I lived in Ankara for nearly six years give or take. In that time I was lucky enough to make a few friends, most of whom have since moved on. So basically there is very little to keep me returning. But that is not the case for M. He still has family there as well as various friends and connections to draw him back. The trouble is our brood is a bit big to be manageable when trying to find somewhere to stay. Well, we could do the Turkish cram an entire family or more into a two bedroomed flat by sprawling on the roll out beds and taking up all available floor space. Except, well, we’re not that Turkish. It’s not that I would mind and the boys would probably find it really fun, but M’s family in my experience have moved away from that kind of thing.
We did all stay at his nephew’s one year, but I felt it was a real imposition for nephew’s wife (herself a non Turk) especially as nephew wasn’t around much. And M’s son did offer, after we had arrived in Ankara but sister/daughter was already there. That would have been 3+1+5 in a two bed flat where the second bedroom was really an office come playroom for him and his daughter.
So to cut a long story unnecessarily long, we made sure to arrange to stay elsewhere. At least M did. Now being who he is, he has the right to stay in any of the many state misafirhanesi (guest houses). We stayed in quite a few while doing our tour of the south east in 2001, there was only one that I walked straight out of but that is a tale for another day. All state institutions and industries have their own guesthouses, from parliament to the police, teachers to the electricity board and highways agency. I thought M had promised me parliament. It turns out we were guests at the state electricity board or TEDAS (TEDASH still can’t get wordpress to give me the letter for sh).
We arrive at about 8pm. I can’t actually recall the time but it was dark and my brain was fried. I’d stupidly let the boys have a very late night on Saturday in the hope that they would sleep for at least part of the journey on Sunday. How wrong was I? Instead we got Dosh demanding soup at the ‘best place ever’ despite having packed a picnic. He meant the service station called agacli, where apparently they did the best tomato soup. I really have to do some work on making his appreciation of food more sophisticated. Before the soup I had driven and we went past some great twisters forming in the fields. I would post a video but M only manage to capture the wing mirror and dashboard–I have no idea. After the soup M took over driving and the boys ramped up their level of irritating behaviour to max. At least Lai had the decency to sleep but as we got ever closer to Ankara Smelly and Dosh seemed to step up their level of hysteria. It wasn’t really helped by my pointing out a licence plate with the letters prt (pert or purt in Turkish is an onomatopaic word for fart).
So we arrive. Two boys in sleep deprivation induced hysterics, one dead to the world, and one completely brain fried mum. I don’t have massively high standards when selecting hotels. I’m happy if it has a bed, a shower, and most importantly is clean.
First impressions were that it was all a bit tired, and full of men. Hardly surprising as men dominate here and the only women I saw next day were all villagey headscarf wearers. So cue the stares again. Unsurprisingly they don’t have rooms to accommodate 5, so we were split into two. I took asleep child and gave M the hysterical two. Rooms sorted and paid for we then get the lift. Is it just me or does a lift with carpet on the walls say something about the place? I had misgivings. We got to the rooms, they were OK. They had a shower, one that I discovered in the morning didn’t drain properly. You know the kind; floods then the water sits, then suddenly it just decides to suck it all away in a monstrous instantaneous vacuum. The loo had this bizarre box behind it labelled ‘nano’ something or other. I have no idea what that was all about.
The room itself was very much designed for men, as many hotels are (ask my mum, she is always complaining about men designing rooms). Only one visible plug socket, lots of dark laminate furniture, and the most bizarrely positioned mirror ever. Standing you could only see your waist, and seated your chest. Clearly there is no need or desire to see my face. The beds were OK but an odd choice of greying bedspread and sheets that didn’t entirely cover the mattress, as well as a stain on the carpet, did not give me the sensation that this place was cleaned well. Plus lots of beige, beige never fills me with confidence. Beige is the colour that has lost all hope.
Shut my mouth, don’t complain, it’s cheap, it’s no Hilton but it’s cheap and even the cheapest places that could accommodate us had rather dodgy reviews on Booking.com.
I hadn’t realised though that the price did not include breakfast. So perhaps it wasn’t that cheap as breakfast was 10TL a head. I did feel that was a tad steep for a state place and 5 would have been fairer but the boys took one look as were full of glee: CHIIIPS! Yep, chips for breakfast. They were in heaven. Who knew chips were an acceptable breakfast food? Even if rather luke warm, chips and tomato ketchup made this guest house the best ever. It also gave me the opportunity to introduce the boys to the idea of soup for breakfast. That is a real Turkish thing. Smelly decided he was open to new ideas and would try this strange custom. Lai, however, discovered the nutella and so continued with his carb and sugar only diet. (don’t judge me, this child takes food stubbornness to a whole new level. He frequently doesn’t eat because I refuse to serve his preferred diet)
I was offered tea (blerch) never drink the stuff. Happy with water for the time being.
Turks can be a little, hmmm, stuck in their ways. It’s something I have encountered before but there are times when it becomes faintly ridiculous. TEDAS decided it was going to go for ridiculous. M asked for a coffee for me “oh no, sorry sir, we only have tea”. Ok no coffee. A few minutes later I thought, really? no coffee, not even shitty Nescafe? M asks again. “No sir we don’t serve coffee” Really? none at all? “well sir, we have coffee upstairs in the coffee lounge”. Could you bring some from there to my wife here? “No sir, sorry sir. She can go upstairs and have coffee but we can’t bring one here”. Oh dear, they cannot break the separation of coffee place and non coffee place.
I would love to say it’s a state employee mentality “No madam, I cannot stamp your paper [even though the stamp is right next to me] it is not my job to stamp your paper. That is my colleague’s job, and he is on a tea break now, you will have to wait”. But sadly it’s not. Perhaps it’s an Ankara thing:
Can I have a cheese pide with tomatoes and pepper? “No madam, sorry we do not do that” Do you have cheese pide? “Yes madam.” Do you haaave tomatoes? “Yes madam.” Do you have peppers? “Yes madam.” Can you make me a cheese pide and put your tomatoes and peppers on it? “Oh no madam, we can’t do that.”
These are all real conversations. Admittedly they happen less and less these days. But ask for anything off the menu and you will see a fleeting look of horror. Or if you’re really lucky you’ll get a flat “no” where they simply cannot see the ridiculousness of what they then explain.
Weirdly, after the whole coffee place–non coffee place thing, I grew to like the slightly tired, carpeted lift, and overly beige TEDAS guest house. It sits in a era that is now fading in Turkey. It’s dogged refusal to move with the times for customer service, while embracing bizarre and apparently useless nano things for loos is almost endearing.