Here is the thing about horseracing and me. There is no great passion on my behalf. I do not bet, follow jockeys, go to the tracks and I have never ridden a horse either. However, I like to keep an open mind in Turkey and experience everything at least once. Therefore, when a group trip was arranged to visit the Izmir horse track, I decided to tag along with a group of friends.
Before I tell the story, you need to know about this group of friends. I am not sure that they would be happy for me to mention their names so for the sake of this article, we shall call them “The Gang”. The gang which obviously includes me, enjoy exploring, especially the places that are not your average tourist destination. Wherever we go, we try our best to blend in with the locals but for some unknown reason, it never happens.
The last such scenario was the camel-wrestling event, of which I ended up playing in the village band. People were more interested in us, than they were watching the camels. The gang, consisting of males and females, often end up becoming the centre of attention. There could be a number of reasons for this.
1 : We are the only foreigners present at that event, and end up becoming the object of curiosity.
2 : We are the only women at that event
3 : We spend copious amounts of money on alcohol so vendors love us and give us VIP status.
4 : A combination of all of the above
Izmir horse racing was a combination of all of the above and despite all attempts to blend in; it went wrong from the start.
Izmir Horse Racing Track
Having arrived at the horse track too early, we decided to head somewhere for refreshments. The café we found was full of men, studying the up and coming races but we were interesting enough for everyone to stop and stare at us, when we walked in the door.
I argued that we were the centre of attention because my friend is a pure blonde-haired person and it was admiration from potential suitors. Everyone else argued that it was because we had ordered a full table of beer at 11am in the morning. You see, the locals were drinking tea and for a vendor to make a sizeable profit, he has to sell quite a few, hence the VIP treatment that we often receive when a full table orders many rounds of alcohol.
A misunderstanding in language also meant that my friend ended up with a bottle of Raki instead of a glass. Throughout the day, we became used to the stares and random conversations of where we were from. Even if we had tried hard to blend in, it was just not going to happen.
The Horse Races
So, I would love to tell you that I am now an expert when it comes to Izmir horse track, but I am not. I never knew how to place a bet in the UK so trying to place a bet in another language just proved too much for me. I handed money over to my friend and she did everything for me. I can say though that we did not win anything.
Due to a lack of excitement on my behalf as to who actually won the race, I spent most of the day just sticking my camera in every possible direction. When entering the track, you are searched for security reasons. The guards looked at my camera and told me to head to the Media office for a pass. After wondering around and eventually finding the media office, I was told that I did not need one, so I cannot tell you the policy on photos either!
All I can tell you about is the general routine of the day. Look at the horses while they are paraded in the paddock and pretend that you know what is considered “good form”. Go and place your bet by widely taking a stab in the dark as to who the winner will be, watch the race and then repeat the process all over again, until the last race has taken place or you have run out of money.
Re women – besides the women in the gang, there were others at the track but we were definitely in the minority. Add that to the fact that we were foreigners and we also keeping the café vendor very happy with our purchases of alcohol. Well, that is your lesson on how NOT to blend in with the locals. On our next trip out, the gang will once again try to blend in with the locals but I get the feeling that we will never quite succeed.