Village life in Turkey is totally different to city life or tourist resort life – there’s nothing quite like it and it’s like marmite, you either love it or you hate it!
Berkay’s family live in Beyağaç, a town in Denizli province, 2 hours away from Denizli city centre. It takes around 3.5 hours by car from Fethiye, and is a fairly straightforward drive. It’s pretty much in the middle of nowhere – surrounded by fields, mountains and forest. Most of the people who live in the village own their own fields and grow their own crops, tobacco plants, or keep farm animals. The views from the family home across the hillside are stunning.
Berkay’s family live in a small bungalow house up on a hill, a few minutes drive from the town centre. Their house has a lounge, kitchen, 2 bedrooms, wet room/toilet and outdoor toilet. Three people live in the house at the moment, Berkay’s Dad, Stepmum and half brother.
I’m going to be honest, I really struggle to cope when visiting, the lifestyle just isn’t for me. They just do things so differently. One example I can’t get my head around, is the sleeping situation. They do have one bed, but they mostly sleep on cushions on the floor, in one room together, and there’s no real night-time routine, they just go to bed in the clothes they’ve been in all day, wake up in the morning, put the cushion away and carry on the next day in the same clothes, just like taking a giant nap. I also have no idea where they keep their clothes as nobody seems to own wardrobes, or have any real personal space. The village is very traditional too, with the men going out to work, and spending the evenings playing okey or tavla while the women stay at home, cook and look after the children – I guess like the UK 60 years ago. Women and men seem to be separated a alot, too, with definite ‘no go’ areas for women, which isn’t easy when I try to follow Berkay everywhere, as I can’t understand ‘ village turkish’ to talk to anyone else – the dialect is so different.
Behind the house, they have sheds built for the animals. They have a lot of sheep, goats, cows, chickens, a guard dog, and of course our dog Boncuk! They use the animals for their eggs and milk. Berkay’s dad wakes up very early everyday to milk the cows – they even make their own yogurt, butter and cheese from it. They do use their own animals for meat, but only on special occasions, as they get more money for selling the livestock.
The family house is very simple, but it has everything they need, including a soba (wood burner) for heating in winter, cooker, washing machine and the slightly more suprising dishwasher and very nice Samsung fridge. From looking at the house, you would think they don’t have much money, a very simple lifestyle, bare minimum things. But this isn’t the case, they do have money, they just invest it in a lot of land, animals and business. Berkay’s father owns a animal feed business, supplying and delivering hundreds of bags of food and hay to houses every week, which as you can imagine in a farming community is a good business to own. I asked Berkay why they don’t improve their house rather than buy more land, as with the money they have they could really have a totally different lifestyle, but he said that things like that aren’t really important to the people in this village, they have what they need. Although I will never understand their lifestyle, I guess it’s something to admire – how they don’t place importance on such material things! Berkay has inherited that attitude to material things, too. I have to force him to buy clothes, as he’d be happy with 2 tshirts and a pair of jeans to last him years!
One thing you can definitely say, is that the Turkish people are very hospitable! The number of blankets Berkay’s stepmum has in the cupboard really made me smile – she has two cupboards piled up with spare cushions and duvets, so that guests can sleep – very prepared, she must’ve had about 30 different ones! They also will keep feeding you until you’re full enough to burst, and don’t take no for an answer. If you turn down a cup of Turkish tea, you can guarantee that you’ll get one anyway.
Dinner time is a little different in the village, instead of being seated around a dining room table on chairs, they eat every meal on the floor around a special ‘table’cloth. People joining them for dinner don’t have their own plates, but instead share from various sized metal dishes, each with a different food inside. Everyone has their own fork and spoon, but they don’t use knives, which sometimes proves troublesome when it comes to larger pieces! Everyone also drinks from the same water glass. The good thing about eating this way is you can eat as much or as little food as you want, without the pressure of wanting to empty your plate so as not to offend. I do like sitting on the floor to eat, but it does give you terrible pins and needles after a while! I suspect if someone has a cold the sharing thing isn’t so pleasant.
