7 years together today!

Berkay & I have been together 7 years today! It feels like a lifetime, as we’ve been together basically my whole adult life, since I was 18!

I’ve written about how we met and our ‘cheesy love story’ before, so I won’t bore you all with that again, but you can click HERE to read it, if you’re curious!

From ‘holiday romance’ and ‘long distance’ love, to 3 years living in Turkey together, 12 months of the army service apart, to getting married last year and being separated just 4 days later, to applying for his visa last October, and him joining me here in the UK last November, and now buying a flat and settling in to that together, it’s been a busy 7 years full of adventure, happiness, sad airport goodbyes, visa stress and plenty of sad & happy tears. I expect the future holds more of the same, although hopefully more of the happy!

Here are some ‘Danni & Berkay through the years’ photos – I think it’s clear we don’t age well, 7 years, about 7 stone extra weight between us, 70% less hair on Berkay’s head… but still cute together, right? The first photo was taken 9/7/2010, the last photo just last week 3/7/2017.



Whenever we’re back in Turkey, we like to go back and visit the hotel we met in. If my Dad had never chosen this hotel for me and my friend to stay in, we would never have met each other! Back in May the hotel was all closed up for winter still, but we jumped over the fence and wandered around anyway, don’t worry, Berkay is still close to the boss, having worked there 10 years, we weren’t just trespassing! The hotel has not changed at all in 7 years, apart from maybe a fresh lick of paint outside and freshly grouted pool tiles, but everything else remains the same, including a lot of the staff, minus Berkay now of course. Even the famous rose bush Berkay used to pick the roses off for me and place on my sun lounger those days 7 years ago, is still there growing strong.

 
Whilst looking back at some old photos I’d taken during that holiday back in July 2010, I smiled at the innocent snaps I’d taken of places and things that would later be such important places in our lives. Not only the photos of the hotel we met in, or of the promenade along Calis we’d spend so many years walking along, the beach we’d spend so many evenings enjoying the sunset on, but also this one. This is a photo of the apartment we stayed in for 10 days when we got married last year, I’d just taken a photo of it during that week long holiday in 2010 not knowing or ever imagining in my wildest dreams that we’d be staying in one of those sea-view apartments on the left during our wedding week, taking photos on the balcony with my little bridesmaid sister, or where my dad first saw me in my wedding dress and cried, or where we’d spend our first night as husband as wife. It sounds silly really, but just seeing the photo really made me smile. Especially as my Dad actually booked that apartment for us last year, and one for him & family attending the wedding too, by accident, thinking it was a different apartment block further along the beach – it seems like fate, always meant to be! ūüôā

We won’t be celebrating today, since Berkay has been at work since 12.45 until 23.30 tonight and won’t be home til 1am, ever the hard worker! But we are off together tomorrow so plan to do something silly together, like go and watch the new Despicable Me movie at the cinema. I was telling my friend this and she looked me like I was mental ‘what, you’re going to go and see that kids film at the cinema with your husband and not take a kid with you?’ – ‘yep’ – ‘oh, bet it was hard getting him to agree to that!’ – ‘nope, he loves it too, we’re like big kids’ – ‘ahh, I see, a match made in heaven then’
Exactly, my friend, Exactly!

 

5* Jiva Beach Resort Hotel – review

Although I love visiting Turkey, I always say that it’s not really like a holiday for us, there’s just too many people to see and things to do and we end up rushing around here there and everywhere. When we were there 3 weeks ago though, Berkay suprised me by booking us a day/night in the 5* all inclusive ¬†Jiva Beach Resort hotel in Calis, to celebrate our first wedding anniversary.

Last October we visited Titanic Hotel in Lara Beach, Antalya, for one night and that was the first time I’d ever stayed in a 5*¬†hotel anywhere, so I was curious to see how Jiva hotel compared.

When we arrived at the hotel, we went to check in and met a lovely lady on reception. After taking our passports and information, she looked at me and said ‘oh, you write a nice blog, that’s how I know you!’ which was surreal, it’s always weird when people recognise us! Our room wasn’t ready, but we were able to check in, use the facilities and eat lunch.
 
