Rip Your Epaulettes And Go! You Won`t Regret It...
It will be almost 20 years. Easier said than done. To go to the same place for vacation for 20 years one needs to either love it very much or be out of one`s mind. Or maybe both. However, Hillside Beach Club Fethiye has institutionalized these “extreme” feelings. We cannot help going there. Not only me, but everyone who has been there says the same.
However, it is not easy to have a vacation there. This is not due to finances or the distance. You pay what you would pay at any comfortable holiday village, not any more. It is not far, either. Maximum one hour after the Istanbul-Dalaman flight. So, why isn`t it easy? Because you rip off your epaulettes when you go for a vacation there, that `s why. Let me warn you. It is not a place for those who say, “Do you know who I am?”
In these 20 years I did everything from playing football bare foot with the famous on a small lawn to playing beach volleyball with the champions, from playing backgammon for a bottle of soda pop with bank CEOs to saving the country with the politicians enjoying a tea and simit. When we teased a defense player that we knew was playing in the Premier League saying, “Come to the Astroturf, if you dare!”, he jumped up from the deckchair saying, “You arrogant …” and played with us for an hour. At the end, we all jumped into the sea in our sports clothes. All those who are known to be aggressive in their business lives act different here. They turn into good family men and friends who chat with everyone and win their hearts. Writers, journalists, businessmen, university presidents… Everybody is equal here. Conversations start suddenly and follow their path… In the last 10 years, I answered the questions regarding economics enriching them with jokes, of everyone who sat by me as I was having coffee. And I am continuing doing it. This how this place is. Everyone talks about what he knows. Asks questions. People chat without boring each other.
My Hillside adventure started the year I graduated from university. I was a new assistant at the university. The Alarko Group had taken over the superb bay from a foreign operator. The layout of the rooms and facilities was unusual. We were young and luxury was not important for us. However, I still remember the comfort we found.
First impressions are very important. There is also a rule for hotels and holiday villages. They say, “First service is the worst service.” People go there knowing this rule. However, in the first year Alarko did such an intelligent thing that we enjoyed an experience never tried before. So, on our return we told that to everybody. Anyway, young people cannot keep their mouth shut. When it spread by word of mouth, the older people`s interest increased. Thus, without much advertising Hillside Beach Club rose to the top of the list as “the first venue that comes to mind when speaking of a holiday village”. This said I would like to congratulate the patient efforts of Edip İlkbahar, the person at the top of the Hillside brand. He became the person to whom we ask questions when appropriate and for help if need be. What`s more important, he became the brother of all who like the Hillside brand. There was only one thing he could not interfere with and that was the temperature of the sea.
You know from my earlier articles that I don`t like cold sea. The sea temperature at Hillside is exactly to my liking as of June. It is neither freezing nor suffocating. Therefore, when we want to take a holiday abroad we always ask Ms. Elçin for “sea temperature like that of Hillside.” You can find that standard in Sardinia but at what price?
The best place in Turkey for families with children is Hillside. It is impossible for children to get lost since the bay is closed all around and the staff is alert. This year the 2-3 year old child of a German family disappeared in a flash. While the parents were worried to death, I approached them and said, “Don`t worry, no child gets lost here.” The mother said, “What if he fell into the sea?” in panic. “Everyone would have noticed, don`t worry,” I said. Then, a group of 20-30 people including the parents that were sitting on deckchairs and the Hillside staff started to look for the child. In about 10 minutes, the child was found. He had felt like taking a tour and was stopped by a safety obstruction filled with pebbles.
One has to be over 16 years in order to go to the “silence beach” where, as the name implies, no one makes the slightest noise. In order to cross to that beach, one has to reach to a doorknob that is quite high. There is no “interdiction” at Hillside. If you can reach the doorknob, you are welcome to be with the adults. If you can`t, back to the main beach. Our rover child had suddenly realized that he was leaving “Lilliput” and waited in front of the door for someone to open it. Thus, he was found immediately. That`s how it is friends. Everybody takes care of others` children here.
As the activities of the Mini Club, Kids Club and Junior Club are conducted away from the adults the generation conflict between the two sides experienced in the city is not felt here. Emir has been coming to Hillside for 15 years, Kerim for 12. I haven`t ever worried about them. Although the staff here comes from different parts of the world, their safety and interest standards are the same. I would like to congratulate Mr. Çağrı who heads these people who take care of our children. What he is doing is not easy.
It`s not easy to work at Hillside either. Everyone from the housekeepers to the animators work in a “team spirit”. If there is one who doesn`t, you can`t see him/her the next year. They quietly become something of the past, are even forgotten. During a chat with Hillside Beach Club`s Guest Relations Manager Ahmet Yurdakul over a cup of coffee I teased him saying, “Some friends do not last more than 1-2 seasons.” He smiled and said, “We owe thanks to everyone who works for this family.” We gather from that short sentence that it is difficult to be lasting here unless one feels part of the family.
Okay, what about those who feel part of the family. Each member of staff that figures among the unforgettables of this holiday village is noticed by the administration. This is very important. For example, is it possible to forget Mr. Turhan who gave us our towels for years? He comforted many guests with problems, solved numerous problems at the beach… He is now retired. We didn`t have a chance to say goodbye, however, he knows that he is in our hearts and minds.
