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Thursday, 30 October 2008

John and Ruth Attacked by Berbers!

We all have preconceptions about places, even though we know rationally, that some of them aren’t true. Like, f’rinstance, I “know” that all Australian men come home every day from the six o’clock swill, knock their Sheilas around a bit and then chuck a few sheep on the barbie (or some combination of the words preceding ) before piling into their tucker. Like we all know that a sentence in a Turkish prison is likely to be pretty hellish because we’ve seen or heard about Midnight Express. It may not be like that, at all. The chances are, that in reality, a period in a Turkish gaol could be a civilised, elevating and spirit-lifting experience. I don’t know. However we have found one thing to be true, and that’s that Turkish barbers (or “berbers” in Turkish) do cut your nose hairs as part of the haircut. What I didn’t know, until I had a Turkish haircut – to test the validity of the nose hair theory – was what extreme attention they give to the cutting of hair, and how long it takes. I’d reckon 15 minutes to be long enough in a British hairdresser’s chair, but when I had my hair cut this week, it took 40 minutes. That’s because when you think it’s all over, they bring the mirror for you to look at the back of your head (I always wish they’d leave it there a bit longer, as you don’t get many chances to look at the back of your head) and you say “Evet, lyimyim, teşekkűr ederim” = “Yes, that’s fine, thank you” (like I did, ha! ha!) they grab a new selection of implements and start all over again. Then they give you a shave with a cut-throat razor, carefully scrutinising every imperfect millimetre of your face, and, having done it to more than your satisfaction, do it another couple of times for theirs, just to be sure. Then, if they’re not quite happy with that, they may get a piece of string (sorry, about this, it’s difficult to describe) in a triangular shape, hold a corner in each hand and the third in their mouth (for tensioning) and roll it across your cheeks, pulling out isolated hairs. Then they get a miniature version of one of those burning torch things that street jugglers like to throw around when they have finished doing everything (or nearly everything) imaginable with Indian clubs, the barber sets light to it, waves it around in a very un-Health and Safety at Work Act way and sets fire to any offending hairs in your ears. A strong smell of burnt keratin then drifts around the salon. A bit like those Indian ear candles, without the candles. When that’s all done, they wash your hair, give you a head massage and swab out your ears with cotton wool and pummel your face for a bit, smother you in unguents, give you a good brushing down, reassemble your shirt collar and then ask for a fee of £1,25 for the whole experience. Oh, and a free tulip-glass of sweet tea is thrown in. How do they make a living?

Anyway, my having gone through the foregoing, Ruth said that she badly needed her hair cutting. Having seen that many barbers also offered "kuaför” (quite a lot of Turkish words are similar to French) to ladies, I suggested that she went to a barber. Here’s what happened:-

“John’s hair was cut extremely well by the local barber. He came back with a face as soft and smooth as a woman’s, looking better groomed than I have ever seen him (apart from the shorts and aged shirt that is). Turkish barbers do cut women’s hair and my hair had grown out rather ragged since my last trim so I thought I would give it a go. Didn’t think it would be styled but it might be tidy and if a disaster I could just employ my head scarf till we leave Turkey.

In Manavgat we found a barber, the young man sat me down, swathed me in an overall and then snipped away – and snipped away. First he gave me a side parting – neat but in 64 years I have never had a tidy parting that stayed one hour. Still I could see that he knew how to cut and he took a long while to do it. He used the mirror to show me my hair cut and I made to get up but - no!

He put my head back on the headrest and brought out a medieval instrument of torture – a long flexible spring that is used to remove small hairs from the face and the upper lip – owwwwh! – and he did just that – thoroughly and several times over – while I moaned and groaned and he laughed at my womanish behaviour. There are benefits to a smooth face – I thought of John’s wondrous smoothness and reckoned it was worth enduring.

Once again I hoped the process over and again my head was put back on the headrest. This time he plucked my eyebrows. I never ever allow this procedure because I can’t stand the pain – I go for an occasional eyebrow wax. He was however, very good and very thorough. It was the least painful eyebrow plucking and the best I have ever endured and the result is great.

Finally my hair was shampooed – the old-fashioned way – head forward into the basin. Communication failure and sign language meant I didn’t the towel in the right place so copious amounts of water splashed down my frontage and the young barber obligingly kept trying to rearrange my frontages with his free hand so they didn’t get wet. Typically at this point John was reading the Turkish weather report in the local paper so it didn’t make him jealous! Anyhow I was sat up again and my T-shirt and frontage were blown dry. Again John appeared not to see as the barber held my shirt away from my body and made effective use of the blow-dryer before he sorted out my hair the same way. My haircut was then smoothed with Egotiste hair gel, my earrings were quickly and easily inserted in my earlobes and I was able to go. I was delighted to go and delighted with the haircut. My parting slipped a bit the next day but the cut holds even when I have had a swim and not combed my hair properly. It is a bit Louise Brooks – have I got that right? – and a bit like the haircut I had at primary school. I am happy with it! Much better value than any other haircut ever. Also older ladies, like me - instead of sighing resignedly over those longer finer face hairs in awkward places – just try an hour’s agony at a Turkish barber and it will all be sorted!”

Saturday, 18 October 2008


Regular readers of this blog, if there are any, will know that Posts appear in sudden and intermittent abundances. This is because we tend to produce them as we travel but can only publish them when we can find suitable internet access. This is why they sometimes appear out of order.

Another thing to say is that quite often the pictures for a particular Post will appear some days or weeks before the accompanying commentary. That’s because we haven’t always got time or need to reflect on what we have seen. So it’s always worth going back over older posts which you have already seen in case anything has been added or corrected.



In our wanderings around Europe and its history we have learned of many great historic leaders, such as Peter the Great, Charles the Bold and Suleiman the Magnificent. I have wondered for a long time about the Emperor who figured in the story of the Emperor’s New Clothes which, since they did not exist, were invisible. I now know who the Emperor was. Rupert the Bare!


An earthquake destroyed the baths but we stıll swam ın them - hot and bubbly!

Here's Ruth bravely standıng over the abyss created ın the 1388 earthquake.



No, ıt's not snow or ıce - ıt's calcıum.

Thıs ıs advertısed as "The Antıque Pool", accurate enough ın the case of Ruth and I perhaps, but more accurately descrıbed as the Ancıent Pool. The Roman Baths stand over a hot sprıng whıch bubbles wıth carbonated water, an odd sensatıon as your trunks fıll wıth gas, but not, I admıt, for the fırst tıme. The Baths are also ın an earthquake hotspot and were damaged by two at least. One of the other photos here shows Ruth straddlıng a fıssure ın the Earth produced by the earthquake of 1388. What you can see around us ın the water ıs sectıons of Roman masonry (columns etc.) whıch lıe where they fell. A unıque experıence.

If Muesli be the Food of Love

Those funny foreigners with their funny languages!

Sometimes foreign words look or sound like English ones, but don’t mean the same thing (or hopefully not). When I was in Romania 16 years ago, tins of food caught my eye (ouch!) which I meant to buy the day after and take back home for people to try. Unfortunately when I returned to the shop the next day all the tins had gone. However I managed to buy some a couple of weeks ago and that is why today for a snack we were able to have crap on bread. Some evenings we also enjoy another treat bought in Romania – fistik crud. Yummy!

Crap = carp
Fistik crud = unsalted pistachios




There ıs a lot more of the ancıent ruıns as well as one of us. Sorry ıf you dont enjoy. I have trıed to break ıt down a bıt. I have also run out od steam to type ınfo. John ıs doıng hıs PhD and I have been ın the Internet Cafe for 3 hours.