My best friend and I were planning a summer vacation together. Where we would go wasn’t as important for us as long we can take a whole week together.
We ended up booking an all-inclusive hotel together, both of us are very well traveled, but never been to an all-inclusive hotel before. We are willing to try it, (we both think you should try everything at least once) and I was desperately in need of a “boring” beach vacation where I don’t have to worry about anything, at least that was the plan, so we figured why not?. The only goal I had was to read a whole book, from the beginning to the end, that was all I wanted. (The curious incident of the dog in the night-time, by Mark Haddon)
During our week of choice one place came up called: The Labranda Princess Hotel in Güllük, Turkey.
Ok, we book that then – there where no reviews available we thought that would take its origin in the fact that they just renovated the place. looked good on the pictures – that’s a bit like gambling, I know now.
First, I have to admit to my shame, that I didn’t knew too much about Turkey. (Sure, I went over the border to the Turkish side while visiting Cypres, but that is not the same). Honestly, I was a little bit worried since apparently Turkish men love pale skin and blue eyes. Purely the fact that I am a woman with the just mentioned attributes is exciting – which isn’t really comforting. My Friend and I decided to give it a shot, she had been to Istanbul plenty of times before, so – Turkey it is. We figured in worst case we just stay in our own hotel bubble and enjoy the promised 4 star hotel extravaganza – save and sound!
I’ve never travelled with Turkish Airlines before, but I was immediately a fan, the food – honestly the best I’ve ever had on a plane.
After a long journey from Stockholm to Berlin over Istanbul to my final destination Güllük, I arrived at the hotel – Happy as a Clown, excited to see my best friend and enjoy our vacation. All went well from the logistical side of things, we got picked up from the Airport and had a shuttle to the hotel – so far so good.
At the reception I met a young man who spoke very little English which is not a problem for me (I polished my Turkish up in advance, I try to learn the bare minimum of every language that is spoken in the country I travel to. We managed to communicate in a wild mix of English, my broken Turkish, hands and feet). He pressed a card in my hands, room number 603. I was a bit bewildered since he wasn’t showing me the room or helping me with my luggage but as my friend Mie would say: “I’m an independent woman, I listen to Beyoncé – Surfboard”
So I enter the lift, Room number 603 – should be on the highest floor right? but the hotel only goes up to level 4, hm.. On the 4th floor are naturally all the 400er rooms, that’s weird. I was determined to find that room for myself so I checked every floor. When I reached Floor -1, the elevator doors opened up revealing the “Wet area” I assumed this must be an indoor pool or something similar.
Finally, I gave up, heading back to the reception: “Sorry to bother you, but I can’t find my room?”.
-1 is where I should head to. -1? but that is where the indoor pool is? (turns out it was the Hamam, area). I should continue to the right. Ok, so there are rooms? The walls are moldy, water dropping down from the ceiling, I have difficulties to maneuver my luggage thru all of this. It was flat out disgusting. The smell! super gross. After dropping off my luggage I naturally head back to the reception, this is not acceptable. The young man tells me he can’t do anything for me until the manager is back. My friend Mie arrives, she get’s an even worse room, nummer 610. Her room was drowned in moldy smell. That’s it, I will not let my friend stay at this health hazard, we pack her things! She is staying with me in the room I had. At least it had a balkony that you could open up. Thank’s you for nothing. We were stuck on the moldy floor, did I mention that it was Midnight? and we both just wanted to relax and get some sleep after the long travel journey.
Tomorrow will hopefully be better.
We meet up with our travel guide Fatma, complaining immediately about our rooms. “Customer relation” Yasmine takes care of us, we got showed alternative rooms. Or basically there was only one room that was appropriate. We take that one. The only problem is that that my friend and I had booked and payed 2 rooms. We were wondering how we can solve the financial side of things. The Manager and Yasmine agree, there is no way we will get our money back. I’m already exhausted and just want my vacation to finally start. So we sat with Fatma, figuring out what we can do. We get an offer, at least the Hamam (traditional Turkish massage) should be free of charge for us. Alright, my stressed mind and body looks very much forward to that. (We didn’t get it at the end – let’s just leave it like that, It’s a whole new story).
The offer also included a free ride to the next town, Bodrum all we have to pay is for the “guide” at the castle there. Fine, we pay 15€ per person instead of 30€. (turns out that a trip normally costs 7TL which is around 2,50€) whatever, I just want to go to the pool now and enjoy my vacation if I may. Honestly, I’m sure as hell have no trust in the people working there.
