Turkey’s sixth-largest city is appropriately named after Adanus, the Greek god of weather. The average June-August temperature is 100°F, with high humidity and a persistent hot wind that seems to issue from a giant invisible hairdryer. If you visit in these months, the weather will probably occupy most of your waking thoughts. Modern Adana is an agricultural town, wealthy because of its pivotal role in the Turkish textile industry. Its famous Adana kebap (spicy minced lamb and herbs, flattened into strips and grilled) tantalizes the eager taste buds of locals and tourist alike. The nearby US military base at İncirlik does its part for the local economy. Adana has a large otogar and many hotels, and its airport is a stopping point between Northern Cyprus, Antalya, and the Middle East. The city is home to several sights, both historical and modem. The new Sabancı Merkez Camii, the second-largest mosque in Turkey, dominates Adana’s skyline, looming proudly behind the glittering Roman bridge. In 2000, Adana’s proximity to an earthquake zone narrowly saved it from being chosen as the site of a nuclear power reactor.
Flights: The airport is 4km west of the city center on highway E-5. Frequent buses and dolmuş run to the airport from the stop on Ziya Paşa Cad., across from Hotel Kaza ($.80). The Turkish Airlines, 1 Stadyum Cad. (454 15 45), on a side street off Atatürk Cad., Is across from Atatürk Park. Open M-F 8:30am-5:30pm, Sa 8:30am-noon. To: Ankara (2 per day; $50, students $45); Antalya (2 per day; $82, students $55); İstanbul (3 per day; $140, students $59). Cyprus Turkish Airlines (363 15 41 or 363 13 75; fax 363 13 75), on Çakmak Cad. across from İnönü Park. Flights to Ercan (M-F 5:30pm, Sa 6:50am; $65, students $63).
Buses: The larger companies usually offer free service shuttles between their central offices on highway E-5 (near Akbank) and the otogar (45mın.-1hr. before departure), where the squeaking puppets of roaming vendors will drive you insane. To: Ankara (6hr., 4 per day 8am-1pm, $12); Antakya (3/2hr., 9 per day 8:30am-7pm, $5); Antalya (2hr., every hr. 9am-10pm, $15); İstanbul (1hr., every hr. 9am-11pm, $20); İzmir (14hr.; 10:30am, 5pm, midnight; $17); Kayseri (3hr.; 12:30, 4pm, midnight; $7); Konya (3hr., 7 per day 8:30am-midnight, $11); Mersin (1hr., every 30m., $2.50) via Tarsus (45min., $1.25). A small dolmuş station on the E-5, by the river and in front of the Sabancı Merkez Camiî, services local towns.
Trains: The handsome, old-fashioned gar is on İstasyon Cad.; head down Atatürk Cad. past Atatürk Park, and make a left. To: Ankara (4hr., 1:15pm, $7); Diyarbakir (1hr., 4:20pm, $20); Elazığ (10hr., 8:40am, $20); Gaziantep (6hr., 4:50am, $3.50); Mersin (2hr., 29 per day 4:45am-11pm, $1),
Adana has few street signs. Turhan Cemal Beriker Bul. (a.k.a. the E-5 highway) runs from the center of town, past the otogar (5km), and continues along the Mediterranean coast. In town, the landmarks on Turhan Cemal Beriker Bul. are the big Akbank building, the overpass, and the new Sabancı Merkez Camii beside the river. Atatürk Cad., which changes its name to Saydam Cad. after passing İnönü Cad., houses the tourist office, hotels, a large Atatürk statue, the PTT, and Atatürk Park. To get to the center of town from the Merkez Otogar (bus station), take an E-5 dolmuş from across the road (every 5m, $.40). Be sure to cross the road at the pedestrian overpass, because destination signs are the same in both directions. The dolmuş exits the E-5 about 1km before the Akbank, one block short of the overpass. Disembark here and head for Kurtuluş Meydanı (Liberation Square), across from İnönü Cad. If you take a taxi, make sure the meter is turned on ($6-8).
- Tourist office: (363 14 48 or 363 12 87), on Atatürk Cad. This is the garish peach building next to Akbank. English-speaking staff offers those gigantic “yes-l am-a-tourist-and- can’t-fould-a-map” type maps. Open M-F 8am-6pm.
- Consulates: US ( 453 91 06), on Atatürk Cad., at the corner of Atatürk Park.
- Banks: The landmark Akbank is on the corner of T. Cemal Beriker Bui. and Atatürk Cad. Great currency exchange rates and a Cirrus/MC/Plus/V ATM.
