Craftman in small town offers special treatment

Craftman in small town offers special treatment

Wilco van Herpen ISTANBUL - Hürriyet Daily News
Craftman in small town offers special treatment

This photo shows the shoe repair man in the small town of Cevizli. In Turkey, and especially in villages, one can still see craftsmanship and get special treatment. Photo by Wilco Van Herpen

A while ago I was in my own country and while walking around I found a shoe repair man. For a long time I had had to go to such a guy because my camera bag was broken. Some of the stitches were broken and the magnet that closes the little bag had been torn off. It was a modern shop with a lot of glass, metal and space. Typical 2012 decoration, I thought, not too much feeling in it, impersonal. I generally do not like this kind of decoration but certain people make us believe that this is the kind of decoration that we like and need; modern and open. Behind the counter a lot of shoes were waiting to be fixed or to be fetched by the owners; at least they were not directly thrown away.

The man in the shop was eating a sandwich; it was lunchtime. I asked him if he could fix my bag and of course he wanted to do that. But I was surprised when he told me that it would take at least a day or two to get it done. There was so much work waiting and I had to “get in line.” I did not expect such an answer. Just a couple of stitches and my camera bag would be ready to use. Such a job could take five minutes at the most, but the man did not want to make an exception for me. Disappointed, a bit angry and wondering if it was because I disturbed him at his lunch I left the shop.

Cevizli, mushroom

A couple of weeks later I was in Cevizli district, not far away from Side near Antalya. I was there for work; we were making a program about morels in Turkey and I needed to buy a kilo of fresh morels.
Cevizli is one of the best places in Turkey to find those beautiful mushrooms. I was walking around in the village when I saw a small shoe repair shop. This was my chance. I never had or took the time to find such a shop in Istanbul. It was as if destiny brought me to this place. I entered the shop, and a man was working in his little dark shop. Everywhere there were wooden shelves filled with old shoes. I could not imagine that people would be able to walk in some of the shoes I saw there, but some other shoes were ready for a new life, waiting for this craftsman to clinch their shoe sole and then happily serve the owner again. It smelled of leather, grease, glue and cigarettes, and upon entering the man lit up a new cigarette.

He looked up and was surprised when I greeted him in Turkish. It was already obvious that not too many foreigners visited this village, but that a foreigner would enter his small workshop was even more special. While working he listened to my problem, and without even hesitating he told me that of course he could fix it. “But I want it to be done now, is that a problem?” I asked him. The way the man reacted made me feel uncomfortable. It was as if I had insulted him. “Of course I can do it now, just have a seat and wait for a couple of minutes. I have to finish this shoe and then I will help you directly,” he replied. I told about him my experience in the Netherlands and he smiled a bit; life in the West is so different, he must have thought. This is Turkey; here things can be done right away if we have to.

He took a wooden mold; banged on it with his hammer, removed a nail from it and stuck the mold in a shoe. Then the second shoe got the same treatment. “So what exactly can I do for you?” he asked me, and I showed him my little bag. “It will take 10 minutes,” he told me. “If you want you can wait here or you can walk around in the village and when you come back your bag will be ready.” I felt like staying, so I sat down and watched the man while he was working. He obviously enjoyed his work; with passion in his eyes he considered what would be the best way to fix this problem. Turning my little bag upside down, the conclusion was that my bag needed glue and stitches and really 10 minutes later the work was done. “If you want I can also fix your magnet, then you will have a perfect bag again.” Cutting leather, gluing the parts together and banging on it with his special hammer then stitching it, it took him another 10 minutes to fix this problem.

A big lesson

I might not return to this village again, but what the man showed me became a big lesson for me. In the so-called “civilized modern” world (Europe) everything has to be done by appointment. But here in Turkey, and especially in the villages, you can still see craftsmanship and get special treatment. Time is not always important. k HDN

Wilco van Herpen, travel,