First impressions are unfortunate. The water is cold, the beds lack clean sheets, the duvets are distinctly grubby, some room bins have rubbish in them from previous occupants… Our guide lists our complaints and the hotel staff look bemused but promise to try to put things right, while we have our evening prayers. Meanwhile our supper is getting cold.
And everything is put right, more or less.
The lads who comprise the hotel staff were well intentioned if untrained to Western standards of hotel management.
The food was good, although the choice was limited to two dishes - fish or meat - plus my vegetarian tomato/onion/pepper casserole with couscous, which was very good. All the food was plentiful and well cooked, albeit cold on serving, some said, but again this was to some extent our fault. Our impromptu half hour evening prayers when the staff were clearly ready to serve us our supper was perhaps unfortunate timing. Anyway the meal concluded with unlimited quantities of typically Turkish syrupy cake and cay – so I was very happy!
Tomorrow was to be the start of the next stage of our journey, and something completely different; a few days experiencing the hospitality and liturgy of a couple of Syriac Orthodox monasteries whilst we explored other churches and monasteries of the Tur Abdin area of Southern Turkey down towards the Syrian border.
|the view from our window|
When I woke up the next morning, drew back the curtains and saw our position right on the shore of the beautiful Lake Van, with splendid views over to the glistening snow capped mountains beyond the other side of the lake, I felt more than a little contrite. We all seemed to have so much to complain about last night when we checked into this hotel. And what a panorama we woke up to! A simply fabulous view of the lake was there straight in front of us – we were right on the waterfront. We had been so tired and grumpy the previous night on arrival that we had all noticed only the bad, not seeing any good in our situation.
|the view from our window|
|Lake Van from the hotel grounds|
Breakfast was OK with not the greatest choice of foods available, especially for a veggie like me. But the cay was brewed early, and I was able to take a cup to my room mate before she rose; tea in bed is not a luxury the monasteries will provide, I’m sure!
In one of those curious moments of synchronicity I was reading Freya Stark's Riding to the Tigris at this time, where she recounts her experiences on a journey from Lake Van to the Tigris, mostly undertaken on horseback. In Chapter 3, on Van, she writes: "The Turks, with the most splendid, varied and interesting country in the world, are naturally anxious to obtain tourists, and their difficulties in this respect are caused chiefly by the quite phenomenal badness of their hotels." This she attributes mainly to their lack of training in hotel management. OK this was written about her travels in the 1950s, but it is clear that some hotels could even now do well to heed her words! Although I must add that the efforts of hotel staff everywhere we went were invariably well-intentioned and the traditional Turkish hospitality could rarely be faulted.
|an early glimpse of the Tigris river|