Vacation with a baby: Safranbolu

We originally intended to go to the Mediterranean this summer. We always go to the Mediterranean – except that last summer we had a wedding and went to Belgrade instead. So this summer, half a month after the baby was born we were going to drive down to E’s family summer cottage in Borden and have a week onor more  the sea. Then everybodyb else got vacation in August and someone else from the family claimed early July. We also decided against a 9 hour road trip with an infant who falls asleep the second we turn on the ignition, add it’s near impossible to wake and feed her. So somewhere else it would have to be. Somewhere approximately offer feeding time away from Ankara…

Unfortunately Ankara is also in the middle of Anatolia, which is akin to being in the middle of Oklahoma. 

So we looked on the map and traced everything within four hours  – a few places in the black sea, Beypazari and Kizilcahamam (both close enough  be day trips), and…Safranbolu. As the latter is a metre 2 1/2 hours away and supposedly a UNESCO world heritage site and had decent priced hotels, plus neither of us had ever been there, we decided to try. I found an ottoman style konak hotel that was supposedly over 80% off for just this week. Unfortunately I forgot to note that the hotel was actually 6 km out of town center on the edge of a village across the river.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. 

Traveling with an infant – estimated times of departure and arrival are a joke. We leave after the baby has woken, fed, had her diaper changed, and then possible fed and been changed again. We stop enroute to ensure she isn’t overhearing, to try to wake her, feed her. We burn through all the snacks I’ve brought – green apples and cherries and whole wheat crackersband a late lunch box of black beans, quinoa, kale and cherry tomatoes- because breastfeeding is hungry work. We turn the AC up; we turn the AC down. And as were swinging over the green hills that separate the dry Anatolian interior from the dark lush green of the rain-drenched black sea region we stop onto of a summit at the dudu rest stop to have huge buns stuffed with akçaabat köfte ( basically hamburger patties), tomatoes, onions and spicy green peppers – because driving two girls is also hungry work. E smacks his lips and declared it delicious – out here we get twice as much meat as we would in Ankara and the vegetables are crisp and fresh. I ask for a packet of red pepper flakes, but as they don’t have packets the round and kindly old uncle running three place pours near half a jar of red pepper into a napkin, quietly folds it up, and asks if it’s enough. Yes, for a month.

We swung through the target ugly industrial town of Karabuç, get lost a few times, and finally find ourselves winding around the cobbled streets of historic Safranbolu where old ottoman houses cling to the hillside.

E doesn’t like it- too many conservative people on the sidewalks, not quite the open minded international tourist town. And it’s Ramazan, which means restaurants in conservative towns will be closed during the day and eating on the street is frowned upon -unless locals value their income from tourism over their religious righteousness. Either way, no problem for me with an infant on my arm.  
We’ll see. We still don’t know what the town is like because we suddenly found  ourselves on the road out of town, heading a few kilometers down a highway, across a narrow brown river,and through a tiny hamlet with a pockmarked dirt road. The husband was a little confused, as was I. But then we saw the sign and eventually turned into a travel parking lot right next to a three story white and wood konak surrounded by untamed fields of wildflowers and weeds. We went in and were greeted by a thin balding man in a starched white shirt who broke into a huge smile when he saw us  – there was only one other room of guests, and he seemed to have nothing to do all day but wait and find some way to be helpful. The hotel was nice enough  – clean, modern – but also in the middle of extensive outdoor renovation, with a pool being built and the travel trail going down from the hotel leading into a field of mostly weeds greatly in bed of a Nancy Cole to come and do some landscaping. To our disappointment, the hotel want actually old, but rebuilt on the site of an Ottoman Era konak. And it was missing the details, the touch, that would have made it actually boutique: while of a traditional pattern, the carpets were new and polyester; the towels kind of scratchy and bathrobes missing, as was any sort of tea and coffee service; our room did not come with the veranda listed on booking.com, lacked a comfortable chair; we had to call for extra pillows, and the food we had at iftar (ramadan Gary- breaking feast) was kind of mediocre. We paid 253 TL (78€) for two nights; that’s an acceptable price for this room in this hotel, but certainly not a deal. I have no idea why the normal booking.com price is listed at 662 TL per night, or why the sign behind the desk lists it as 210 TL per night. 

Compared to beautiful restored konaks we’ve stated in before – FRI Kodak hotel in eskişehir, villa konak hotel in kuşadası – this place is merely so-so. No idea how they got a 9.2 rating on booking.com. It could be beautiful – but needs the extra touches to become so. 

But still – it’s a mini vacation fornthe three of us, our babies first road trip, and a time for us to relax and be together – just us -as a nuclear family, to find our own pace after four months of being apart followed by two weeks of staying in a rather small room surrounded by a much larger group of family. Supportive family doing their best to be helpful and offer helpful comments and suggestions – but I think we also need some time and space to develop our own bonds with the baby, just us. So it doesn’t much matter if we’re in a truly splendid hotel or on the Mediterranean sea or a small conservative town as long as we can spend dinner time together, just us. 

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