We decided to splurge in Mardin and reserved a small suite at Erdoba Evleri. The price was twice or more of any hotel we stayed at in southeastern Turkey, and we chose to do so because we were not enamoured with any of the other accommodations we had seen on the internet; they all looked bad for too much money. Mardin has become quite popular as a weekend destination among wealthier Turks from Istanbul, so prices have risen as a result, while quality has been compromised. Erdoba has the reputation of being the best in the city, but it is actually divided across four different buildings across the city, three of which are fairly modern. This is why we chose to pay up for a suite at their Selçuklu Konağı (pronounced Seljuklu Konahi), their only truly converted ancient palace. We loved the room with its stone walls and vaulted ceilings, and the palace with its intricately carved stone façade and panoramic views over the Mesopotamian plains. I would definitely stay here again, but this does not mean I did not have a few complaints. Unfortunately, for the price (especially compared to Shmayaa in Midyat), there were quite a few kinks that should be worked out. For example, the internet did not work inside the room because of the thick stone walls, so in freezing winter weather, we had to go out to the terrace to use it! The room did not have a cupboard for clothes, I still do not understand why! And the bathroom did not have a heater, so it was always freezing, while the shower doors always leaked when we showered. None of this was a real inconvenience, but for the price we paid, we expected these little details to have been resolved.
Even though it is no longer a functioning hotel, the Bayraktar lives on in my memory, and the shell of the building still stands in the centre of Mardin, a pockmarked concrete monster towering above the bazar. Windows are all smashed in, the reception where my Turkish friend and I spent all those hours in the dark looking at endless slides of Mardin (see page intro...) is boarded up and fenced off, the basement restaurant where we feasted on lahmacun and watched in horror as our guide ordered a plate of kidneys, hearts and liver, popping each one into his mouth with far too much enthusiasm...that too is now empty and forgotten.
It was so bad it was almost good. It probably once was good, and indeed my battered and much thumbed Lonely Planet guide from 1996 deserves to be quoted from: "The Hotel Bayraktar is Mardin's best hotel, with 50 rooms on eight floors reached by a lift, and a terrace restaurant where the notables gather. All rooms have showers and cost US$20 a double."
Even by 2000, standards had slipped. We paid just US$5 for our room, the photographer whispering that we'd been overcharged. The lift had not ascended anywhere for quite some time, and I doubt any notables had gathered on the terrace since the guidebook was published.
Looking back on that odd, odd night, perhaps we were the last guests to stay in the Bayraktar. The receptionists seemed not to notice we were there, even though we'd effectively taken over the room for that tedious slideshow. The old man in charge turned off the lights and fell asleep in an armchair behind us, leaving us to our own devices. Perhaps he was actually a ghost, and is still there asleep behind the boarded up windows, a slideshow of Mardin doorways still in progress on the wall to this day. Maybe there are still travellers trapped inside, unable to sleep because of the rattling windows and the braying donkeys down below? Perhaps Zeynep and I had a lucky escape...
Head down to the square where the Mardin Museum is, and look out for an inaccessible eight storey shell of a building by the road. If you look hard enough, you might be able to make out the name Bayraktar on the side.
The only budget place in town, this place definitely suffers from lack of competition. Used to the good value budget places in other parts of Turkey, I was expecting something similar here, but instead I got a somewhat frosty reception on arrival at the Basak. The guy behind the desk was engrossed in a Turkish soap on the telly, and while he didn't ignore me completely, it wasn't much of a welcome. I paid 25 TL (about £11) for a bed...yes, that's a bed, not a room. For a room and a key for the door, I would have to pay for all the beds in the room, meaning 75 TL (£33), certainly way beyond the means of most budget travellers.
It was late at night and I assumed nobody else was going to arrive that night, so thought I'd managed to get a room all to myself. I went off in search of something to eat, but with all restaurants beginning to sweep up, I had to improvise with some junk food from a corner shop. Returning about twenty minutes later with thoughts of munching on crisps while writing up my travel diary, I was quite surprised and disappointed to find two old men in my room, snoring away in the dark. I was shouted at as soon as I put a light on, so that put me in a right mood. I sat in the cold reception and watched Turkish soaps until midnight, before fumbling around in the dark trying to find my toothbrush.
