The main issue that I have with all inclusive hotels or any holiday village complex style hotels is that they are all so similar and although this one was in Turkey it could just as well have been in Spain or Mexico or Bali. A lot of people staying here would go home at the end of the week and tell their friends that they had been to Turkey, which was true, but then again no it wasn’t because in a place like this it is impossible to appreciate or understand the culture of the country.
To be fair the hotel tried hard to create a genuine ambiance, there were Turkish baths, the shopping area was designed like a bazaar and there were some ethnic furnishings in the public areas but it was all rather like being at an EPCOT World Showcase interpretation of the country.
At meal times the chefs prepared and served local food but this was squeezed into one corner of the dining room and bypassed by most of the guests as they made their way directly to the burgers and chips. Well, that was their loss because I have to say that the local dishes were quite wonderful. One night most people were obliged to try the local dishes because this was ‘Turkish night’ and I enjoyed the food so much that I felt compelled to find the head chef and congratulate him on a great spread.
The holiday deal also included one evening meal in one of the hotel’s a la carte restaurants and we agreed that it was only good manners to choose the Turkish restaurant in preference to the steak house or the Italian pizza restaurant. Here the food was even better than in the main dining room and we enjoyed a selection of Meze, Turkish skewers and, my personal favourite, sticky baklava to finish.
Some people simply did not leave the complex at all, which is a shame because it means no money enters the local economy, but had a daily routine that began with reserving a sun bed by the pool by the traditional method of spreading a towel across it at about six o’clock in the morning and then after breakfast spending the day smearing themselves with sun-tan oil and slowly char-grilling in the sun.
With two young children to entertain we inevitably spent more time around the pools than I would do normally but just a twenty minute walk away was the village of Sarigerme so it seemed rude not to pay it a visit.
Sarigerme, it has to be said, was not the most attractive village in Turkey and certainly not especially traditional in any way, just a dusty street lined with shops and bars but at least here was a traditional Turkish shopping experience where shopkeepers came out into the street to physically stop passers-by and to offer them amazing multi-purchase deals on the merchandise – four bottles of perfume for £30, five tee shirts for £10, two handbags for £15 and so on and so on.
We resisted all of the advances because Sunday in Sarigerme was market day and we made our way along the single street where bright sunlight was melting into the shadows and people were drinking under the dappled shade of blossom trees until we reached the stalls all laid out under white canopies that were swaying in the light breeze like the rigging of a sailing boat.
The whole arrangement reminded me of the Souks of Marrakech and Fez and we were immediately under siege from the stall holders who were desperate to shift their stock. The trouble is that we are just not used to a purchasing process that is based on bartering and we are generally hopeless at it. Sally immediately fell victim to a man selling replica (fake) designer purses and came away with three for 30 Turkish Lira and at about £10 neither of us were sure if that was a bargain or not. Having children with us was a big mistake because the minute you stopped paying attention someone hung a ‘hello Kitty’ bag around their necks or put a bracelet on their wrist and demanded payment and then there was hassle getting it off them and handing it back.
The market was about one hundred metres long and we made it to the top with only a couple of purchases but then of course we had to turn around and walk all of the way back and run the gauntlet of the stallholders for a second time. Sally seemed to pick up the knack of bartering much easier than me and I think we bought some tee shirts and a couple of bracelets but to be honest I can’t be absolutely sure.
Close to the exit there was a food stall where Turkish ladies were making goat’s cheese and mint pancakes and this seemed sufficiently authentic to me to make me stop and negotiate a sale and we stopped for a while and ate an unnecessary mid-day snack and drank a glass of Turkish tea and watched the market pantomime as one by one unsuspecting tourists stepped into the bear pit to try their luck.
Out of the market we strolled back down through the shops stopping now and then for presents and souvenirs and before returning to the Suntopia Tropical stopped a pavement bar and I enjoyed a proper glass of Efes beer and then I had a second!
And so my week in Sarigerme came cruising to an end and on the final evening I started to think about tidying the rooms and packing the suitcases and when all the work was done I sat for a while on the balcony and reflected on my holiday. I thought about the children and how much they had enjoyed themselves and it made me smile, I dragged up some little regrets about when I had said no to a thousandth climb to the top of the water chute steps and most of all I thought about the good times and how this made me feel and over a final gin and tonic I made my assessment of the ‘All Inclusive’ holiday and my final judgement was that despite my initial reservations I had liked it!