CONTRIBUTED BY LARISSA KOERSCHNER
A few days after we arrived here at Incirlik I was ready to get out into Turkey and check-out the really important things, like the malls. I am an avid shopper and am one of those people that gets a ‘rush’ out of scoring something great on sale. Also, my mother says I actually learned how to walk in a mall and took my first steps there. So technically, I can blame her for my shopping addiction.
If you are brand new to Incirlik and haven’t been any further off base than The Alley, the Optimum Mall is a great place to start. It is close by, easy to drive to, and simple to park at. It also offers a great way to see a little of our host nation and the cultural differences without going too far out of your comfort zone.
When you arrive at the Optimum Mall, you will drive along the front of the mall and then see a sign for Otopark. Turn right here and it will take you down into the parking garage. Prior to entering the garage there is usually a security guard standing off to the left with a mirror to check under your car. Keep your eyes on him as he may waive you forward into the garage or he may hold up his hand, asking you to stop so he can walk around your car and inspect it. He may even ask you to open your trunk for inspection as well. This has only happened to us once in all the times we have been to the mall; usually the guard just waves us right through into the garage.
Once you get into the garage, you will be on level -2 and there is lots of parking. The mall entrance is located in a glass enclosure directly in the center of the parking garage. To help you park, there are digital numbers flashing on the ceiling indicating how many spaces are available down each row (I love this feature). If you visit at a very busy time, you may have to go down another level to -3 and park there. The parking garage is free.
Once you park, you will enter the mall through automatic sliding doors and be directed through a security scanner. If you have a baby stroller, you can leave your child in the stroller and they will direct you to push it around the scanner so that it doesn’t set off the alarm (you do not need to fold your stroller and place it through the x-ray machine).
Located on the floor (-2) that you just entered there is a travel agency, dry cleaner, pet shop and tons of ATMs (you can always grab TL from these if you forgot to on-base). We always stop and look at the cute baby animals in the pet shop too. On our last trip to the mall, we somehow adopted a turtle (the turtle, cage and food was 35TL).
There will be elevators to your right and an escalator to your left. The retail shops are located on floors -1 through 2 and the food court is located on the top level at 2. Also, located on floor 2 is the movie theater (which plays some movies in English and is super nice inside), an arcade with video games in the front and kiddie rides in the back (to include bumper cars); a 5-D movie ride place and most of the retail shops for young children (including the toy stores).
On the ground floor (Level 0), there is an ice skating rink. It’s small, but perfect for novices and kids. It costs 10TL ($5) and there is a railing along the entire wall for those that need the extra help. This is a wonderful feature because my 6 year old was able to skate on the ice by himself while I stayed with my daughter. Also on floor 0, is my favorite store – LC Waikki. In my opinion, it’s similar to Old Navy in price, selection and quality. I buy a lot of my 3 year old daughter’s clothes here.
On floor -1, you will find the Home Depot-like store Koçtaş and the Super Walmart-like store Migros. Koçtaş sells things for home improvement like paint, curtains, light bulbs, gardening supplies, plants, shelves, storage options, tools and more. This is where I got the curtains for our living room (the European style ones that slide into the tracks on the ceilings) and paint for the walls in my kid’s rooms. Across the way from Koçtaş, is Migros. Migros sells food, clothing, household items, electronics and seasonal items; very similar to Super Walmart. The prices are really great if you’re purchasing something made in Turkey or Europe, but if you are purchasing a brand made in the US (like Pampers or Neutrogena), you will pay much more since it’s imported.
I want to mention an uncomfortable situation that we encountered on our first trip to the Optimum Mall so that if you find yourself in a similar situation, you’ll feel more prepared than we did. I should also note, that this has only happened ONCE in all the times we have been to the mall (unfortunately it happened on our first visit which really scared us). When we were up on the top level playing in the arcade, some middle school boys approached my daughter and I and tried to have a conversation with us. I smiled and attempted to converse with them, thinking they just wanted to practice their English. After my daughter finished her ride, I carried her back to the back of the arcade where my husband and son were. The group of boys followed me and kept getting closer and closer to us. I figured they would leave us alone once we started ignoring them, but they didn’t. So we decided to leave the arcade, but the boys followed us. We had no idea what they wanted and we couldn’t seem to get away from them. They followed us, right on our hips, surrounding us and making us feel very uncomfortable. We had no other option but to go inside a store we knew they wouldn’t go into – a glassware kitchen shop. However, the boys stayed right outside the shop waiting for us…for 20 minutes! It was scary and awful and being so new here I had no idea if this was ‘normal’ behavior in the Turkish culture. Needless to say, we left the mall feeling defeated and confused. So, our first word we learned in Turkish was ‘hayir’ (pronounced “high-er” and meaning ‘no’). In hindsight, the boys probably wanted money and had we have known this word we would have been better equipped to handle the situation.
A piece of advice when visiting the mall, if you go between 10:00-14:00 it will be less crowed. After 2pm, the mall gets extremely crowded. I am talking about crazy, holiday-shopping-on-Christmas-Eve type of busy. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve been there plenty of times after 2pm, I just have to mentally prepare for the chaos, the long wait at the elevators, the constant stares because of being a foreigner, and the cutting in lines. This is also the case on Sundays since it’s the Turks day off.
Address: Hacı Sabancı Bulvarı No:28 Yüreğir, Adana
Directions: map Make a right out of the base front gate. Make a right on the D400. After you go under the train station (the track will be above you), veer right onto the side street (the Optimum Mall will be directly on your right, but might be hidden from view). Enter the roundabout and take the 1st exit (basically a right turn) onto Haci Sabanci Blv. You will be in front of the mall at this point and will see the Otopark sign (see picture above) on the right to enter the parking garage. [If you go over the bridge/water and past the large Adana Mosque, you’ve gone too far.]
Coordinates: N 36°59.398’ E035°20.360’
EDITOR’S NOTE: As of February 2016, this post has been re-published on our Overseas Yes network site, Germany Ja. We are in the process of transferring all the content of this site over there, and will be shutting Turkey Tamam down once that process is complete. Comments have been closed on this post here, but if you’ve got something to add we’d love to continue the conversation. Please visit this post in its new home on Germany Ja and leave your comment there.