The lunch was an open buffet and it was amazing. When you tell people you’re staying in an all inclusive hotel, they’re always a bit worried about the food, they seem to have the idea that the same food is left out all day in the sun, and leftovers reheated and served up again for dinner, but that certainly isn’t the case here, and a lot of it was cooked in huge pans in front of us. There were tons of options just for lunch, jacket potatoes, soups, chips, meat, pizza, salad, fresh fruit, cakes, pudding.. I ended up having a very random mixture.

After lunch, we went for a walk around the hotel grounds. We used to live a 10 minute walk away from this hotel, and¬†walked around the surrounding area almost everyday for years. We watched the progress from the outside,¬†whilst it was being built, when it first opened in 2012 and when they extended it and added more rooms in 2014. ¬†What really, really suprised us is how big the hotel grounds are. It’s like the tardis, bigger on the inside than it looks from the outside! Aside from nearly 400 hotel rooms, there are¬†5 outdoor pools, an inside pool & spa, game room, patisserie, buffet restaurant, 2 ala carte restaurants and several bars.

 
There is also a small lake which the hotel is built around. Back when it was being built we were always a bit put off because of this – it looked like stagnant, green water and we thought it would attract a lot of mosquitos, but it is a really beautiful focal point. The hotel describes this as a ‘natrual lagoon’ which they protected when building on the site. It has a lot of reeds and lily pads, as well as ¬†fish, turtles, ducks and frogs living in it, you can hear the frogs croaking at night. There is a bridge crossing the lagoon and lots of seating areas all around, with paths lined with palm trees around the whole resort. The hotel also has it’s own section of beach, with sunbeds and umbrellas.

 
At 2pm, it was time to get our suitcases and head to our room. We had a standard pool facing room. The bed¬†had a big ceiling fan above it which would be amazing in the height of summer. It had a chaise lounge in one corner, tv, a mirror/dressing table, mini fridge, kettle, huge mirrors, lots of wardrobe/hanging space, a safe and stunning bathroom with marble sink and shower. The shower was my favourite thing about the whole room – a ‘rain’ shower. ¬†I could have stayed in that shower for hours, it was so powerful and so relaxing. The balcony overlooked the pool area and by spooky coincidence, had the exact same table and chairs on it as we had bought in B&Q for our balcony at home here in England just a couple of weeks before hand! How odd.
 
 
There are lots of different types of rooms at the hotel and 367 rooms in total. Attic rooms, standard rooms,swim-up rooms.¬†The hotel has a thin, long¬†pool outside the length of the ground floor, and some rooms have steps down¬†into the pool from the balcony – lovely! There is also a honeymoon suite room with a hot tub inside, and¬†a ‘presidential villa’ with its own private pool with curtain across it. I walked past it in awe, really looked amazing. I’ve since looked it up on the hotel website and it looks even better than I realised – I suspect the price is also ‘amazing’ though!!!
 
After looking around the room, we changed into our swimming gear and headed down to the pool¬†area. We saw that the water slides were open so we went straight over to them – the water was freezing, as it was so early in the season the pools hadn’t had a chance to warm up. Despite the cold water, the slides were great fun. There was a kids pool next to the slides,¬†an adults pool the other side of the bridge next to a jacuzzi style pool, and a main pool which ¬†while we were there, hosted water volley ball and ‘animation’ dancers jiving to crazy frog around it every few hours…!
 
 
Underneath the pool area there are really nice toilets, lockers and showers. Handy if you have to check out of your room but still want to use the pool, or need somewhere to leave your belongings. The hotel also sells day passes, so you can pay a certain amount and get to use the facilities all day so these showers, toilets and lockers underneath are perfect for those guests too.
 
If the pool view becomes a little boring, and you fancy a change of scenery, the hotel has its own section of beach with sunbeds. We laid there for a while with a refreshing ice coffee.

