22 Nisan 2015 Çarşamba


Hello people,

my name is Maria and I am coming from Thessaloniki, Greece. I am EVS volunteer of TREX EVS in Izmir. This article is part of my work for Kalimerhaba project and my try to connect the city I am coming from with the city which I am currently living. When I met Ezgi and I found out that she was an ex- EVS Volunteer and the owner of the hostel, immediately an idea came to my mind. An interview with her and a visit in her beautiful old Greek House Hostel. A young girl from Turkey after her European experience returned to her city and created by herself her own business. She saw what was missing and she decided to act. Entrepreneurship and creativity are some of the advantages that EVS can offer to young people and hopefully a success story for people with inspiration.

During our effort to explore Izmir and trace the past "Greek" elements, we found out that there was a new hostel in the city center with the name of "Greek House Hostel". The house is an old Greek house that was abandoned after the war and for many decades remained empty. Ezgi the owner of the hostel decided to invest in this idea few years ago. With her husband they established their hostel which they manage until today.

1) When did you decide to open a hostel and why?
At about two years ago, when me and my husband came to Izmir from Germany (my husband is German and we were living there) we were looking for a place
to stay for a while until we will find a house to rent. So I checked what type of accommodation there are in Izmir and I couldn't see a hostel so I was really surprised. Then we rented a house and at the same time we were looking for a house or flat to buy around Alsancak. When we found this house we really felt in love with the building and we liked it a lot. We were thinking that it would be really amazing if we could afford it and buy it. So I came up with a plan in order to be self sufficient; to take credit from the bank and to open a boutique hostel. At the beginning we started by renting the rooms to Erasmus students. We were living with 5 Erasmus students in the house; two girls from Belgium, one girl from Hungary, one boy from France (Cameroon origins) and one British lady for a while. When the students went back to their countries I decided to put the house in Airbnb website. At the same time I applied for a permit to open a hostel. The problem was that the house was cultural heritage and the process is too slow. Then we make it even more complicated because we choose to add in the project the solar energy system. So was even harder. The procedure is quite complex that's why we still cannot
finish it actually. Now we have the permission for the hostel and we run it as so. Thus we can cover the expenses of the investment (furniture, kitchen equipment, regular expenses, etc.)

2) How was the previous condition of the building before you buy it?
When we bought the house, it was already renovated but before it was in really bad situation. The ex owner was an investor from Istanbul. He bought it for a cheap price. The roof top and some walls were collapsed. It was such a mess also because some homeless people were breaking in and they were stealing the wooden parts of the house from the walls. But it still didn't collapse thanks to its well construction and stone foundation. The house counts more than 100 years.

3) Did you make any intervention to the house relative to architecture and decoration?
We just decorate the internal because we couldn't do any further changes. The rest is the same as it was in the past. It is cultural heritage and is forbidden to change it. The only thing which will be added the solar energy system.

4) Why you choose an old Greek house for a Hostel?
We really loved the house when we first saw it. It's really has an amazing architecture, there is garden in the backyard, there is terrace upstairs, a very nice kitchen and nice bathroom. We are thinking that this is a boutique hostel. Small but beautiful. People who come here they need to take care of the house and respect it. Not damage it. We cannot host many people so that's why it is a boutique one.

5) Do you have any connection with Greece or any relative/ ancestor from there?
No I don't have. My mothers' family came from Macedonia and my fathers' from Bulgaria. But my connection with the history of the house is with a writer. Her name is Defne Suman and she is writing a book for the Levantine times of Izmir so she came to the house with her editor who is from Greece and they were checking the house and its architecture. The Character in her book called Edith???? he is Greek and he is living in the house. Once in a while she is coming and planning the plot, taking more information for the house and more ideas or inspiration. Also, when she has something to do in Izmir she is staying here. Soon the book will be published and we will make the book presentation.
6) Why you choose to open a hostel in Izmir? Do you believe that a hostel was missing from the city? 
There was a need for hostels before but now I can see some new ones. They will open some soon. People in general believe that Izmir is not a touristic destination but I think it is really nice. I am sure that a lot of young people would like to come and stay. For their budget there are no too many options for accommodation. There are some second class hotels around Basmane (degraded area) or the really expensive hotels in Alsancak district. Unfortunately most of the historical buildings in Izmir disappeared. There are few left and I think we should protect them and preserve as they were. Nowadays people use that kind of buildings as a bar or restaurant usually but they really change the interior. As a result there are no people who are "living" the house and create any ties with them. If you stay in our hostel you can understand the "soul" of the house, it's very interesting.

7) How many people can you host? How many came until now? How many do you expect?
We can host 10 people and approximately 500 came until now. Actually we were planning to buy the house next to us but unfortunately is a bit complicated. They use it as a garbage place and it's really pitty. We are looking for another old house but finding restored houses or in good condition is really hard in Izmir. Most probably we need to invest more in renovation.

8. Which is the average age of your visitors?
Usually is middle aged in their 30s. Sometimes we have old people. Not too young or pack packers.

9) Are you organizing any event in the hostel?
We have some friends who are musicians and they are into jazz or improvising. Every 6 months we organize a concert in the house and a band is playing all night long.

10) The last year in Greece there was a change in law and legalization of Hostels. What about in Turkey? Is it clear in the law that there are hostels and how easy was to take permission?
In Turkey there is a law and Ministry of Tourism is giving the criteria/requirements in order to open a hostel. Nevertheless is not so easy. There is a long procedure of bureaucracy and a quite big amount of capital is needed at least for the beginning.

Greek House @ City Center ALSANCAK


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