A small fishing village 150 years ago, Mersin has blossomed into a mid-sized cosmopolitan city in response to Adana’s need for a Mediterranean port. By no means a tourist town, the free stretch of beach and adjoining greenery of Atatürk park, the breezy city center and excellent, cheap hotels still make Mersin a pleasant visit. The city is also useful as a departure point for ferries to Northern Cyprus.
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- Flights: The Turkish Airlines (THY) office (233 02 74) and countless travel agencies with THY banners can book flights from the nearby Adana airport.
- Buses: The busy otogar is 1 km from the city center. To: Adana (1hr., express, very frequent, $1.60); Ankara (7hr.; daily midnight, F-Sa 2:30pm; $15); Antalya (6hr.; 11pm, midnight; $10); İstanbul (13hr., 6pm, $25); İzmir (13hr,; 7am, 6, 7pm; $17); Konya (5hr., 7am-6pm, $10); Nevşehir (5hr.; 9, 10am, 5pm; $8); Trabzon (17hr.; 2, 7pm; $18). To reach the waterfront from the otogar, take a left at the exit, turn right at the junction, and take a left at the next main street. From there, head west (walk with the water on your left). Alternatively, dolmuş run from outside the otogar ($.80).
- Trains: To reach the gar (231 12 76), walk 1km from the city center along İsmet İnönü Bul., with the water on your right. Then follow the rotary 200m away from the shore. To: Adana (1hr., express trains daily every 30min. 6am-10:30pm, $1); Ankara (1hr., 5:45pm, $9); İstanbul (1hr.; Tu, Th, Sa 7:30pm; $9.30); Kayseri ( 4:20pm, $4.80); Konya (7hr.; Tu, Th, Sa 7:30pm end route to İstanbul; $3.60). 20% student dis-count, 40% handicapped discount. Buses are faster and more reliable, though the train station hosts a pleasant çay garden.
- Ferries: Turkish Maritime Lines (233 98 58), about 1km from the city center along İsmet İnönü Bul. with the water on your right. Ferries depart from the harbor building on the road that forks to the right after Atatürk Park. To Mağusa, Northern Cyprus (10hr.; M, W, F 10pm; $24, students with ID $21). Buy tickets on the day of departure.
ORIENTATION AND PRACTICAL INFORMATION
Mersin’s center stretches along the waterfront, which marks the city’s south side. It consists of pedestrian-dominated streets between Cumhuriyet Meydanı, next to the municipality building, and Gümrük Meydanı, where the Ulu Camii (Great Mosque) stands as a testament to the hideous consequences of the misuse of concrete. İsmet İnönü Bul. is the wide road that runs east-west along the waterfront, while the narrower Atatürk Cad. runs parallel to it through the city center.
- Tourist Office: (238 32 71;), near the harbor building, has an English-speaking staff that provides free maps and information. Open daily 8am-noon and 1-5pm; in winter, closed on weekends.
- Consulates: Northern Cyprus (237 24 82 or 237 24 83). Walk 800m west of the city center along Atatürk Cad. and follow the road 100m as It curves right. The consulate is at the first intersection. Visas can be obtained on arrival In Mağusa, but the consulate will be happy to field any questions. Open M-F 8am-1pm and 2-4pm.
- Hospital: Özel Mersin Hastanesi (238 00 95) and Devlet Hastanesi ( 336 39 50) have reliable facilities and angle phone doctors.
- Internet Access: World Internet Cafe, off Atatürk Cad. Head west toward the Northern Cyprus consulate and take a left just before the lights. $2.50 per hr.
- PTT: On İsmet İnönü Bul., right next to the ‘’4-star” Mersin Oteli on the eastern end of Gümrük Meydanı. Open daily 8am-7pm. If APS (express mail) just isn’t fast enough, try UPS or DHL; both have offices farther down İsmet İnönü Bul., toward the tourist office.
ACCOMMODATIONS AND FOOD
The best budget-friendly hotels in Mersin some of the best in the region lie on Soğuksu Cad. The best deal is Hotel Savran , 46 Soğuk su Cad., whose clean rooms have TV7, phone, bath, and A/C. (s’232 44 73. Breakfast included. Singles $6; doubles $10.) Right next door, Hotel Hitit offers similar lodgings, with white sheets and towels and a mini fridge in each room, but with less impressive baths and no breakfast. (231 64 31. $6 per person.) Gökhan Hotel , 20 Soğuksu Cad., is the classiest two-star hotel you’ll ever see. With all the amenities, a jazzy bar, open buffet breakfast, and sophisticated lounge, Gökhan’s rooms are worth far more than their asking price. (231 62 56. Singles $12; doubles $20; triples $30.)
There are a variety of good cheap eateries in the town center. Wash down the local specialty tantuni (minced meat, onions, lettuce, and tomatoes wrapped up like a tortilla) with şalgam, a carrot-juice drink similar to ayran (can be sweet or salty). At Yaprak Tantuni , on Atatürk Cad., the tasty wraps ($2) make up for what the shabby sitting space lacks. The small outdoor cafes on Atatürk Cad. serve fresh fish ($2.50). Kukla Kebap , on Adnan Menderes Bul., about 4km west of the city center, serves some of the best İskender kebap in town ($3.50). For a break from seafood and Turkish cuisine, discover Bella Roma , located near the Internet cafe about 500m west of the city center on Atatürk Cad. The posters in this Italian restaurant pay homage to Botticelli, Puccini, and Sophia Loren, among others. Choose from a wide variety of pasta dishes ($3-5) or dig into a pizza ($3).
SIGHTS AND ENTERTAINMENT
A relatively young city, Mersin doesn’t have much history to draw on. The only “sight” is the rather generically named Museum, on Atatürk Cad., just west of Cumhuriyet Meydanı. It displays a pretty standard set of archaeological curios from local excavations. The museum was closed for repairs at the time of publication. (Open Tu-Su 9am-noon and 1-5pm. $1.25, students $.75.)
If the Mediterranean climate is too much for you, and you boast a Y-chromo- some, head to the male-only 5 yol hamam (Beşyol hamam), about 500m north of the gar and 500m cast of the Merit Hotel ($2.50; with massage and scrub $6). Take a pleasant stroll amidst gay gardens and fishing boats in Atatürk Park, which lines the waterfront through the center of town. Sweet-smelling, roasted nuts are $1 per scoop. Chug around the harbor in a pleasure boat ($2.50).
Since the sidewalks in Mersin’s center all but roll up after dinner, there is little to enjoy in the way of nightlife. The daytime crowds head west a few kilometers to Adnan Menderes Bul., which runs along the seaside. The area is filled with bars, gay gardens, restaurants, and an outdoor movie theater. Catch the blue Poşçu dolmuş in front of the IJTT and ask to be let off at the Hilton; a short walk along the water leads to some decent restaurants. Otherwise, a cab costs $3-4.