After having enough sun for the day, we went inside to check out the spa. The Turkish bath was free to use yourself, but if you want bubbles and the proper experience, you have to pay. There was a free sauna, steam room and indoor pool too. The pool looked really relaxing, with a couple of sunbeds around it, mood lights and serene music, but don’t be fooled by the appearance, it was freezing, I couldn’t even stand in it it was so cold, so I’m not really sure what the point of it was. They have the usual massages and other treatments for an added cost, but we didn’t try any of them. They also had a free gym which looked well equipped, but who wants to use the gym on holiday, right? Hah!
 
Before dinner, we rushed to get ready and catch the sunset, our favourite thing about Calis. It looked especially beautiful with the boats in the foreground. We also used the opportunity to take a photo for our first wedding anniversary. The idea is, you take a photo of you holding your wedding photo, and then next year, take a photo of you holding the photo of you holding the wedding photo, etc etc. I hope we remember to do this every year and can see how we change over the years, and later on hopefully include children in our photos too!
 

At dinner time, we realised why the hotel gym exists – it must be¬†to work off all the extra calories that you consume during the all inclusive buffet! The food was amazing, my photos don’t even do it justice but I was too busy building a mountain of food on my plate to take better photos! All sorts of food, including whole carved roasted Chickens, pasta dishes, fish, grilled meats, meat skewers, lahmacun, pide, pizza, chips, vegetables, stews, soups, sushi, rice, fresh salad, lots of various Turkish meze and traditional dishes, and the funniest thing – a whole chicken doner grilling away in the corner! Surely Turkey is the only place in the world where you’d find a chicken doner kebab roasting in the all inclusive buffet? Hilarious, but delicious! Berkay had 3 plates full, mostly meat! I limited myself and saved myself for dessert. Baklava, pudding, mini cakes and tarts, Turkish Lokma (similiar to donuts covered in syrup) and my favourite – beautiful cakes covered in brightly coloured icing and fresh strawberry, kiwi and banana!
     
As well as lunch & dinner buffets, the hotel also has a snack bar open every afternoon,¬†an icecream stand open for 2 hours a day, and patisserie open 24 hours, all included as part of the ‘all inclusive’ concept. Local beer, wine, raki, gin, vodka and cocktails are included, as well as soft drinks, teas, coffee etc, but imported spirits and fresh fruit juices are extra. There are also two a la Carte restaurants which need booking for an extra cost too.

 
  
After¬†dinner we went to the amphitheater to watch the entertainment for the night – a ‘Turkish night’ – I think we picked a good day! The only time I’ve ever watched any entertainment in Turkey was the night we stayed in Titanic hotel. I don’t know how I visited¬†and lived in Turkey for so long without coming across any evening entertainment but it’s true! There was some more weird dancing to crazy frog, and then a really good traditional Turkish dance show, with men and women dancing to various music, drums, tap dancing, swords, whirling dervish etc! It was really good and lasted for about 45minutes. Berkay loved it, his face was beaming the whole time.
 
The next morning we had to wake up early to leave and go to the village, even though we were allowed to use the hotel facilities til 2pm. We did get to enjoy a lovely breakfast though – fresh simit, tomatoes, cucumber, salad, fried egg, boiled egg, cheeses, fried potatoes, sucuk (spicy sausage).. and sweet options too – fruit, fruit pies, pastries, pancakes with syrup, waffles with chocolate sauce… Because we were only in the hotel for one day, we had to make the most of it and eat EVERYTHING. Dessert with breakfast, yummy.


The whole place is so peaceful in the morning, the sea was still, beach empty, sunbeds empty. I sat and made the most of the last few minutes of 5* luxury, knowing that in a few hours time I’d be sat 4 hours away in Berkay’s family’s village, surrounded by farm animals and haystacks. Oh what a difference a few hours and a few hundred kilometers makes!

What really surprised me was how full the hotel was. We were there the last week of April/first week of May, and everywhere else was quiet, Calis was quiet in the evenings, the restaurants along the promenade fairly empty, but this hotel very busy – we inquired about staying for another few nights the following week and were told all rooms were full, they only had the more expensive suites available. It didn’t feel cramped though and there was no fighting for sunbeds, although finding a table at dinner time took a little searching! Regardless, it’s a beautiful hotel in a brilliant location and we’ll definitely be visiting again one day. A lot of the Calis beach hotels are 3* or 4* and a little run down, never really seem to have improvements or a lick of paint, so this was something a little different.

