That cab drivers are the best source of information for finding out about the real ‘in spots’ of your new location is a correct assumption in many cases; yet once you decide to go for it straight away things may turn sour. Once you were taken for a ride (literally) four times around the same London block, in search of the latest three stars- eatery which actually has its premises five miles into the opposite direction, all that turns relative!
Same with asking passers-by for directions: few would acknowledge that they do not know their very own city like a tour guide hence chances are you are sent off the wrong Parisian, or any other way.
Let us now figuratively speaking leave behind whatever many million strong metropolis springs to mind and think we are in a fine mid-sized place instead, in a busy, welcoming, leading Turkish tourist resort perhaps. Let us imagine we are in… Kuşadası!
Here we would be chauffeured by friendly taxi drivers indeed. And whoever pedestrian we stop en route to wherever they may be headed because we are lost would gladly be of service.
But in the latter instance our new acquaintance will not talk with us for too long, a rather short question and answer – session will soon end as she or he is busy going places. And in the former scenario time is of the essence as another fare will be already waiting somewhere; a quick ride from A to B but little time for extended conversations either.
So if we want to pre-plan what to see where no guide books send us off to, what to do in more general terms; where to eat or drink out in, and are willing to spend some time in exchange for probably a fair bit of insider information whilst at the same moment availing ourselves of an essential body-care service look no further than your nearest barber shop.
Long hair, hardly any hair, moustache or full beard; tired of using those seemingly practical electric razors/trimmers only to wake up next morning and being told by your wife that our neck looks like a combination of one side forest, whilst the other half is completely shaven? Another Zombie cut?
Well, I had quite a few of those in the past. Lesson learned, I hope. More often than not it is to the barber shop. Yes it does cost more money but you would not go there every day, most likely not even every week. Assuming a regular shave can be done perfectly well at home yet everything else not necessarily, let’s say we frequent our barber twice a month.
And as this is Turkey after the second or third visit we will be on first-name terms with our host. After we have sorted out the initial flow of mutual background details, such as are we here alone or with family and from where, has our barber got kids at school or from which part of Turkey does he originally hail from if not from here, we would normally run out of topics come visit number four maximum.
But then something fascinating kicks in: as if we were friend’s topics change, new issues are added onto the list of issues.
I have come to the conclusion that a barber is a person of trust, a confidante. First of all, you have to trust that person one hundred per cent anyways. Scissors and razors are by definition sharp objects so your facial and head’s well-being are entirely in someone else’s hands. But second, he will have listened to many other paying guests’ stories including those about what is hot and what is not in town.
Now it is your diplomatic speaker’s turn so to say. Don’t come across as being overly inquisitive. Mention you were in a particular part of town but wish to explore further, where to go? Hint at that you are looking for a special restaurant for Valentine’s Day. Ask about whether he knows of hotels that open their pools to non-staying guests. But give something in return. Let your barber know about places you went to already, you enjoyed being in so that he can add those to his list of insider info.
While being pampered there will be a television set running mounted in the background with a famous soap opera on air or perhaps a music program. Other people come and patiently wait for their ascent to the chair in front of the huge mirror. You will be offered a tea, or a Turkish coffee.
Including wash and shave it would last approximately thirty minutes. Enough time to look to pat the top once more and above all else, enough time to have heard about a few secret tips few others would have the time to let you in on (see above).Why not ask your favorite restaurant owner? Well, we cannot, really, or can we ask for alternative establishments there and then? A No-No!
And just in case you thought that this column is a one-sided article, a man’s story only – certainly not. If we simply replace the word barber with coiffeur and swap a few ‘he’ for ‘she’ we would be in a lady’s hairdresser’s. Exactly the same would happen albeit additional topics spoken about; information what topics are being discussed courtesy my wife. Only that there would probably be a little extra time to talk and exchange views…
There are many ways of learning about a new town, or a city we already call home. A visit to the barber’s or hairdresser’s can turn into the most charming ways of doing so one can imagine. We learned about a few otherwise perhaps well-guarded secrets of our location and depart the premises back in ship-shape. Quality time! Oh by the way, if you master a little Turkish and your host a little English all is well. Thus said: no (hairdressing) stage fright please!