Holiday Drive to Mersin
by Fred Moore, February 2006
Holiday drive. This morning we decided to take a drive; it beautiful outside and it's a holiday. We leave the house at 8 a.m. drive out through the village and take E-5 to the east. We're headed for the industrial park at Misis and the autobahn.
I've described this route a number of times but our environment here is ever changing with the agricultural nature of the region. Many fields on our trip today have a number of workers set plastic strips of great lengths. I mean, these sheets of plastic are maybe a meter wide and hundred meters long; they are setting in with dirt along the sides and they're inserting half hoops underneath it to form a green house like effect for the plant that is being set inside. These fields of plastic are very prominent on the drive today. We too, continue to see the movement of migrant camps as the folks move in the area to pick citrus fruit and populate the fields with the miniature green houses.
Since this is Monday, the industrial park is far busier than what we're accustomed to when driving through. The trucks moving throughout the area are numerous and both fully loaded and empty. I was surprised to see that the majority of the trucks were not headed for the autobahn, leading me to believe most were local transit vehicles.
We're now on the autobahn headed west to Posanti a small village at the end of the autobahn in the mountains. The traffic is very sparse, even on this weekday. The scenery to the sides of the highway is very green, we really enjoy this time of year here, as the closer summer marches toward us the more brown things become. The valleys between the vast rolling hills give the impression of golf courses. In this area around Adana the fields of green are primarily grains. At this stage of growth it's difficult to tag the grain as wheat, oats, barley or what ever. Suffice it to say, it simply looks like plush green carpeting. As you lift your view toward the horizon the lush green gives way to the black of the foothills of the mountains. Continue to raise your view and this time of year you see the snowcaps on the mountaintops. These mountains are of course the Taurus chain to the north of the Adana region.
We're now well past Adana still headed west and the autobahn begins to roll with the hills. The landscape too is beginning to shift from fields of grain to more citrus and grapes. The hills are getting far steeper now as well and make a great landscape for vineyards, citrus and small plots of vegetables; we see plenty of lettuce and the occasional cabbage patch.
Here comes our turn off for Posanti; and we've changed our mind, we're go to go on to Mersin on the seaside instead of to the mountains. As the autobahn raises and falls with the terrain we are confronted by a new panoramic vista as we crest each new hill. The valleys set before us each time are more and more spectacular; each one has a small village climbing the hillside. Each village has the ubiquitous mosque always painted the same green color; I often wonder just how all of these buildings across the landscape of Turkey can be so uniform. Even when a mosque has no telltale minaret or even the usual dome, the color and architecture boldly highlight the mosque for you in each community.
There is one particular mosque that has fascinated me on this drive in the past; it clings to a hillside all by itself quite apart from the village it serves. The contrast of its minaret with the mosque building itself make it stand out for me; the minaret seems to be four times the normal height or the building is half the size of a normal mosque. The point is, where it sits on the hillside and the dimensions of both its minaret and the building itself make it unique.
Again, one of those tremendous panoramas come into view as we crest yet another hill; this one is too rich to pass up and has summoned me to the side of the road so we can photograph the landscape. We see vast kilometers of concrete ribbon stretched across the terrain before us. The hillsides and the valley floor are strewn with rock but again a village has consumed a small shelf halfway up the slope. The beauty of the vistas before me is simply not given justice through the words on this page. We ease the car back onto the highway and begin our descent. You feel as though your being enveloped in the landscape as you descend but then too as you make your ascent you feel a freedom come over you as if you could take flight out the other side.
Once more I feel I need to speak to the sparseness of traffic, you feel as though you are alone on this stretch of autobahn because so few vehicles seem to use this great highway. The cost of the toll for this trip is nearly equal to a liter of fuel, so I don't see the toll as a deterrent to using this fine road; I can't explain the lack of use.
We've now come to the exit ramp for Mersin, I ease off on the gas and merge into the curve moving toward the tollgates. There is a lady in this particular booth, which is a surprise; in all the times we've gotten on and off the autobahn over the last eighteen-months, this is a first. The toll is two lira (about a dollar and a half) and we have come over a hundred miles.
We make our way to the city center and park along the walk at the waterfront park. I pay the attendant his two-lira parking fee, lock the car and we begin to stroll down the sidewalk fronting the park. We don't go far before we come to the marina and all the boats. Initially they're all small motorboats, but as we continue down beside the water we come to much larger craft; double deck, open air, dining vessels, docked at the water's edge. Not far beyond these we turn left and continue along the water circling the marina. It actually quite square, and we walk the whole way around. There are several more large boats along here that are restaurant/bar boats. Beyond these we begin to pass small fishing boats, and just before we make another left turn; we look out across the marina and butt up again the marina wall before us are so many fishing boats it's difficult to distinguish one from the other as they appear to be one mass flotilla. We make the turn still rounding the marina and to our right is Luna Park; it's an amusement park filled with rides of numerous variety from merry-go-rounds to Ferris wheels. Since it's Monday, the rides are not very active; we notice a few families milling about and a few rides in motion but we must assume on weekends the place would be far more active.
