Mersin Travel Guide

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mersin coast

mersin coast

History

This coast has been inhabited since the 7th millennium BC. Excavations by John Garstang of the hill of Yümüktepe have revealed 23 levels of occupation, the earliest dating from ca. 6300 BC. A fortification was put up around 4500 BC, but the site appears to have been abandoned between 3200 BC and 1200 BC.

Afterward the city was part of many states and civilizations including the Hittites, Assyrians, Greeks, the Macedonians of Alexander the Great, Seleucids, Lagids. During the Ancient Greek period, the city bore the name Zephyrion and was mentioned by numerous ancient authors. Apart from its natural harbor and its strategic position along the trade routes of southern Anatolia, the city profited from trade in molybdenum (white lead) from the neighbouring mines of Coreyra. Ancient sources attributed the best molybdenum to the city, which also minted its own coins.

Then the area became the Roman, province of Cilicia, which had its capital at Tarsus while nearby Mersin was the major port. The city, whose name was Latinized to Zephyrium, was renamed Hadrianopolis for emperor Hadrian.

The Roman Empire split and this area fell into the half ruled from Byzantium (later Constantinople), which became the centre of trade in this part of the world, drawing investments and trade, and causing Mersin to lose its shine.

The city was Christianized early; and was the see of a bishop. Le Quien (Oriens Christ., II, 883) names four bishops of Zephyrium: Aerius, present at the Council of Constantinople in 381; Zenobius, a Nestorian, at the Second Council of Constantinople in 432- 434; Hypatius, present at the Council of Chalcedon in 451; and Peter, at the Council in Trullo in 692. The city remains a titular see of the Roman Catholic Church, Zephyriensis; the see has been vacant since 1966. [1]

Then came Arabs, Egyptian Tulunids, Seljuk Turks, Mongols, Crusaders, Armenians, Mamluks, Anatolian beyliks, and finally the city was conquered by the Ottomans in 1473.

During the American Civil War, the region became a major supplier of cotton to make up for the high demand due to shortage. Railroads were extended to Mersin in 1866 from where cotton was exported by sea, and the city developed into a major trade center. By 1900, the Catholic Encyclopedia reports the city having about 14,000 inhabitants, of whom 3,000 were by ethnicity Greeks, 1,000 Armenians, and 650 Roman Catholics; the remaining approximately 10,000 inhabitants were presumably Muslim. The Roman Catholic parish of Mersin was administered by Capuchins; there were also Sisters of St. Joseph of the Apparition; schools for boys and girls, and hospitals.

In 1918 Mersin was occupied by French and British troops in accord with the Treaty of Sevrès. It was liberated by the Turkish army in 1920. In 1924, Mersin was made a province, and in 1933, Mersin and İçel provinces were joined to form the (greater Mersin) İçel province.

Up until the 1970s Mersin had a population of 300,000 and a classy feel to it, with carriages parading under palm trees. The seafront was all orchards of oranges and lemons, perfect for a quiet stroll, and you could play on the beach. The heart of this tree-lined bourgois establishment were the patisseries along Flamingo Yolu, a name that evokes nostalgia among those who lived here through the 60s and 70s.

But the vast expansion and immigration from other parts of Turkey, especially further east, in the 80s and 90s has changed it completely. Now the sea front is lined with huge concrete buildings, there are no beaches, and the orange trees have all been dug up. And further out of town where there were one or two areas of seaside holiday flats now there are hundreds and hundreds. No one will ever know what archaeological treasures have been dragged away by the bulldozers at the same time. This greedy destruction has gone on and is still going on without effective control by the local authorities who at the same time have failed to put in the infrastructure (roads, drains, sewage treatment etc.) to cope with the large population that has come to the coast.

Mersin today

Today Mersin is a large city spreading out along the coast, with Turkey's second tallest skyscraper, huge hotels, an opera house, expensive real estate near the sea or up in the hills, and many other modern urban amenities, although still nothing like the long-established nightlife and culture of Istanbul or Izmir; but Mersin is a smaller and calmer city.

The municipality is now trying to rescue the sea front with walkways, parks and statuary, and there are still palm trees on the roadsides especially where the young generation like to hang out in the cafes and patisseries of smart neighbourhoods such as Pozcu or Çamlıbel. These are established neighbourhoods where there are many well-known shops and restaurants with years of experience and reputations to protect. The city centre is a maze of narrow streets and arcades of little shops and cafes, with young people buzzing around on scooters. The old quarter near the fish market is where you will find the stalls selling tantuni and grilled liver sandwiches.

One of the most distinctive features of the city as a whole is the solar heating panels, they are everywhere, on top of every building.

Demographics

Mersin experienced immigration from the south-east of the country during the 1980s and 1990s in a period of unrest in those areas. It now has a significant Kurdish community co-existing with the Turkish majority. [2] [3] The city was in the centre of inter-ethnic clashes during the 2005 Newroz celebrations in which two kurdish boys were arrested after setting fire to a Turkish flag in the streets. This sparked off a huge reaction throughout the country, flags were displayed on buildings, cars, everywhere culminating in a parade through the streets with a Turkish flag 1 kilometre long. [4]

Cuisine

The local cuisine includes: kebab of course but especially the hot sandwich of grilled meats wrapped in flat bread called tantuni; the home-made sausage bumbar; carrot helva ( cezerye); karsambaç (a kind of ice slush); kunefe a baked cheese pastry (known throughout south-east Turkey including Mersin); and kerebiç, a semolina pudding, especially made in the month of Ramadan, and many other local soups and stews. The traditional drink of this corner of Turkey, including Mersin, is şalgam suyu (the water used to pickle turnips in).

Economy

The port is the mainstay of Mersin's economy. There are 23 piers, a total port area of 786,000 m² (194 acres), with a capacity of 3,800 ships per year.

Adjacent to the port is Mersin Free Zone established in 1986, the first free zone in Turkey, with warehouses, shops, assembly-disassembly, maintenance and engineering workshops, banking and insurance, packing-repacking, labelling and exhibition facilities. The zone is a publicly owned center for foreign investors, close to major markets in the ( Middle East, North Africa, East and West Europe, Russian Federation and Central Asia. The trading volume of the free zone was USD 1.6 billion in 2002.

Mersin has highway connections to the north and east, and is also connected to the southern railroad. Adana airport is 69 km (43 miles).

60% of the male population and 16% of the female population is employed. Unemployment is about 22.7%

Mersin port is an international hub for many vessels routing to European countries.Its now operated by PSA.

Mersin University

Mersin University was founded in 1992 and started teaching in 1993-1994, with 11 faculties, 6 schools and 9 vocational schools. The university has had about 10 thousand graduates, has broadened its current academic staff to more than 100 academicians, and enrolls 18.000 students.

Culture

Because the city has been a crossroads for centuries the local culture is a medley of civilizations. Mersin has a State Opera and Ballet, the fourth in Turkey after Istanbul, İzmir and Ankara. Mersin International Music Festival was established in 2001, and takes place every October. The photography association Mersin Fotograf Derneği (MFD), is one of the most popular and active cultural organizations in the city. There is a small museum in the city centre. The municipal cemetery is interesting as people of all faiths and denominations can be buried here.

In order to swim in clean water you need to get out of town, perhaps an hour along the coast. The beach at Kızkalesi is popular with families while young people prefer Akyar or quieter bays along the coast, some of which are very attractive indeed.

Part or or all of this text stems from the original article at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mersin

Contributors

May 16, 2007 new by erdincd

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