A Visit to the Turkish Barber

Forget about the scenty, jelly variety, the real Turkish Delight is a visit to the barbers.  I always try to avoid having a haircut in the week or two before travelling to Kalkan as I want to enjoy the experience as early as possible after arriving.  So today was the day.

There is a choice of barbers in Kalkan, not as many as restaurants – nothing could meet that number – but there are quite a few.  Over the years most have been sampled but there is one that has become my regular haunt over the last two years and there’s just no reason for going elsewhere.

At first glance the premises are nothing to write home about, a small wooden cabin in front of the PTT (Post Office).  There are two swivel chairs in front of a marble surface with two sinks and a mirror that runs the full width of the shop – more of this in a minute.   Customers who are waiting can either sit in the cabin or more usually take one of the plastic chairs outside and watch the world go by.   I chose the outside option as there was only one barber on duty and he had a customer.

Within a few minutes a motorbike pulled up and off came the other barber.  What service.  He ushered me into a swivel seat, unwound about 30 cms of elastic bandage  and wrapped it round my neck having carefully folded the collar of my shirt inside out.  This created a pretty good seal to stop hairs dropping inside the shirt – an excellent  and simple technique which I haven’t seen employed anywhere else around the globe.  Then it was on with the gown and we were ready for the off.

The first process was a shampoo which was quickly over and I was sat back up in the chair.  It is at this point that the mirror comes in to its magnificent own.  The mirror is transformed into a picture window overlooking Kalkan Bay and across the water to Mouse Island and Snake Island.   And, it being late afternoon on a bright February day, the scene is dominated by the sun setting over the Mediterranean.  You couldn’t imagine a more stunning vista.

With such a distraction, I am almost oblivious to the barber and his scissors.  But he is clearly doing a good job as the mess of hair at the beginning is now taking on some sensible shape.  The peace of the shop is disturbed by the familiar ring of my phone.  Without me saying anything, the other barber goes to my jacket hanging on the wall, zips open the pocket where the phone is and brings it out.  Before handing it to me, in a typical Turkish way, he reads the screen and tells me it’s Maggie calling.  In the UK we would almost see that as an invasion of privacy but not in Turkey, all part of the service.

It’s interesting how Turks treat haircuts as a very regular activity.  Us Westerners tend to leave haircuts to the last-minute when everything has got completely out of hand and the barber has to ask how we want our hair to be cut as it;s very hard for him to judge how you had it cut last time.  With Turkish customers there is no need to ask as all that is required is a little trimming to keep the same style.  It’s not unusual for men to leave their beards to grow between haircuts and get a shave at the same time.  There was no shaving going on today.

Whilst my hair was being cut, three different guys occupied the chair on my left, had the tidy up job and left.  My barber likes to show off all his skills when a ‘tourist’ is in the chair so it all takes a lot longer.  When he’s finished cutting and trimming the eyebrows, nose hair and the ears, he says that he will wash my hair again to get rid of all the little clippings.  Fine.  He uses two different potients (shampoo, conditioner ??) then after a towel-dry applies a liberal amount of the Turkish lemon-based Eau de Cologne and proceeds to massage my head.  Very relaxing.

But that’s only the beginning.  Over the next ten minutes or so my whole upper-body gets a good pummelling.  Limbs are stretched and muscles are kneaded.  By the end you just feel like a lump of jelly in the chair.  But it’s time to get up and face to outside world which by now is getting quite dark.  The final job for me is to settle the bill – an enormous 15 Turkish Lira – a little less than £6!!

For my money this must be one of the best treats you can give yourself in Turkey.  You come out feeling a new man and bounce lightly up the street to a bar.


About Clashgour

With my wife Margaret I am spending a happy retirement based in Richmond, London. When travelling we use public transport where possible, resorting to a car when it is the only viable option. This blog is an occasional diary of our travels in North America, Europe and Turkey plus other places as yet unknown.
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