Scruffy shoppers welcome reopening of Europe's shops

Matthieu DEMEESTERE, with Fulya Ozerkan in Istanbul
In Brussels, eager shoppers lined up outside stores (AFP Photo/Kenzo TRIBOUILLARD)

Brussels (AFP) - Queues of shoppers -- many with unkempt hair or beards -- formed in parts of Europe on Monday, as more countries further eased anti-virus lockdowns.

Social distancing rules are still in place, and in Belgium a public transport strike disturbed the cautious reopening, but some businesses restarted.

In Istanbul, barbers set to work taming the unruly beards that locked-down men have grown during their confinement.

Sadettin Celikcioglu, 65, had three hirsute customers in his shop in the upscale Nisantasi neighbourhood, all ready at long last for a professional trim.

"The value of barbers has been well understood. People have had longer beards. Some of them got their wives to trim them, some bought machines," he told AFP, with a smile.

"Nobody can do our profession. It is one of the most difficult professions. Men were wandering on the street with inappropriate hair. We are now correcting them."

"We have bookings until the evening. Tomorrow will be the same. We are four barbers in the salon and will be working on a rotating basis."

Turkish women also turned out for a haircut, as Murat Karaman explained in his nearby salon, where appointments must now be secured in advance.

"The salon was disinfected by municipal workers on Friday evening. We have made all the preparations," Karaman said, explaining new virus safety rules.

"We work on an appointment system. In the past we used to take any customer walking through the door but this is no longer possible. We have reduced the number of customers as much as we can."

The social distancing requirements didn't deter Ino, a middle-aged customer who admitted she'd struggled to keep herself presentable during lockdown.

"I brought myself here today to get fixed up," she joked.

In Greece, shopkeepers in Athens's Ermou Street rejoiced at life returning to normal as they raised their shutters, and in Belgium the lockdown left people with a few particular needs.

"I need a new pair of jeans," said 61-year-old Brigitte Szekely, speaking outside a clothing store in Brussels.

"I've done so much bike riding in the past two months that I've worn these out."

If she was hoping to start getting the tram as the lockdown is phased out, she might have been disappointed: some public transport drivers in the city were on strike, saying it was not safe to go back to work.

Deborah Aragon was out shopping in a Brussels suburb with a pushchair and her two-year-old son, hoping to find shoes.

"I don't have any in his size," she said. "During the lockdown he wore his big brother's"