I always know how to sniff out classy venues. Indeed, for my Turkish debut, I was determined to locate a real bona fide hotel, with running water, lockable doors and walls made of more than papier mache. The barbaric lands were behind me, I thought, and having crossed yet another border – marking the end of the old Soviet Union – it was time to celebrate with a victorious doner kebab.
Here, Russki nyet – we’re back into the Turkic lands of long verb-endings and bizarre concepts of vowel harmony.
One of the gadzillion mini-buses lurking around the bus station ferried me to the main square where the driver eventually motioned for me to get out. Plenty of hotels by the mosque, the tout at the bus station had told me. You can’t miss them.
He wasn’t wrong. A blistering array of cheap-looking hotels assaulted me as I rounded the corner, withering under the weight of my pack. Some dry wafers had accompanied me from Batumi but I was ravenous – the sight of glorious hunks of lamb and chicken whirring around in front of a log fire looked devine. Tonight, gentlemen, we feast.
Almost by accident, I wandered into Hotel Evri. The poor boy on the desk looked astonished to see me in my big-haired, unshaven glory, and dashed out the back to summon assistance.