Street filled with hotels becomes home to many lonely souls in Turkey’s İzmir

Street filled with hotels becomes home to many lonely souls in Turkey’s İzmir

İdris Emen - İZMİR
Street filled with hotels becomes home to many lonely souls in Turkey’s İzmir

A street filled with colorful hotels in the Aegean province of İzmir’s Basmane district, “Street 1296,” has over the years been a transitory home to countless guests, many of whom made the hotel rooms their temporary homes, with some even living for 37 years.

Savaş Işık, a 66-year-old, who has moved from one hotel room to another in the old city center of Basmane over the years, is only one of the several people who have spent more than half his life in one of these spaces, which are smaller than 10 square meters, in this neighborhood by the Aegean coast.

Işık first checked into a hotel as an alternative to his home, he said, after he got into an argument with his wife in 1976.

“We couldn’t make it. We had to part ways. We broke up the week the Sept. 12 [1980] coup happened. Then I went to my parents’ place. I couldn’t make it there either. That’s when I settled for hotels,” Işık said.

For 37 years, Işık has been a resident of Street 1296 in the colorful and traditional Basmane district of İzmir’s historic Konak area.

For Işık, Basmane is where he feels closest to a home, but ever since separating from his wife, he has never had a permanent home.

“I have checked into every hotel in Basmane. I have gone to about 50-60 hotels. Sometimes, something puts me off and I change hotels,” Işık said.

From the first hotel Işık checked into, the Abdulkadir Paşa - one of the many historic and colorful hotel buildings in Basmane - until the last, Işık said he suffered a life divided by days and rates.

“My advice is for people to stay away from this lifestyle, that they get along with their families and their children. Hotel-cruising is an awful lifestyle,” Işık said, noting he has not seen his only son for 35 to 37 years.

Işık, who makes a living by braiding baskets out of palm tree branches earning around 70 Turkish Liras a day, spends 25 liras a night to stay at a hotel and 10 to 15 liras on food.

Sometimes, Işık said, he skips meals to make it through the day.

But Street 1296 still offers something unique. It attracts a certain type of people: The lonely ones.

“Widowed, bankrupt or separated... They come and stay here indefinitely. These people have made homes out of these hotels,” Ahmet Kara, receptionist for 13 years at the Hürriyet Hotel, said.

“Even if they rent an apartment, they miss this place. Something in this street pulls them back. Even if you ask them to leave, they stay,” Kara added.

İhsan Adnan Ercan, 61 years old and Yeni Şükran Hotel’s eldest guest, stands as evidence to Kara’s observations.

Ercan made the hotel his home 26 years ago, when he also had an argument with his wife.

“My wife and I argued over something. I packed my bags and checked into the hotel. I live off my retirement pension,” Ercan said.

Only when he has to run errands, Ercan goes out. He comes back in the evening to catch up on his TV shows and to eat.

“It’s actually tough, living in a hotel,” Ercan said, who pays 500 liras a month to the business.

An art school dropout, the 76-year-old Mürsel Gürz is another soul who lives a similar life in a place on a rusty street filled with hotels.

“I don’t have kids. I’ve never been married. I’ve been a rascal, and so have the women I’ve been with,” Gürz, who’s been staying at the Şen Hotel for the past six years, said.

Since dropping out, Gürz said he’s made a living “waiting at tables,” and now he depends on his old-age pension which comes every three months.

Basmane, in the past years, has also become a transit point for migrants seeking to cross into Greece and many other European countries by taking the perilous journey through the Aegean Sea.

So much so that police units have raided the area several times, now known as the “refugee neighborhood,” to collect and confiscate life vests sold to the migrants seeking to live a better life in Europe, Ege Haber, a local online news source had reported on Sept. 10, 2017.