- Currency Exchange: Döviz bureaus cluster around Saydam Cad., to the right as you exit the tourist office; try Yüksek Dövis (563 02 66; fax 563 19 36).
- English-Language Bookstore: Yolgeçen Kitabevi, on Atatürk Bul. near the gar, sells day- old copies of USA Today and the International Herald Tribune.
- Pharmacies: Throughout town; try Ünlü Eczanesi (363 37 75), across the street from the Ethnographic Museum.
- Internet Access: Duck into Çakmak Plaza (on Çakmak Cad.), a shopping mall, for a taste of home and some hard-core A/C. On the top floor, the Electro com and Online Internet Cafes are scrunched between Pizza Hut and Pizza Han. $1 per hr.
- PTT: Main PTT, past the Atatürk statue on Atatürk Cad., open 24hr., with standard stamp, fax, and telegraph services. Smaller 24hr. PTT opposite the gar on İstasyon Cad. has currency exchange 8am-5pm. Another small PTT on İnönü Cad. open daily 8am-5pm.
If you’re looking for cleanliness and comfort at a low price, Adana is not the place for you. Apart from the several 5-star hotels ($65-100), most of Adana’s two-star facilities cater to businessmen. If sticky nights and the lullaby of a ceiling fan sound unappealing, you’re better off forking over extra cash or staying elsewhere.
- Otel Mercan, 5 Ocak Meydam (351 26 03), is the best deal in Adana. Clean and plush. All rooms have showers and A/C. Singles $9; doubles $15; triples $22.
- Otel Duygu (Akdeniz Hotel), 14 İnönü Cad. (363 15 10). Refurbished and reaching for its 3rd star, Duygu offers beautiful rooms with A/C, telephone, TV, and sparkling private bath. Gorgeous room decorations with billowing curtains are fit for a Hollywood set. Breakfast included. Singles $20; doubles $30; triples $40.0
- Hotel Gümüş, İnönü Cad, No. 87. Small, clean, comfy rooms without A/C capture Adana’s burning spirit. Shared but clean âla turka toilets. No breakfast. Singles $5; doubles $8.
- İpek Palas, İnönü Cad., No, 89 (363 35 12), next door to Hotel Gümüş. Rooms have private showers, A/C, TV, and phones. Breakfast $1.60. $10 per person.
Adana’s spicy kebap specialty will knock your socks off.
- Küçük Ev Restaurant (363 56 87), off Çakmak Cad., next to the massive Yimpaş shopping center. This food is divine! Beyond the wood-paneled entrance to this former mansion, Ümran Kaçmaz and her team of chefs prepare an unbelievable array of home- cooked foods. A lunchtime selection of 28 meals and dinner palette of 12 includes sarma (stuffed grape leaves), dolma (stuffed zucchini), and various eggplant specialties. Main courses $1.50-2.50. Ideal for vegetarians, this “little house” is a delightful break from the region’s greasy meat dishes. Open M-F 7:30am-8:30pm.
- Yeni Onbaşılar (363 20 84), on Atatürk Cad., opposite the tourist office and above the Yaza Merhaba clothing store. The most recommended kebapci in town, Yeni serves up Adana‘s spicy specialty ($2), along with a popular piliç (chicken; $2.80). Open daily 11am-10:30pm.
- Bizarre Cafe (359 20 67), on the edge of Ocak Meydanı. Far from a misguided claim, the name is quite apt. Pass a mural of muscle-bound waitresses to admire the central fish tank. Burger and fries $2.
- Ecem Chicken, 38/B Abidinpaşa Cad. (351 12 01). Stands by its specialty. Try the chicken breast ($1.80) or the kaşarlı (a chicken and cheese dish; $1.60).
Walking east along Turhan Cemal Beriker Bul. toward the river, you’ll pass the huge Sabancı Merkez Camii (Central Mosque), the second-largest mosque in both Turkey and the Middle East. (The largest is in Ankara.) Financed by Turkish multimillionaire businessman Sakıp Sabancı, the mosque is one of his many local projects (check out the Hilton nearby). Though the mosque lacks historical importance, its beauty merits visitors, particularly under the nightly glow of spotlights.