As we walk to the end of this side of the marina we have to turn right to walk out along pier to the open water. To our right now is a fairly open area, turned dry dock. There are boats (both large and small) in varying stages of restoration. The cacophony accompanying our walk now has become quite complex; we have the sound of sanders, grinders, hammering, diesel engines, boat horns, instructions to different works and co-workers, idle conversations, water lapping at the boats in the marina and along the pier, as well as the powerful surf just out of our view. As we draw closer to the water's edge we now see the surf and the waves washing across the rocks. Out on the horizon are several large ships, either departing or awaiting their turn in the harbor not far from where were standing. Mersin has a pretty substantial port and a great deal of commerce is transiting here every day.
We very much enjoy the water front, the sights and sounds, so we are in no hurry to exit the area but it's also lunch time and we decide one of these boats we past early on should make a great stop for a meal. We retrace our steps very much the same way back and find as we get back there is a bit of commotion near where the dining boats are tied off at the front of the marina. We watch as a crane is pulling something from the water. All we see at this stage is a cable taunt in the water. As is the usual for this part of the world, the man operating the crane is getting copious instructions from what seems to be nine men standing along the water's edge. In a very short time it becomes clear what's up; a small motorboat begins to emerge from the very mercy watery grave below.
One young man standing near the sight asks my origin and wants to know what I'm looking for. Turks are always trying to help those who appear lost. He tells me the owner of this craft has not cared for it well; he says the boat is fiberglass and all the rain had collected in it and it simply sank where it was docked. His story NOT mine. From the look of the thing it had been down there for more than a day or two. The mud adhered to it was quite thick. The crane lifted it very slowly; I believe in order to let it empty out so it wouldn't be quite so heavy. Once we were satisfied it was under control, HaHaHa, we decided to have lunch on the boat beside us. The motion of the water in the marina made our lunchroom rock to some degree.
The young man who spoke to me said he was the owner of the boat we boarded, he suggested a fish for our lunch and we did not protest. When the fish was delivered to our table, there were six of them for each of us. They were probably three to four inches long and complete, head to tail. They had been gutted and deep-fried with a light batter; they were accompanied by fries and a salad. We too had water and bread. I ate them head, tail and all; Carol, on the other hand, left the head and the tail for others to consume. Lunch was sixteen and a half lira, and as is the case with most fish; it was good.
With lunch behind us we made our way back toward the car. However as we neared the parking lot, Carol said she wanted to find the Catholic Church here in Mersin. We paused to contemplate that search, and as we did I looked up to cross the street and there on the other side behind a wall stood what we thought to be just the church we wanted to find. I say this because after we returned home and spoke to some folks about the church we visited, they assured us it was not the one we thought it to be. Anyway, we walked over to this church and rang the buzzer outside the gate. A very kind gentleman came to our call. We asked if we could look inside, he was very pleased to allow us that privilege, and what a privilege that was. We waited in the garden as he disappeared in another building for a key. Upon his return he held the largest skeleton key I believe I have ever seen, it must have been eight inches long and probably weighted a pound! He motioned us around to the side door and inserted his key; after a half turn we were ushered inside. We were immediately taken by the Icons hanging from all four walls; they were magnificent, and there were many of them. He told us the church was 150 years old. It struck me as quite small on the inside; maybe because it was not well lighted, but it was obviously well cared for. The stained glass windows were awesome. The large chandeliers were quite ornate and we suspect crystal. We didn't linger for long and thanked the gentleman with a small contribution.
Once back in the garden I took a more complete look at the building, it had the appearance of a Spanish mission on the exterior. After discussing our visit at home, we now believe the church to be Russian Orthodox. It was very beautiful anyway.
We once again thank the guy who let us in and left through the gate we had
come. We made our way back across the street and to the car. We left Mersin
and headed back for the autobahn. Once back on the highway we headed farther
west, I decided we would drive to the end of the currently completed autobahn.
Immediately through the tollgate we began descending a hill but as I looked
off to the east the Mediterranean was sparkling blue. I pulled to the side of
the road so we could get some pictures. This road dumped us out into the small
village of ??? and ???. The question marks are for a lapse in memory and a lack
of adequate mapping in this country. These two villages butt up against one
another. The welcome sign for one is the farewell sign for the other. Interestingly
though, neither of these two villages appear on any map I have! We drove the
main street through both communities and then I turned toward the seaside in
search of the water. We didn't make the waterfront. I have a rule about driving
the car on asphalt. It just seemed no matter where I turned, this was not going
to be possible so I made our way back to the autobahn and headed east back home.