All those years we spent walking past it, watching it being built from the ground upwards, afternoons spent walking Boncuk past it, we never thought we’d actually stay there, and¬†it was even better than we imagined.
 

Please note, Jiva resort did not sponsor this post, we paid for everything ourselves and they do not even know I am writing it!

Our Traditional Turkish Village wedding – the evening.

“Just take a deep breath” – those words were running through my head as I stepped out of the car.¬†A few days prior to the big Turkish wedding party I had been discussing how worried I was and my stepmum’s very useful words of wisdom were ‘take deep¬†breaths’ – I must have thought about that conversation and replayed those few words in my head 100 times that day!

There was already music playing, which they stopped when Berkay’s brother gave us the signal to start walking towards the empty space in the middle of the floor. There was a make shift aisle between rows of chairs, and when the DJ introduced us, hundreds of heads turned to face me. My instinct was to burst into tears and it took all my effort not to do so! The photographer captured this moment perfectly – lips tightly together, dread in my eyes… ¬†
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As soon as we entered the middle of the make-shift dancefloor and started our slow dance (after¬†Berkay’s cousin taught us how to during the day….) Berkay’s brothers laid out some giant sparkler fireworks around us in a circle and fired some confetti at us, which looked great for the photos but made me jump at the time! Slowly, other couples and family members joined in the slow dancing – including Berkays dad, much to the amusement of his family who had never seen him dance before despite attending hundreds of weddings!
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Berkay’s dad wasnt the only family member joining in the fun – Berkay’s uncle grabbed one of the traditional giant drums that always take pride of place at a village wedding, and started bashing it – apparently he had never played one before but one glass of raki later and he was playing it so confidently you’d think he was an expert! To accompany the very, very loud drum, the DJ was playing a keyboard and singing. I can’t even explain how loud it was!
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After the slow dance, it was time for the real madness to begin – the traditional, loud, Turkish music that reminds me of a swarm of angry bees buzzing – if you’ve heard this kind of music you’ll know exactly what I mean. I don’t do dancing, so I was dreading this, especially because as the bride, all eyes were on me. I’d only ever done Turkish dancing once before and that was on our actual wedding day back in April, and only for a couple of minutes – I should definitely have practiced more! Basically, it involves standing around in a circle, wriggling your shoulders, clicking your fingers and shuffling to the beat of the massive drum – at least that’s what I tried to do. It was really entertaining watching everyone else dance, a lot of them really got into it and were obviously having great fun. I tried to stay with Berkay as much as possible but he disappeared off a few times and I was left in a circle of women. Bless Berkay’s cousins really tried to look after me and made sure I was dancing in their ‘circle’, but I’ve only met them a few times so I was still nervous. After a while some of our friends from Fethiye joined in the dancing. They are much older than us and are almost like second parents to Berkay when he’s in Fethiye. They said they made the journey all the way to Denizli just so that I had someone I knew there which was so sweet. My face definitely did light up when I saw them dancing amongst¬†the sea of people I’d never met before¬†– I navigated¬†towards them¬†and just standing next to them made me feel so much better, although of course I was still searching for Berkay in the crowd!
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There were so many people from far and wide – everyone really makes an effort to turn up. September-November is wedding season in Turkey and this fairly small village can have up to 10 weddings per week, but apparently everyone was commenting how many people had turned up to our one and how they’d never seen one like that before! Berkay was especially pleased that two of his best friends from his army days made the journey, he keeps in regular contact to them via whatsapp and Facebook and they spent almost 10 months together day and night in the army so it was nice for him that they wanted to come.