As a Vegan it is incredibly hard to eat in Turkey. People that reviewed the hotel speak of a big salad buffet. Yeah, that’s if you don’t eat salad because if you look closer there isn’t too much that isn’t herb and actually eatable. Looked green and all, but why on earth would I eat dill as a salad?. I eat a lot of bread, basically the only salad available is Tomato, cucumber and If you’re on time some carrot. Sometimes there was rice and when they served a Veggie Soup I was able to eat that as well. The main food, I was living on was the watermelon from the area – hmmm so Yummy!
Sounds good so far? well from here on our vacation hits rock bottom.
The service personal or better said the male service personnel starts to get too friendly. While we’re trying to enjoy our dinner, one of them is standing on the window saying:”I could stand here all day watching you”. (You gotta love my friend Mie, who replies with: “creepy much?”). But honestly it was way too much. We got Harassed, followed and you always had a pair of eyes on you. I could literally feel them piercing through the back of my head. We didn’t feel save at all. It went so far that we decided to not visit the hotel pool area anymore – It was really disgusting.
I felt like a piece of meat on a silver tablet
I don’t know what they were thinking. I don’t think any of them would be happy if anybody would treat their mother, sister, aunt, cousin or girlfriend like that. They should all be ashamed of themselves. We were out numbered. It went so far that we were getting out of their way, waiting around corners to leave the hotel without being seen. My friend and I are still shocked about the disrespectful behaviour towards us/women in that place. For Christ sake the people work there! Something that never happened to me before and I am used to travel alone. Tel-Aviv, Jerusalem, Bankok, Koh Chang, Melbourne, Sydney – nothing like that ever happend to me there. And most importantly, not from the Staff in the hotel! Believe it or not it get’s worse.
Down at the “beach” that was supposedly right at the hotel (which is a not true, you needed to leave the premises and walk down the steepest hill ever, until you finally reached “the beach”). There was the so called “a la carté” restaurant, that one was completely rubbish – You couldn’t really choose what you wanted to eat. It was a pre-set menu. Which also involded stale, old salad. The only thing you were able to choose from, was the main dish: fish or meat – that’s that. Why call it a a la carté restaurant when it is simply not the case? Ah, I’m already so over this.
From this moment on we only went to the hotel to sleep and the rest of the time we were everywhere but in our Hotel.
It was pretty scary that even when we were hanging in town the personnel from the hotel went down to stalk us, literally positioning themselves on the opposite road – starring at us. This is harassment in its purest form. The worst part is that as a woman you are basically not “allowed” to make eye contact because this is seen as a sign that you “like” the other person. So you are sitting there forced to look everywhere else but at them while they are eyeballing all over you. THE-WORST-FEELING-EVER!
Furthermore, when we arrived at night at the hotel we got asked where we were? what we did? all this inappropriate question’s, extremely unprofessional. I will let you know the main reason why I take this so personally. We met a woman there (around our age), that just started working there, 2 days ago. She told us, after she heard us complaining that she knows exactly how we feel since she gets harassed as well from the same staff/ her work colleagues. She told us she made plans to leave the place as fast as possible and she did. Leaving on the same day we did. We stayed in contact and when I told her that we will write reviews and this blog post. She meant that it wouldn’t help, since the manager is the key problem and in her own words “a very bad man”. She herself wrote a statement and even called the police in Turkey (because of not really clean books – from what I understood.) but nothing happened. And this is where I get angry and Involved. Why isn’t anybody doing anything? The female staff gets harassed + my friend and I – and this is not enough? I personally do not understand how any travelpage can still offer this terrible, terrible place. So I took it on myself to warn as many people as I can.
Especially women shouldn’t go into this kind of environment as a guest or as an employee!
So far 166 people read my statement on Tripadvisor. I only posted one in German, but the English one will follow soon. And this is where I stop talking about the hotel, since this isn’t Tripadvisor or Holidaycheck. (If you want the whole review you can read my statement here.)
Since we spend no time in our hotel anymore the vacation transformed into the best vacation ever – and I will tell you why.
First of all you need a tough travel companion, like my friend. A positive attitude, good karma and a strong will to: HAVE A GREAT VACATION – No matter what might come in youre way!
(This is the view from the “Broken Barrel Bar”)
We went down the beautiful small “city center” Güllük. I will never forget the first time we arrived at “The Broken Barrell” (Our new pub of choice, also family owned and basically the place to be). Located on the main street with a beautiful view over the boats and the sea side. We met a very excited English man – who was waving around his Ipad, running over the street to talk with basically everybody – pointing towards the sky. “The ISS” (International Space Station) will be moving over our heads in aproxementially 5 min. How exciting! We are allowed to climb the roof of the bar for a better view. The whole town gazes into the sky and follows the ISS going its way. Crazy that people are actually in there, passing over our heads.
