Mersin is a city of about 800.000 people, and Turkey’s biggest Mediterranean port is located here. Temperatures are warm (not hot) and very pleasant. I’m not sure I’ve actually found the city center, but the area I’ve spent most time in today (between the hotel and the sea) has everything I needed: plenty of opportunities to eat Turkish staples and drink tea, a fruit and vegetable market, hair dressers, etc.

Speaking of hair dressers, I finally found a theme for my trip(s): Going to a barber in each country I visit. I’ve been to one in almost every country so far (Slovakia, Romania, and Iraq are missing) but failed to describe most of my experiences here. Now it’s almost too late, but I’ll try anyway and start with today’s Turkish barber.

He started with the obvious cutting of hair and beard, then asked if I wanted the hair on my cheekbones removed. I’d seen that previously at a different barber, it’s a procedure that reminded me a bit of having one’s teeth flossed. I agreed, and I got more than I had bargained for. He put a ‘natural mask’ onto my face and after removing it he waxed cheekbones, nose, nostrils, and earlobes! Then he used yarn(?), both hands, and his teeth to remove any remaining hair below my eyes. Interesting indeed. Got a quick shoulder and arm massage as well. This was certainly one of the more elaborate hair cuts.

Later I tried tantuni, a regional speciality. A lady sitting there at a table next to mine started a chat, but the language barrier prevented us from doing any serious talking. She shared her roasted pumpkin seeds and peanuts with me, however. I tried myself at the art of opening the former with the teeth without crushing the whole thing, but didn’t quite succeed.

At another place I had künefe, a dessert the region (as in the Arab-influenced Near East) is well-known for.

In the hotel lobby I met two men from Cloppenburg, about 60km from my home town Bremen. They are of Turkish descent but live in Germany since 30 years and are here on vacation. They were curious about my trip and we chatted for a few minutes. At the end they said: “If you need any help, we are there for you.” I have encountered this kind of friendliness and readiness to help everywhere in the Caucasus and the Middle East throughout my trip. It is an amazing thing that has gone missing in the West.
I wonder if they had offered the same had we met in Cloppenburg or Bremen and not in Mersin.

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