In fact, just like the staff, the guests also feel like members of the family. At dinner, while waiting in line for a Turkish pancake, I was chatting with a Dutchman. He had been coming here for the last 5 years. He knew me, too. “You are a veteran,” he said joking. He kept praising everything from the food to the time he spent with his children. It was difficult to tell from his attire. Everyone is in shorts, etc. However, I could tell he was a real professional from his English and style. We chatted a little about the EU and the Euro. We discussed the world situation in the tranquility of a place where people from all the different continents have holidays. There was a reality that could not be explained with just education and welfare: “aim”. I wish everybody would live aiming to be happy just like when on vacation… However, a great many people live to see others unhappy rather than be happy.
Don`t such people come to Hillside? Of course they do. However, after a while they stop coming. As I said, this is not a place for those who want to be privileged, it is a place where everyone is equal. Let me give you an example: it is only the Turks who fight for deckchairs. This is mostly provoked by women. There are husbands who sacrifice their sleep and keep guard on the beach in the wee hours of the morning. There are some who send their attendants. Why? Because those who like to somewhere in a colony want to be side by side when sunbathing. Let`s add 4 people to a family of 4. However, when 6 families come together and want to be with their children and their nannies, it makes almost 20 deckchairs. As that many chairs aren`t side by side, there are those who pick on the deckchairs reserved by others or apply methods to annoy people to drive them away. If those who are annoyed are Turks, a quarrel is provoked. The tension is fenced off by the staff and politic guests in 5-6 minutes.
Once I was befriending someone who had taken reserving deckchairs upon himself. Early in the morning at about 5:00 am he came to the beach. Then, when the cleaning team came, he started to reserve side by side deckchairs. He was displeased because there was nobody else that did that. I sat with him 1-2 nights. Then I realized it was a stupid thing to do so I gave up because there were enough deckchairs for everybody. However, the women wanted to sunbathe in the “most stylish” place and in a group. Everyone wants that. However, nowhere else are there people who disgrace themselves for such a thing. I remember the time when the guy who moved heaven and earth for these deckchairs gave one of the chairs he had reserved to the wife of one of his friends as a gesture. When the other wives who were not aware of this attacked the poor woman saying “This is not your place”, there was a small crisis. The husband of the woman who was subject to this attack came to me and said, “Emre, can we talk?” “Of course,” I said. After all he was someone I respected. He told me what had happened. I said, “Both you and your wife are welcome by me, however, the incident happened among the women. Let`s not get involved. Soon they`ll get like a house on fire, we`ll remain on the outs, no need…”. He found that logical.
The foreigners watched all this with wide open eyes. I remember. In the following years all the acquaintances that did not adapt to Hillside`s “everyone is equal” and even what I would call “social democrat” style started to have vacations in other places. They bought their own summer residences and proclaimed their own kingdom. Right or wrong, they preferred to be in places where they established their own rules. Those who wanted democracy continued to go to Hillside even if they had their own houses or boats. Therefore, each season was the best season for me. Each season we had a better time than in the previous one. I can say that particularly this year it reached peak with the sports, music and shows. General Manager Hasan Gürsel should be congratulated for this. He is the hidden hero behind this success.
I have seen very few kitchens that could compete with Hillside`s. The waiters and chefs work in perfect coordination. They come and prepare a plate to suit your likings while you stand stupefied in front of the gargantuan open buffet. For more than 10 years I have locked on Nurşen Hanım`s “white meat” corner. I`ve never double-crossed it. However, Kerim tastes everything like an agent. Emir is like me; he always eats the same things. What can I say? He takes after me… Zafer Bey watches everything like the big brother of all the waiters, and continues on-the-job training. He notices a sulky faced guest immediately and intervenes. If the issue is a naughty child or some other family problem, he tries to find a solution keeping at a respectful distance. Executive Chef Ünal Bey, the bars` chef Coşkun Bey suddenly appear next to you and after asking how you are doing give you service beyond your expectations.
Shows that one would say, “Ha, tolerable” in every holiday village are structured in detail at Hillside. The staff is selected among those who are good dancers and have a talent for drama, and complete the picture alongside the veterans. Volkan is Hillside`s senior and veteran animator. I have witnessed his development in dancing and entertainment through the years. He is also a good friend. His football gives hell. Keisha is our Ukranian friend who speaks Turkish fluently. A master of dance and choreography. A wonderful sportswoman. The whole team, Albane, Jeff, Guisi, Doğukan, Anıl, Justin, Carmen, Filippo, Katia, Sophia, Marina at tennis, and Mr. Mustafa at water sports make you feel at home. Of course, on one condition, you must not attitudinize.
There is everything for those who want to have fun, they propose but don`t insist. Do not condition yourself by saying, “I came here to have fun.” Go with the flow. The first day is getting used to, the second, apprenticeship, the third, mastery. The days that follow you will find that you have befriended everyone. The children have socialized and are having fun. Don`t worry about where the adolescents are. They will patter back to the room anyway. Don`t prevent them if they want to be up all night looking at the stars, they are only a few steps away. Moreover, nothing wrong can happen since everyone is watching over each other.
Packing is the most difficult part of a Hillside vacation. To tell the truth, one feels sad. I don`t prefer the evening times when returning. The 13:15 flight is the best. You leave the room in time for those who will come after you and get home early. To make a long story short friends, Hillside is a place where I feel happy when I go and sad when I have to leave. When people ask me, “How was it?”, I just say, “It is over.” If there is anyone who wants to spend an ORIGINEL week, I definitely recommend it. There is still time but I don`t know if there is a vacancy...