(These 2 gentlemen took very good care of us at The Broken Barrell Bar)
Back on the ground we are basically in the middle of the whole town life. The English man took us over to one of the boats – we simply have to go to this boat trip – OK, said, done. we will be with on this boat trip! Mehmet was entertaining everybody with games and magic tricks – but beware if you can’t solve the trick’s or loose in a game – you have to belly dance – in full costume of course.
To think back about my first impression about Güllük I remember a kid on his bicycle falling down, a woman behind him helps him up, not his mother. He drives to the bar and talks to the guy working there – He get’s a glass of water. Drinks it up and someone else is helping him on his bike again and the boy continues his ride on. Beautiful how everybody helps everybody.
On the opposite side of the street we find this little stands where people sell freshly caught mussels and oysters. My personal favorite is the guy driving by with hot fresh corn – exactly what I needed.
(This is Mehmet “kaptan” Dömnez – who we had our boat tip aka Yat Tur with, I don’t have a picture of his wife but she was the one in charge of the cooking for the whole crew + a nice fresh vegetable BBQ)
We visit 2 of the best restaurants in my opinion: A turkish cuisine restaurant called Kircin, and from what I heard the best Pizza place (In my case garlic bread place) Berkhan’s Restaurant. In general, I can tell you the food was absolutely outstanding. Both places have an open kitchen so if you like you can watch having youre food prepared. The Meze is just to die for. I’m already getting hungry writing this. Both are family owned, everybody helps where they can.
(This is the youngest son and name giver to the Berkhan’s restaurant – Yes, I am aware of me looking like a ghost)
That is because I tried to purchase an “ecological suncreen” and I did. The one I got was made for babies, which is good for me since it doesn’t have all the crazy chemicals and perfumes in it and gives a strong protection against the sun, but and that was something I realised too late, It “colours” you white. The reason for this is so you can see where you did already applied sunscreen on your baby. This stuff was crazy hard to use, it was basically chalk. “Hold on tight, I start creaming now!” was one of our running gags. Anyways, it got me the nickname “Bella” – since I sparkled in the sun like a Vampire. Needles to say that I will never purchase that particular sunscreen again – not because it didn’t protect me from sun but because it is such a hassle to apply it. Ecological in all its honour, but there are situations where it is simply not worth it.
We also did a trip to Bodrum by ourselves at the end. We took the Dolmus (Turkish Minibus transfer) It cost’s like 7 TL and was very nice, I loved how you just talked to the driver and he let you out basically everywhere you wanted to on the route. No haggling or anything – No differences between locals and tourists, this is just how I like it. Fair and square. Bodrum itself wasn’t my personal highlight since it was very, very touristy. To be fair, we didn’t really get around everywhere, when you left the main road it was truly nice. But it could be totally you’re thing if you are into buying fake designer bags & shoes – not really what I am after but I found the most amazing Jewellery shop on a side road. OMG! I died and woke up in heaven! If you love bohemian jewellery (like me) this is youre store.
(Just look at this -I want it all)
Honestly, I was overwhelmed in that super small shop. Every millimeter was full with amazing bohemian, tibetan jewellery. I kinda lost it in there! on a side note, if antique silver wasn’t so expensive I would’ve bought nearly the entire shop – easy. But sadly I’m not made out of money. I guess some of you want to know what this shop is called? Yap, that is exactly my problem, I am really not sure, the lady there explained to my friend and me that the name of the shop means “Bindi” translated to Turkish. You know the red dot that some people have on their forehead. Mie and I (Yes, I get that my friend’s name can be confusing in some sentences) where as mentioned so overwhelmed with everything that we literally needed to take a break. We did and the Lady in the shop invited us for some tea, we had the tea outside the shop together It was very lovely.
But the best part of all of it was indeed the amazing people my friend, Mie and I met in town. Better said you don’t just meet one person, you meet everybody! Brothers, sisters, mother, father, baby’s, cat’s, dogs – everyone. Which was amazing.
During our stay in Güllük it was Swedish midsummer, we all celebrated this happy occasion together. We made a flower hat, collecting flowers and arranged them nicely on the hat I brought from Sweden (H&M). Everybody wore it that day – It was a fun Midsummer!
(Midsommarkrans Turkish style)
(The lovely Mie)
One of the most important things I can take with me from this vacation, since as I mentioned in the beginning I wasn’t too excited to head to Turkey. But as we went out into town I met real Turkish people. People that only have the highest respect for each other (and strangers like us). Do cherish the value of family. Where everybody helps out everyone in the most kind and respectful way. People are extremely welcoming and the hospitality was incredible. I can honestly say I met friends for life in Güllük. The kindest hearted people ever. And I needed to see that and be part of that – I am very thankful for this experience!