Being A Local in Mersin, Turkey

Discovering My Best Friends Homecountry

Here is the thing: since my best friends and my friendship has always been based on yearning for each other – we live in different cities – we recently decided to see each other every month – a weekend at either her or my place, an affordable couchsurfing trip to Zurich or our one-week of summer vacation. People always complain about not having the time for this and that. We decided, we have to MAKE the time. So this month I finally got to discover my best friends homecountry Turkey.

2türkeiHer dad’s family is from Mersin which is close to Adana. Mersin is an extremely lively harbor city with around 900.000 inhabitants.

People & Culture
I love to not feel as a tourist but as a guest when I am abroad – yes, I think there is a difference. Since we were staying with my best friends family I was everything else but a tourist. I got the opportunity to discover Mersin together with Locals: cousins, uncles, and friends. All these people would read every single wish from our lips: if I whisper künefe (best turkish dessert) they drive across the whole city to get some künefe. If we want to see cennet cehennem (read below), they bring us there. And even though there is a bus going to the airport, they would never let a girl from Germany go there by herself and would give her a ride. I was constantly asked wheather I like the food, the country, the hospitality. They asked about my family, about my work, about the things I love. 2türkei1türkeiThe turkish culture is a lot about respect. Respecting elders, respecting women, respecting everyone. If you had the image of turkish men having the pants on in the relationship you are absolutely wrong. They might look like the strong authorical men from the outside but if you look behind the scenes it’s the women telling their husbands what to do and how to do it.

3türkeiBut the culture is also about pride. Amca (=uncle) was proud to show us his property as property on such a nutritious ground is the most impotant wealth.
I could go on and on, could tell stories about the turkish education system and about political views but that would be a neverending blogentry.

As we did not have a car we were mostly hanging out in Mersin city. There is so much to see and it is even a joy to just walk and walk around the little streets. People are sitting outside everywhere. Sometimes we took the little bus from A to B which only costs 1,70 TL (= 0,53 €). But you know what’s even better about the bus than it’s cheap price? They stop everywhere, you don’t have to look for ages for the next bus stop. You can just stand on the street and wave – the bus will stop!

One would say it’s not the prettiest city, yes. But it is beautiful in another way. And you will not get bored here, that’s for sure. Life is everywhere. The city is loud, dirty, and packed with people. You see children playing on the streets, salesmen in front of shops, cay-drinking (turkish tee) people, and old men in their storage rooms repairing and selling everything.

türkeiDSCF642212türkeiDSCF6359_Fotor_CollageYou see one kuaför (=coiffeur), weddingdress-shop, and jeweler after the other. You see countless street dogs and cats. You hear honking cars and mofas. You smell orange trees, spices, and heating stoves. You hear the prayer meeting five times a day – and this will most certainly give you a goosebump all over your body.

9türkei 8türkeiDSCF648811türkeitürkeiDSCF6368Apartments are super clean and even have a so-called Salon – a living room which is only used when guests are there. Just like in other southern countries the turkish people have the bad habbit to have their television turned on all day long. But this week would not have been complete without our turkish opra shows at night.

I am telling you one thing and you should take my word: come to Turkey with your suitcase half-empty. This country is an absolute shopping paradise, especially when you are into food and everything that comes along with it. Here is what I bargained and if my suitcase wouldn’t have been too heavy already, this would not be it:
– güvec forms
– tea and spices
– sweets
– jewelery
– coffee equipment
– cooking equipment
– nail polishes and stockings

As you can tell I did not have to worry about Christmas presents at all this year. There are a few addresses you should keep in mind:
çiçek pasajı (a little shopping passage with lots of jewelery, underwear, flowers, etc.)
amerikan pazari (few shopping alleys with electric appliances, cooking utensils, tea, spices, etc.)
– kuvai milliye cd (a street with everything: restaurants, clothes, spices, bank accounts, etc.)

türkeiDSCF6426 türkeiDSCF642822türkei türkeiDSCF6475türkeiDSCF6506türkeiDSCF6505Districts
Our personal hood was the hastane caddasi. Look for the Radisson hotel and you are right there. Seriously, use the Radisson as your compass and you won’t get lost! The street leads to the harbor and is full of life. Walk down the streets, try all the foods, and take in the whole atmosphere there.

The Harbor
At the end of kuvai milliye cd you reach the harbor. We either walked along the harbor or up and down the little streets until we reached pozcu, a more prosperous area.

türkeiDSCF6396 türkeiDSCF6395The young and prosperous pozcu
Kushimoto Sk is in the centre of pozcu district. This is just another street with countless cafés and restaurants. My best friends cousin mentioned this area as the new place to be – kids hang out here after school, meet for waffles or that delicious yogurtli tantuni. This area feels very modern.