I love the different colours and patterns of the rugs they put on the floor, although it does baffle me why they don’t just buy the same kind. Underneath all these rugs and mats they have wooden floor, but it’s kept covered all winter and summer. I love the different patterns but it would drive someone with OCD crazy for sure.
The first day we were in the village, Berkay’s brother asked him to help deliver some hay, as part of the family business. I decided to go with him. Off we went in a big, rickety, dusty truck, to the huge barn where they keep the hay. Berkay and his brother filled up the truck with bales while I sat around the corner wondering what on earth I was doing. 24 hours before this moment, I had been sat in a 5* all inclusive hotel, and now I was sat in a pile of hay, covered in dust and surrounded by the smell of animal poo. What a difference a day makes! Certainly a tale of two halves, two totally different lifestyles and two totally different sets of people.
Later that evening , having recovered from the inital shock of village life which always hits me like a ton of bricks (or hay bales?), I wandered around the family farm and took a moment to appreciate the scenery. It is beautiful. I love this photo I took of the sun going down, greenhouse to the left, sheep shed to the right, pile of fire wood in the foreground, and bird soaring in the background.
Dinner time provided entertainment in the form of Boncuk. We all sat outside on the patio to enjoy chicken cooked on the fire, with a special guest peeping her head over the wall behind Berkay’s dad, hoping for some leftovers! Can you spot her? She looked so funny, every now and then her little head would just pop up, until someone threw her a piece. Adorable.
The next morning, me and Berkay decided to go for a mini-adventure to a view point across Beyağaç. As we were getting in the car, Boncuk jumped in and joined us, so we took her too. Everytime we visit the village we come up to this point as it provides lovely panoramic views. This time there was a new addition to the view – 3 old, falling apart arm chairs. Interesting. I guess fly tipping is a universal problem! It did make a good photo though.
Berkay drove along to the next village, Yeniçeşme , to show me the house he was born in, I took a photo of the building, which is now falling apart but still inhabited, I love the fact you can see Boncuk in the wing mirror! Berkay kept pointing out places he used to go with his friends as a child, fields he used to work in, and things his Grandad built like the village water source. Berkay always speaks highly of his grandparents, they raised him as a baby as his mother and dad abandoned him when he was only 28 days old, he’s still not seen his mother since and knows nothing about her, and although he is on speaking terms with his dad, he definitely had a stronger bond with his grandparents, who have both now passed away, he showed me the cemetery they’re both in too.
Back at the family home, I had a walk around finding interesting things to photograph – you’re never far away from something with a story behind it! These red peppers are picked when they’re in season, and hung out to dry out in the summer, then they’re used in stews and other dishes when not normally readily available. Aside from their main purpose, I think they make great decorations!
After dinner, despite being stuffed, plates of walnuts, biscuits, popcorn and tea were bought out. The funniest thing was Berkay’s stepmum breaking the biscuit in half and dipping it into her glass of cay, its the equivalent of dipping a rich tea in a mug of PG tips, I’d never seen a Turkish person do that before so I giggled to myself – seems like us Brits have a rival for our tea and biscuits!
That night, we visited Berkay’s brother’s girlfriend and her family about an hour away. Upon telling her of my love of baggy village pants, they went to their stash, ironed a pair and gave them to me in a bag as a gift, along with a pair of crocheted slippers they had made – it took so many attempts to find a pair that would fit me, I felt like Cinderella! Another fine example of their hospitality.
The following morning, we said goodbye to the family, and Boncuk, and got ready for the drive to Denizli city centre. The photo below is of us with Berkay’s brother just before we said bye – my eyes were red and blotchy after bawling my eyes out saying bye to Boncuk 10 minutes before hand. I’ve deliberately left her out of this post and will do a whole new post about her, she’s so cute she deserves her own one!
Village life in Beyağaç is so different than anything I’m used to. It’s way beyond my comprehension, but it is interesting and always provides me with plenty of funny stories! I could never live there myself, but after the initial shock, it’s not too hard to settle in to the way of life, become a bit more comfortable and embrace it – however, it is always a bit of a relief to leave again at the end of the visit, even with blurry eyes from teary goodbyes.