At dawn, I was awoken by the light being switched on and the old men shouting at each other, getting ready for dawn prayers. They banged doors on their way to the filthy shared bathroom down the corridor, and made so much noise that other guests started shouting at them. Prayers done, they carried on chatting loudly with the light on...I asked twice if they could keep the noise down, but that was ignored. It was a relief when they packed their bags and left just before 7am, and I managed to get a couple of hours' sleep. But enough was enough...I wanted to see more of Mardin, enjoy another night at least, but not in this hotel...I was prepared to spend more to stay somewhere else and worry about the price later!
The shower that didn't work, the door to the shared toilet that didn't lock, the freezing cold water from the solitary working tap, the snoring roommates, the disinterested management...that was all outstanding!
Seriously, Turkey usually does much better in the budget hotel department. If you're on your own, then 25 lira is not going to break the bank for one night, but if you're a group of three, it really does not make economic sense staying here, when a nice hotel room in a boutique hotel down the road costs 85 lira, just 10 lira more than the entire room at the Basak.
Mardin needs a good value budget place, and that could be the Basak if someone gave it a good clean, sorted out the plumbing and gave the prices a rethink.
From the main street, a set of broken steps leads up a dingy looking alleyway, so maybe not the best introduction to a hotel, but around the corner lies a surprise...in a prime location right underneath the Sultan Ise Medresesi is the Zinciriye, a boutique hotel with about a dozen rooms in a restored mansion.
Although the rooms have been decorated very well, using a mixture of the modern and the traditional, attention hasn't always been paid to detail, something I noticed in my tiny bathroom...the door didn't quite close properly, paint had been applied in a rush, tiles weren't quite straight, water sprayed from the shower onto the towel rail...but those were all minor details and probably explains why the prices aren't quite as high as other butik hotels in Mardin.
A room to myself set me back 85 TL (about £38), which was actually not too bad when you consider the dreadful Basak Otel next door charged 25 TL per bed, so 75 TL if you didn't want to share with strangers. Plus it included breakfast on the terrace.
The website mentions a sister hotel, also in Mardin, so that might be worth looking into...
The rooftop cafe was a highlight, with views over town below, the Sultan Ise Medresesi looming spectacularly behind. It's quite a popular place with non-guests in the late afternoon as the sun goes down.
One unique quality was the odd and slightly embarrassing situation that ensued when I asked about laundry. In Diyarbakir, my hotel took a bag of washing without really looking at it and washed it and ironed it expertly for 10TL, so I was expecting something similar here. At reception, they took my bag of washing, and to my horror began to take out all my dirty t-shirts, laying them on the counter and tapping away at a calculator! A European couple busy checking in looked on with a mixture of amusement and shock, while I just wanted to curl up and die...after three weeks in Iraq, I had some fairly dirty clothes! At one point, the receptionist looked at me and asked, "are you in the military?". Ummm....no...why? "Well, all these plain t-shirts look like military clothes to me". Oh. Plain white, plain olive green, plain blue t-shirts and longsleeve tops...military apparently! A few more taps on the calculator and he came up with a price. "45 lira". 45? For ten t-shirts?! That's a lot of money. "40 then". Oh I see, the calculator bit was just for show. Still too expensive. "But they'll be machine washed," he reasoned. Well if they're going in a washing machine together, why count them? Why embarrass me at reception in front of other guests? And why charge so much? I offered 15 lira, and we eventually agreed on 25 lira, still way too much for one load of washing but it needed doing, and I'd already aired my dirty laundry in public so I wasn't going to back out now.
I liked the hotel overall though, and would recommend it. It is way over my usual budget, but sometimes you do need to splurge...just occasionally...
This is a new hotel in the new part of Mardin. From the road outside there are frequent buses up the hill to old Mardin or 250 000 TL.
I didn't know wherelse to go and just accepted what they charged. I'm sure if I had tried to get a lower price it would have worked.
Paid 45 000 000 TL per night for a room that was okay but not more. The plus is the TV with BBC news.
Breakfast is served outside.
I had dinner at the restaurant one evening. For chicken shish kebab, salad, bread, coke, water and tip I paid
9 000 000 TL.
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