When I was little, on a gray evening, as we passed by the flowermakers, I insisted to my mother to get a pot of basil. I admired this flower which gives off a nice fragrance as one touches it. My mother agreed, and she bought a potted basil. While I was walking to our bus stop, I struggled to carry the bag in which the flowerpot was placed. I was at an age in which there were only people’s legs were in my sight, and I buried my nose in the leaves of basil. I was sitting on a wall at the station and waiting, and I put the flower pot right next to me. Unfortunately, I forgot about the flower pot when the bus arrived. I have such bad memories about Güvenpark as many people, but I prefer to remember it.
Everyone who happens to be in Ankara goes to Kızılay at some point, and all the streets in Kızılay reach to the Güvenpark. Although it was occupied by the barricades, anti-riot water cannon vehicles and members of the special forces; Güvenpark is still one of the most beautiful places in Kızılay. And the narrow street where all the florists are placed is the most beautiful part of it.
Together with Doğukan Cihanbeyoğlu, we visited the street where florists were on a Sunday, and we chatted with them. Most of them were hesitant to be interview directly, and they didn’t want to talk, even though we assured them that we won’t be asking anything political. Well, we need to understand this reaction. What you are going to read is what we compile from our conversations.
A Day of the Florist
The flower sales process begins with the auction. The flowers that we see in buckets or the ones that are in bouquets and ready to be sold are cut flowers. Cut flowers are bought from the auctions. The pots usually come from greenhouses. My eye catches the succulent pots standing right in front of the buckets. I ask the prices and learn that they vary between 5 – 10 TL. I’m surprised, frankly, because it’s quite expensive to get a succulent in Tunalı, which is above a few districts. Attention to the succulent lovers: they are cheaper and there are more varieties in Güvenpark.
The Fate of the Shops
Florists in Güvenpark have been in this narrow street since 1985. They have seen so many governments until today. The area where the florists are located belongs to the Çankaya Municipality. The road between their shops and the Ministry of Education belongs to the Ankara Metropolitan Municipality. I guess everyone who passes this street is aware of the unstructuredness. On a rainy day, you would definitely get mud on your shoes. As we are also familiar with other streets between the jurisdictions of the two municipalities, there is no construction on this road. Çankaya Municipality has no authority to build the road in front of these own stores. Ankara Metropolitan Municipality does not have a construction planned yet.
Florist shops quite small, unfortunately, there is not even a toilet inside. I am not ashamed, I asked the florists, where do they go for the toilet. All the florists I talked to told me they were using the subway, the shopping mall, and the local shops. When I shared my opinion and stated “I wish the municipality would make an investment about this”, one of them said, “We are 20 florists here, what should the 300 minibus drivers do?” It is obvious that more investment is needed for this large group of people working at Güvenpark.
I didn’t find it very appropriate to write the rent prices of the shops. I can only say that I was surprised. These small shops without even proper isolation have a high rent rate.
Flower is Gamble
While I was passing by the flower shop, I always thought, “Buying requires money but smelling is free.” It’s free to look or smell the flowers, but why they are expensive?
One of the shopkeepers we talked to says that flowers must be sold at a rate of 100%. That’s because it’s a gamble to sell flowers. There’s a chance that 100 of the roses will run out in one day. After predicting the risks to a certain extent, the rest of the selling of flowers turns into a complete gamble.
When I asked “How is the business” I got a one-word answer that summarizes all: “Doldrum!” There are three reasons for this. The first is the current economic situation. People spend the money they give to flowers on other things. The second reason is also related to this: The habit of buying flowers is slowly disappearing from our daily lives. The third is about the current security situation. Güvenpark, which is not only the heart of the city but also the heart of the country, has been the scene of many incidents and attacks until today. It was closed after Gezi Park and was blockaded after the explosions. This situation affected the florists quite negatively. Last winter, the siege of the special forces that close the narrow street where shops are located cut the night sales. In other words, for the business to thrive, the whole economy needs to thrive.
I wanted to open a paragraph about the night customer. Although the florists may seem as if they are separated from the streets with their little shops, they are actually inside the whole thing. One of the shopkeepers we talked to says that people who don’t have a “legal” income receive more flowers. The flower was a way for them to show themselves differently than they are. The constant presence of the police cut off the feet of these ”night” customers.
“Who gets the most flowers?”
“Men who want to be forgiven!”
We are slowly losing out habit to buy a flower when we go to somewhere for the first time or when we want to celebrate a special event. Some people think that it is too expensive, some people think that it is temporary. But according to the florists in Güvenpark, men come more often. Teachers’ Day, November 10th, Mother’s Day and of course Valentine’s Day are among the busiest days for them. However, even on such special occasions, even when the small looms on the streets are filled with flowers, there are not many sales in Güvenpark. Nevertheless, it is more than an ordinary day.
Florists’ answer to the question of who buys the flowers is men who want forgiveness. Yet some of them state that they might buy meat instead of flowers when they hear the prices.
Apart from that, florists are preparing special orders for various government offices, banks and businesses of Ankara. The purpose of the flowers is to show off at weddings, office rooms, and tables. But in the hands of young people, I think they have more innocent meanings.
This is what we have gathered from a short conversation with the florists in Güvenpark. I hope that this beautiful detail of the city will live for long years.
This article is available in Turkish. Click here to take a look!
Photos by Dogukan Cihanbeyoglu.