The 637th annual Kirkpinar

We just returned from Edirne, a town bordering both Greece and Bulgaria, where we attended the 637th-annual Kirkpinar – the olive-oil-wrestling competition.  People aged 5 to 50 had oil poured all over themselves in the 95-degree heat and wrestled with each other in a small stadium, two at a time, single-elimination, until one was left standing.  (If nobody’s pinned to the grass after 40 minutes, they declare a victor on points).  There are weight-divisions.  It’s really fun when somebody sticks their hand down another guy’s pants (no grabbing by the balls) and picks him up and flips him.  Lots of people being carried out on stretchers.  People writhing around not because of broken bones but because having olive oil drip into your eyes burns so damn much.  There were maybe ten thousand people inside the stadium; at least a dozen of them were women (that dozen included Elif).  The mountainous gentleman occupying the seat next to me was a former wrestler. He demonstrated some holds on me. I can still feel them in my shoulders as I type this.

By far, the greatest attraction of Kirkpinar is the festivities outside of the stadium. Thousands of Gypsies were camping and dancing to the Zurna – which sounds like an oboe on steroids run though a megaphone and plugged into a Marshall amp. Drums beat constantly in the camp outside, which even could be heard inside of the stadium, providing a fearsome noise-backdrop to the whole event.

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