In Istanbul Geraldine and I stayed on the top floor of a restored Ottoman mansion for the first two and last two nights of our trip. It was a small place of seven rooms in the Sultanahmet District, on a back street a dozen or so blocks from the tourist hotels but still within walking distance of the Blue Mosque, Hagia Sofia and other main attractions.
The mansion was owned and managed by a man named Enis, a thick-bodied fortyish chain-smoker with a helmet of dyed black hair. A man who was serious about the hotel business. An attentive man who made sure his guests were having an enjoyable stay. Enis was always asking us questions. Did we like the buffet breakfast? Did we need a guide to show us around? Were the facilities in our room okay?
On our last morning as we were waiting on the sidewalk for a taxi to take us to the airport Enis came outside and lit up a cigarette. He stood with us. He looked tired. Enis always looked tired.
“Enis, you’re working too hard, you need to rest more,” Geraldine said.
“I must be up,” he said. “With everything that’s going on and all the time zones coming in my email, I have to be up to check them. To respond right away.”
“You can’t do that every night,” I said. “You have to sleep.”
“You will write something about us?” he wondered.
“Where do you want us to do that?” Geraldine said.
“You stayed four nights so you enjoyed your stay. You will say that.”
“It’s true,” I said. “It’s a great place. We enjoyed our stay.”
“You will write something about us on TripAdvisor,” he said.
“I’ve never done that,” I said, “but sure, we’ll write something about you on TripAdvisor.”
“You will say you stayed four nights and you enjoyed your stay. You will stay with us again next time. You will recommend others to stay with us. It is a great place.”
“I’ll say, Enis was the perfect host. We enjoyed our time at the Ottoman mansion and wouldn’t hesitate to stay there again. I highly recommend the Ottoman mansion. It’s a great place.”
Hearing that, a smile hung on Enis’ face. “Thank you,” he said. “I will be glad to read it.”
Back in New York I set up a TripAdvisor account and wrote the upbeat review Enis wanted, and I meant every word of it. I sent it out around 8pm. Half an hour later I went back to the site to reread what I’d written to make sure I got it right. That was when I saw the “Response from Enis, Owner and Manager” below it stating how happy he was to read our kind review had been posted. The time in Istanbul was 3:22am.
GOREME CAR RENTAL
From Goreme, the only way to get to the Ihlara Valley to see the frescoes in the cave churches is by car or tour bus. We never take tours so late one morning we walked down the hill to the agency in the main square to find out there were no more cars available that day. But the man with dark hair and eyes working the desk told us to not despair (in so many words). In the next moment he was on the phone talking in Turkish. When he hung up he looked at us and smiled. “There is good news. I have a car.”
Not much longer after that a black sedan stopped in front of the office.
“This is for you,” he said, and we followed him outside.
Checking it out, we saw the toys, papers and CDs in the backseat. There was an empty coffee cup in the cup holder in front. From our introduction we found out its owner was the desk manager’s cousin. We shook his hand and he told us he needed it back by seven. The hundred Turkish Lira he was asking for was around $75 at the exchange rate, an amount I was sure was more than we should have had to pay for one day. For seven hours, actually. But we would only be there once. We could take it or leave it.
“It’s okay to rent out your cousin’s car?” I asked.
We were back in the office. I’d intentionally kept the word legal out of the conversation.
“It is fine,” he said. “You wanted a car to see the valley. So you have one.”
He went over the form, a single sheet of paper with printing on it in Turkish and a blank line at the bottom to sign my name on. Credit card in hand, I was told it would be cash only.
“This says I’m fully insured?”
“Yes, you are insured.”
“Yes, you are fully covered.”
“For damage and liability?”
“Yes, for those.”
“It’s been a while since I’ve driven a shift.”
“You know how to use one?”
“I do. It shouldn’t be a problem.”
Hearing that he snapped a sheet of paper off a small pad and wrote three telephone numbers on it. “This is for the ambulance,” he pointed. “This is for the hospital. This is my cell number. Call me if you are in any trouble.”