So this is what the whole Black Sea coast could have been like? Could have. Would have. Should have.
Remember how the highway from the Georgian border almost all the way to Samsun was running basically always right next to the water? Well, not here.
Here, in the north of Samsun, traffic is being confined to an area a bit further inland. The beach goes on for miles and miles, and it is sandy and clean and lined with a promenade. There are palm trees and cafés. Couples sit on the beach. Singles enjoy the sunlight, some of them even read books. Groups of hipsters walk around looking fashionable. The prayer call is rarely to be heard. Most women show their hair openly.
All of this seems to be a modern side of Turkey, a side that is trying very hard to embrace the globalized world of the 21st century. There’s an omnipresence of Atatürk, the national talisman of modernity.
I walk slowly down the promenade. I drink tea, I look at people, and one time I use the restroom in a coffeeshop. There are interesting haircuts everywhere.
And then, just like that, Samsun and is behind me. I now find myself walking through a world of empty villas. They must be summer homes. Some of them have a few lights on, but they seem deserted nonetheless. No life, no movement, no parked cars, nothing.
Then, after nightfall, three uniformed men step out of the darkness and ask me something in Turkish. I explain to them that I’m just a tourist, and they tell me it’s okay. But wait, I ask them, are they here to prevent home invasions because all of these summer homes are empty right now?
I receive a smiling thumbs up. This is exactly why they are here.