Snow flakes and sugar crystals

Snow flakes and sugar crystals

Aylin Öney Tan -
Snow flakes and sugar crystals

Snow in Kartalkaya. AA Photo

The snowflakes glide gracefully down to the silence of the forests. As we depart from Bolu Mountains, I feel a bit deprived of the alpine spirit, not having been able to hit the slopes. The ski slopes look pathetically unpromising in snow quality; the sun is shining; it is almost spring-like; but they are spraying water up into the air just above the slopes to fall like snow. There are a few early-bird skiers eager to open up the season. Once the skiing season starts, Kartalkaya will be the ultimate skiing venue for keen skiers in Turkey. Midway between Ankara and Istanbul, the area attracts almost only the skiers, never the ones to go to winter resorts to see and to be seen. Until lately, design was not even an issue in Kartalkaya; humble lodging, moderate but abundant food with good slopes and deep snow was more than enough. Now it is changing…

I’m a veteran skier, with several golds, silvers and bronzes both in slalom and cross-country in my past. Being a proud member of the once important skiing team at Middle East Technical University (ODTÜ), I know times when racers had to prepare their own racing grounds. That is a history of almost 35 years ago, and probably 35 kilos away from my present being. With my doctor forbidding me from slipping on my ski boots, I was almost happy to hear that the snow level was a mere 5 cm. As this was true, it was also true that there were quite a number of skiers enjoying the limited accumulated snow by the snow machines.

When I was approaching Kartalkaya, we drove past green pastures; I was expecting a bit of snowflakes falling and a touch of New Year’s spirit but the landscape seemed more appropriate for a fall camping holiday. Another feeling I had was nostalgia for my past, decadent ski holidays. In the past the hotels were pretty uninspiring, but that was it, we were up in the mountains for skiing, not for luxury. One thing I definitely did not expect in Kartalkaya was design, another obsession of mine that started 35 years ago when I was a student of architecture.

The faculty of architecture at ODTÜ is of a bland brutal design by the eminent Turkish architect Behruz Çinici. It was huge with bare concrete walls, high ceilings, vast spaces with big openings. It was full of light despite its gray walls. We as students, sometimes loved it, sometimes hated it, but looking back I consider myself lucky to have been educated in such a building. When I stepped into the Golden Kay Kartalkaya Hotel I suddenly had a déjà vu feeling. It was like being back at school; it was a mix of the sense of place, and the sense of smell, the smell of the Glühwein I used to prepare all the Christmas season in my makeshift kitchen corner in the design studio and in the skiing camps in Elmadağ. Of course the hotel is far from being as bare as our faculty of architecture, but there is a similar feeling that comes from the materials used. The interior design, on the contrary, is playful and colorful, though almost the only color used is red. Red is used decidedly but scarcely, sometimes in furniture, sometimes in lampshades, mostly in Christmas decorations and minor details. The log cabin cladding in some walls and pine ceilings give a Swiss chalet atmosphere, along with reindeer themed sculpturesque lampshades, leather and fur-coated cozy couches and stools.

Obviously the client’s dream initially was to achieve a Swiss chalet, but the design team was more inclined to the modernist style. The result is a fortunate mix of styles, with gray, red and pine; a contrast of cold concrete, warm timber planks, and slate stonewalls; hints of traditional Swiss furniture with a Scandinavian edge. The urban industrial effect created by exposed ventilation shafts and pipes contrasts the chalet inspired Christmassy details, in a way satisfying all tastes. The international design team, Lorenzo Sangiorgi, Emir Drahşan and Alexandre Schrepfer, re-invented a traditional typology in the pre-fabricated building. The interior, meanwhile, had the touches of Şeref Aldemir, together with Sedat & Şebnem Uyar, owner of the Golden Key resort hotels. Here the priority is customer satisfaction, the interior somehow achieves this and most regulars regard the hotel as their winter home. We slip into the homely feeling, with mulled wine at hand, forget about the snowless slopes and learn how to make a healthy granola form pastry chef-writer Natalie Gökyay.

As we depart, the last of the snowflakes slowly melt away, the sugary crusty cookies and granola prepared by Natalie melts away in my mouth peacefully. I’m convinced to return, don’t know when, but it will surely be when the snowflakes are falling from the sky.

Bite of the week

Fork of the Week: The best pumpkin dessert ever in the past decade or so was at the Golden Key Kartalkaya Resort. Chef Lokman Hekim Himmetoğlu definitely knows how to choose a good pumpkin!

Cork of the Week: One of the best cocktails fit for a cozy couch in front of the fireplace is Rusty Nail. Nostalgic, old fashioned and tasty: Mix two parts Scotch with one part Drambuie on the rocks; add a twist of orange peel. For a festive touch, mix your drink with a cinnamon stick.