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Turkey – Life Outside the Hotel

May 15, 2014

I wasn’t too keen on going to Turkey… We needed a holiday, but we didn’t have much time, so we couldn’t be picky – a week somewhere in Antalya was the easiest option (although it took us 15 hours to get here). Friends, who’ve been to Turkey before, loved it, people at the travel agency recommended it and we decided to give it a go.

I was warned that I’d need to learn to somehow ignore anyone who wanted to sell us something (from handbags to private photo shoots) and to be very careful when exchanging money. I was sure I was ready. Oh, how little did I know…

The staff at the hotel are very friendly and helpful, yet most of them don’t speak English (sign language helps every time). If you go to Turkey and don’t leave your hotel, you’ll be fine – you’ll even enjoy it, yet if you do… this might be not a very pleasant experience.

When we arrived we were warned once again that we should be careful while dealing with money – for e.g. if you use your credit card sometimes they add an extra 0 at the end, if you’re buying something you have to haggle as the prices they tell you have been doubled or even tripled, if you’re paying in cash you have to always check the change. We were also told that it’s not advised to rent a car: first of all the locals are terrible drivers, second – there’s a huge chance you’d end up paying for some scratch on the side of the car which has been there for several seasons.

To cut the long story short we hired a driver for a day (Adem works for the hotel and is considered to be “safe”, he spoke a bit of English and German, also Finish – all 3 languages have been mastered in the “beach academy”) and he took us to see two nearby towns and a waterfall.

krioklys

Our first stop was Manavgat waterfall – impressive place that has been turned into a little commercial Mecca. Stalls selling all kinds of souvenirs, belly dancing outfits, orange juice and ice-cream somehow didn’t go with the beauty of Nature… The worst bit was the “attention” we got – you can’t pass a stall without being greeted in 15 different languages, you definitely have to imagine you’re in a sound proof glass bubble in order to stay sane.

temple

The second stop was the ancient town of Side and this really freaked me out… We wanted to see the remnants of the Apollo temple, but to get to them we had to go up and down quite a few narrow streets full of shops selling the same souvenirs just four times dearer. If you think you can imagine how they tried to lure us into their shops, you’re wrong… Greetings and questions “where are you from?” were flying from all directions! It’s impossible to pass a restaurant without being told what they offer or a shop without being told to come in to look at their stuff. I’m glad that after sometime this chaos stopped scaring me; it just drains emotionally, as I’m definitely not used to something like that. Now, remembering a young Turkish guy holding  two small pink “Hello Kitty” handbags in each hand and showing them to an elderly lady while asking her “where are you from?”, I can smile – on the actual day I was in a state of  a shock! (By the way, she was from Holland.)

The last stop was Manavgat. As I understand it is a usual Turkish city, which seemed to be very busy – lots of cars, lots of people. By the way, everyone who warned us about the traffic was right – they jump the lights, speed, leave their cars blocking the road and don’t care about anyone who wants to cross the street on a zebra crossing. To be honest with you I’m surprised we saw only one car crash the day we left our hotel. (I wouldn’t agree to drive in Turkey, even if someone would pay me.)

suo

Anyway, here we come to the last and most important bit of my post – the real Turkey and its villagers. Sadly authentic Turkey is poor: full of stray cats and dogs, full of people who need every Euro to make sure they can feed their children. Tourism is helping their economy, yet who can guarantee that the money that is earned reaches the ones who need it the most? All the big hotel chains are huge gold mines for the rich, but I do hope that they have enough decency to pay good wages for the young waiters who serve us at the bar or maids who clean our rooms.

We had a chance to buy some stuff from a lady who runs a little kiosk not far from the hotel and I felt guilty haggling… We ended up paying the first price she named, although she had already agreed on a lower one. I do feel guilty laying by the pool, while she is trying to fight for a better life for her family… Life outside the hotel is heart-breaking and serves as a good reminder that, while valuing what we have, we should share.

— — —

Turkey has announced three day mourning to remember everyone who has died in the biggest modern mining disaster, can I ask you just one thing? Please include these people and their families in your prayers tonight.

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6 Comments leave one →
  1. May 15, 2014 6:45 pm

    A really moving post, Kristina.

    If there had been email then, it would resemble one I would have written, reeling, from our first days in India. I sympathise with the culture shock you are experiencing, and the awareness of the gap between you and the lady selling her wares in the stall. I remember in India the first thing that was impressed on us was that 1) we were white, and 2) that even travelling on a shoestring,we were still ‘rich’ Westerners.

    What really got to me after awhile (we travelled around India and Nepal for 6 months!) was when people approached us as ‘friends’, only later to reveal that they wanted us to take their son or daughter or themselves with us when we went back to Europe! Or that they wanted large sums of money from us for various causes.

    It is rough to be there in the midst of the mining disaster. What a trip you are having! I wonder if you’ll still call it a ‘vacation’ when you return.

    best wishes for a safe homecoming,
    love Sarah

    • May 21, 2014 9:04 am

      You’ve seen quite a lot of this World, haven’t you, Sarah? 6 months away from home – it must have been hard. I think Turkey isn’t too bad, if we compare it to India. To be honest with you I don’t think I’d brave India – 1st of all it’s so far away, that it would probably take half a day on the plane to get there, 2nd – I’ve heard too many stories that shocked me. Well, they say “never say never”, so I guess I shouldn’t say I will never do this, maybe just not now.

      Turkey is nice if you have money, if you don’t leave your hotel, yet its towns and villages can serve as a huge lesson that we should share and that there are millions of people out there who would give up anything to be in our place. That’s why, if there’s no serious reason to be sad, we simply need to learn to value everything we have and to be happy.

      Last year was really horrible – three losses in one year… I was devastated and started believing that there was something evil around us. Now I think I managed to recover, as looking at people I pass on the street,I know that all of them have gone through something similar at some point in their lives. Everything’s back to normal, and this “normal” is really not too bad. K.

  2. May 15, 2014 9:48 pm

    Lovely piece of writing and post. And yes.. really feel for those poor people.

    • May 21, 2014 8:32 am

      Glad you liked this post, Sue. I hope it will help people realize how lucky they are and how much they have – we just need to open our eyes wider. K.

  3. May 16, 2014 4:27 pm

    I agree with Sue above. And my heart goes out to those who are suffering.

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