Just before the mosque is Adana’s Archaeological Museum, one of the few of its kind in this region worth any attention. On display are Hittite sculptures, Roman jewelry, Bronze Age pottery, and coins from various eras. Particularly fascinating are works from the nearby Çukurova excavation and a sunny courtyard of old sarcophagi. (454 38 55. Open Tu-Su 8:30am-noon and 1:30-5pm. $1.60.) Leave the museum, turn left, and follow the river to the small Atatürk Museum, commemorating a March 15,1923 visit. The museum features an eerie, life-sized waxwork of the Turkish statesman. (Open Tu-Su 8am-noon and 1-5pm. $1.60, students $.80.) A 5min. walk past the museum lies the famous Roman bridge, built by the Roman architect Auxentus in the 4th century. Continue past it for 5min. and turn right at the government building to reach the 19th-century clock tower. On the right before the clock tower is a park, and just beyond it, the Ulu Camii (Great Mosque), built by Halil Bey and enlarged in 1541. Halil is buried inside, though current restoration prevenís visitors from entering.
Continuing on toward Saydam Cad. leads to Yağ Camii (Butter Mosque), an unusual structure that was converted from a church in 1501. Note the roof tiles, more common on Greek mansions than on mosques. The Catholic church, serving Hie city’s small Christian community, is down the road to the right, 50m past the Alatürk statue and then down some narrow streets. Press the buzzer to enter. The paintings lining the hall depict St. Paul’s vision on the road to Damascus and important events in the life of Christ. Just off İnönü Cad. (follow the sign) is a small Ethnographic Museum displaying pistols, coins, and old, handmade kilims.(Open Tu-Su 8am-noon and 1:30-5pm. $2.) In the outskirts of old Adana (toward the residential areas) lies an enormous, man-made lake and nearby dam. By day, sun-drenched beaches and çay gardens draw carloads of picnickers. Nightfall brings some of Adana’s only worthwhile entertainment, as flashy amusement parks line the road to innumerable lakeside restaurants and bars. Many of the eateries offer boat-top dining; small boats will ship patrons out to a tiny island and back ($12 per person). From the tourist office, a white dolmuş marked Cemal Paşa on top and Göl on the destination board will take you all around Adana before stopping at the lake (every 10min., $.50.)
DAYTRIP FROM ADANA: TARSUS
Buses and dolmuş frequently run the Adana-Mersin route, and all stop In Tarsus (45min., every 30min., $1). Catch a dolmuş in Adana by the Merkez Camii or a bus at the otogar. With over 100,000 inhabitants, Tarsus is not much of a break from the hustle and bustle of Adana. Yet for many, the city’s history makes it a must-see. About 30min. west of Adana, the city was both the birthplace of St. Paul and the ancient capital of Roman Cilicia in about 63 BC. Antony and Cleopatra groupies who have been retracing the couple’s rendezvous points along the eastern Mediterranean will also be interested to learn that the couple reportedly “met” here in 41 BC. Across from the massive Atatürk statue in the center of town is Cleopatra’s Gate, a beautiful arch that once marked the ancient city’s entrance. Today, the arch is trapped in a traffic circle, but a vibrant imagination can supply the gold and cavalcade that once greeted Cleopatra’s arrival. Her departure made up in gossip what it must have lacked in glory: the ancient town’s exit is marked by a less impressive arch near the Eski Cami, called Kancik Kapısı (“Bitch Gate”). A few blocks from the major thoroughfare in town is the small courtyard that houses St. Paul’s Well. Only the round stone slab remains from about 20 AD, when St. Paul supposedly struck the watering hole. (Courtyard open 8am-5pm. $1.) Following Atatürk Cad. toward the waterfalls, you’ll find the Roman Road Excavations on your right. You too can play archaeologist and explore the emerging artifacts and fascinating ruins. Watch out for unmarked ditches. The archaeological museum, housed in a medrese near the center of town, seems to have had all its artifacts moved elsewhere, except for some fragmentary sarcophagi. The guard will try7 to extract the admission fee, regardless. (Open Tu-Su 8am-noon and 1-5pm. $1.25, students $.75.)
Overnight options in Tarsus are limited to the four-star’ hotel by the waterfall ($80) or two in-town options. At Hotel Zorbaz , the conspicuous pink building in the center of town, gaudy purple doors mar k reasonably clean and spacious rooms with squat toilets. Two lounge rooms each have about 20 leather executive office chairs. ( 622 21 66. Singles $7.30; doubles $11.30; triples $16.) The nearby Cihan Palas Otel has bright, yellow bedspreads that complement the parakeets in the lobby. Rooms have TVs and tiled baths. (624 16 23. Singles $12; doubles $22.)
Tarsus’s pleasant but unimpressive şelale (waterfall) lies on the edge of town. Tea gardens and restaurants make it a good lunch stop, particularly to try Tarsus’s special “cup holder” lahmacun, which are shrunken versions of the original. The Şelale Hasbahçe Restaurant ( 622 49 23) serves ızgara (grilled meats; $3) and a local coffee specialty called larsusi.