Mehmet Dogme and his two sons, Mustafa and Huseyin, run one of the last water holes on the trucking route to the East.
Once a trailer camp for tourists, the Dogme & Sons truck stop began to develop when silver-haired Dogme senior realized that tourism wasn't paying off. "We weren't even getting enough customers to cover expenses," he said.
So Dogme decided to try and cash in on the growing truck traffic through Istanbul. He sent letters to European haulage firms offering lay-over services for drivers and, one by one, truckers began to schedule an overnight stop at what Dogme & Sons call Londra Camping. Today it is a port of call for 200 trucks daily.
Situated on the main highway a few miles outside Istanbul's ancient city walls, the "camp" is actually a multi-million dollar facility with parking for 1,000 trucks, rest-rooms with hot showers, and a coffee shop and restaurant.
As it grew in popularity, Huseyin Dogme said, the family noticed that although truckers usually slept in their cabs, many of them, on cold nights, preferred a hotel.
So, next to the truck-stop, the Dogmes built a well-kept, moderately-priced, 60-to-90 bed hotel. So that drivers could sleep peacefully, they also hired guards to patrol the parking area. There are now 15 guards on duty constantly.
In addition, the Dogmes provide a service station for trucks, an automatic truck wash imported from Europe, and a shop that sells everything from spare parts to gifts for truckers' wives. In the basement of the hotel there is even a small leather factory, where drivers can order made-to-measure clothing one trip and pick it up the next.
Last, there is a swimming pool - included in the six-dollar overnight parking fee. "There's nothing like this," said a West German driver, "from here on east."
For the Dogmes, of course, that kind of service means hard work and long hours. "Often we are on our feet for 20 hours at a stretch," says Mustafa, adding that they usually leave their homes in nearby Yesilkoy at 6:00 a.m. Usually they do not get home before midnight.
But the job has its rewards. Once, driving through Yugoslavia on vacation, Huseyin Dogme had a breakdown. "I was in a real jam," he said. "Everyone was honking their horns because I was blocking the highway."
Suddenly, a French truck driver appeared, pushed Huseyin's crippled car to the roadside, got out his tools and repaired the engine. Finally he treated Huseyin to a home-cooked dinner in his cab.
Why? Because the Frenchman recognised Dogme from stop-overs at Londra Camping.