and Sefrou to Fes. Everything you could want and the shitty tourists get drawn into the surrounding vortex zones.
Anyway, we took a small hike up into the mountains and were astounded by the quick change in environment from urban to wilderness. A herd of goats sat on a steep mountainside, they were too far away to tell if they were wild or domestic.
Manisa is beautiful.
From the mountain we strolled along the high road taking in the view and seeing the more traditional way of life when one gets outside of the city center. Sadly, what you would expect was true, the poorer areas had more garbage which probably translates to less government services like garbage pick up. Still, people looked generally happy and healthy. Manisa Turkey is Fun
We saw three little guys riding a tiny tricycle down a steep hill and about twenty older guys taking turns riding a mule two at a time. We found a couple of cafes which offered stunning views of the city and then hiked back down through the city center to my favorite restaurant (so far) Konya Mutfagi. I had the pide (Turkish pizza) and Hanane had the chicken wings. Lucky for me, she liked the food too, so we can keep eating there. For both of us the total was 20 lira which included pide, salad, chicken wings, two sodas, two waters, and tea. That translates to about $13 which is a pretty great price for such a delicious meal.
From there, it was time to go home. The house, as I said before, actually feels like a home now that Hanane is here and despite the fact that I thought it was pretty clean, she insisted on cleaning it again and I can see the difference easily.
Hiking in Manisa
Yeah, it’s nice to have her here. To hear the television, to have the Arabic conversations with her family going on in the living room (via Skype) and to be able to play and explore together.
Tomorrow, I will tell about Manisa’s patron saint of remorse. Niobe.

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