IMG_43275türkei türkeiDSCF6436Food
Okay, I love oriental food, that’s for sure. I love turkish food. Dishes like manti and icli köfte have always been on my top food-list. I guess you can imagine my happy face being in this country and being surrounded by all this deliciousness.

25türkeiIMG_4254Our breakfast in Mersin started with baked goods like pogaca, böregi or sikma. They serve olives with it, tursu, and cheese. We always had our lunch outside: tantuni, cig köfte, or lahmacun. Coming home after a long day in the city we then had dishes like topalak, kurd köfte (selfmade), and manti for dinner. Thank you hala(=aunt) for preparing good traditional fare every night. Even better, we prepared it together. For the first time in my life I made my own icli köfte – and made hala (=aunt) extremely proud.

IMG_4229You should not miss out these places:
– gökles tantuni
– waffles
– cig tantuni
– cig köfte

I absolutely love the turkish sweets. I already mentioned my all time favorit-dessert künefe. But the turkish cuisine has way more to offer. Mersin is well-known for cezerye, lokum, and lebele. Try it!26türkeiI have always learned to sit at the table and to not clear the table until the last person is finished. Everything different than that is disrespectful, I thought. Well, it’s not like that in the turkish culture. Since turkish families are very huge they can hardly eat all together. That’s why you stand up right after you are done eating, so another person finds a seat.

Cay (=tea) is very very important for turkish people. They drink it at any time and at any place and even ask you in the store wheather you want cay or coffee while shopping.

türkeiDSCF6384Going to countries like Turkey brings back the real taste of fruits and vegetabels. Why? Because they grow there and taste so much more intense. We twice went to the countryside and could pick oranges, mandarines, lemons, khakis, avocados, grapefruits, and pomegranates from the trees. Imagine to walk around a 900.000 inhabitant city and all you see are orange trees.

Besides going to the countryside, amca (=uncle) brought us to kızkalesi one day. kızkalesi is a little tourism spot about one hour from Mersin. This is where my best friend spent all her summer days back then so I obviously had to see the place behind all those stories. We there walked along the empty beach, which in summer is absolutely crowded. kızkalesi means Mädchenburg. My best friends story to kızkalesis history: snake …

DSCF6445türkeiDSCF6515Afterwards we went to the so-called Cleopatra beach – narlikuyu. The turquoise and unusual cool and fresh water, fed by underground freshwater streams, feels totally different as some parts of your body are freaking cold whereas others are super hot. When coming here you have to stop for lunch at one of the cute fish restaurants right at the bay.

türkeiDSCF6531We then went to cennet cehennem (=heaven and hell): these are two big sinkholes in Mersin province. You reach cennet by climbing down 82 steps. cehennem is a deeper sinkhole of 128 metres.

I love languages. Staying with the turkish family, watching turkish opras every single night, and hanging out with family and friends I got to learn some important bits and bobs. It was too cute to see their faces when I tried to speak turkish. The language is a hard one but it is extremely beautiful, methaporical, and poetic. There are a lot of sayings used in different situations of life. Here are some expressions that might be needed:

hoş geldin – Freude hast Du in mein Haus gebracht (Begrüßung in der eigenen Wohnung)
hoş bulduk – Freude habe ich vorgefunden!
merhaba – Hallo
iyi günler – schönen Tag (beim verabschieden)
iyi akşamlar – schönen Abend (beim verabschieden)
nasılsın → iyim sen? – Wie geht’s Dir? → Gut, Dir?
napyorsun? – Was machst Du?
anladim – ich habe verstanden
tabi tabi – ja ja
teşekkürler/sağol – Danke!
evet – Ja
hayır – Nein
efendim – wie bitte?
yok – Gibts nicht!
belke – vielleicht
bende – ich auch

Zu Tisch
çok güzel – sehr lecker
ellerine sağlik – Dank der Mühe Deiner Hände (zur Köchin)
afiyet olsun – Guten Appetit!
senin ellerinden içerim/yerim – aus Deinen Händen würde ich es trinken/essen (Trinken/Essen aus Höflichkeit annehmen)

yarım elma gönül almak – einen halben Apfel geben, aber das Herz gewinnen (wenn man ein kleines Mitbringsel übergibt)
saatler olsun – mögen Stunden vergehen, bis Du wieder dreckig bist (zu einer aus der Dusche kommenden Person)
gülle gülle kullan – benutze es lachend (bei neu gekauften Dingen)

Locals Top 5
Before I am closing the turkish chapter I want to give a more diverse view of Mersin. That’s why I asked some lovely locals about their favoured places.

2. Atilla
“My favorite place is the marina because of seaside and elite cafes

3. Gül abla
under construction

4. Burcin
under construction


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