After a few dances and a very quick sit down it was time to pin the money. I spoke about this in my blog post about our actual wedding in April, as it was a tradition that I wanted to make sure we did then too. It’s tradition in Turkey to pin money on to the bride and groom, rather than give gifts. In English weddings you end up with toasters, slowcookers and kettles, whereas in Turkey you end up with lots of paper notes, much more useful, and looks great in the wedding photos too. At first, people formed a fairly orderly queue, got a pin from Berkays cousin and then pinned the money to us before shaking our hands and double kissing our cheeks, but the neat queue quickly turned into chaos and I had people grabbing me, kissing my face and rushing at me with money in their hands from all angles – very overwhelming. We had anything between 1 dollar and 100 lira notes pinned to us, along with some small gold coins, another Turkish tradition. These small, gold coins are worth different amounts depending on their weight and are often given at special occasions like weddings, births of babies etc. We got around 12 gold coins pinned to us, but we only got to keep the 7 given to us by family – the others were kept by Berkays family.

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After the money had all been pinned to us, the photographer asked people to come up for photographs with us – notice the outfits, it’s normal for guests to not dress up at all, although a lot of the closer family members did. There is certainly no upstaging the bride so that’s one less thing to worry about, everyone just goes along to join the celebrations and have a boogie which is lovely.

After the photos, the DJ dropped the bombshell that he would be bringing a chair out for us to do a solo dance around. Berkay had the unfortunate job of breaking this news to me and translating and I believe my reaction was ‘I hate you’ – I’m disappointed the photographer didn’t get a photo of my face when he told me because I bet it would have been absolutely hilarious. Berkay apparently didn’t know about this before, it’s a good job I didn’t know because I’d have been worrying all day! It was literally my worst nightmare, actually even worse than I could have imagined, but with hundreds of pairs of eyes watching I had no choice. First of all, I took my seat in the chair, the DJ played music, the drummer played, Berkay’s shoulders started shuffling and he danced around me in a circle. After a couple of minutes, the music stopped, the DJ shouted ‘did you like it?’ I answered ‘yes’ but I couldn’t possibly type what I was actually thinking as it involves many, many swearwords. Now it was my turn, Berkay sat down on the chair and I danced around him in a circle. I have no idea what was going through my head but I know that it felt like the longest few minutes of my life! We caught the whole thing on video and watching it back does really make me laugh, even though I hated it it is definitely something to look back on and smile about.¬†So many people who know me commented¬†how they couldn’t believe I had done it as they’ve known me for a long time and know how shy I am.
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The night carried on and we carried on dancing, my feet were aching, my fingers hurting, and I was very tired after being up since 4am and travelling, but we weren’t allowed to sit down and just had to keep on going. Everyone was enjoying themselves and eventually as the dance floor started to empty a bit, I managed to sneak off and sit down, leaving Berkay, his brothers and their friends dancing around like loons but having lots of fun.
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By the end of the night, I had blisters all over my fingers from all the clicking whilst dancing, I suppose that’s a sign of a good party – injuries from dancing!

Overall, it was a very interesting experience but one I definitely will never, ever be repeating! Clearly, it meant a lot to Berkay and his family and they did go to a lot of effort to organise the whole thing – it’s important to take part in the traditions and embrace the culture on both sides and I’m glad I was brave enough to do it, it’s definitely a story to tell everyone!
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Berkay is coming to England!

On Friday, Berkay’s visa application status changed to ‘decision made’ and the passport was sent back in the post. We had absolutely no idea whether it was a ‘yes’ or a ‘no’ and anxiously tracked the UPS parcel on its journey to Fethiye. We had hoped that it would be there on Saturday so that we wouldn’t have to spend the whole weekend not knowing, but it wasn’t to be… so, first thing Monday morning Berkay went and waited outside the UPS office until the delivery truck arrived from Istanbul via Mugla. It was early, around 9.45am their time, 7.45am our time, and my alarm had just gone off to wake me up for another day of work..

As I was walking out the front door, Berkay FaceTime’d me – with the parcel in his hand. He opened the envelope while talking to me and we both had the horrible few seconds of searching through the envelope for either a letter of refusal, or a visa stamp in his passport…

‘They gave it!’ he said – and he was right. There it was – a big, shiny, visa sticker in his passport.

WE DID IT. HE GOT THE VISA!
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My family cried, I cried, even strangers I’ve never met but who read my updates on Facebook cried! It was definitely an emotional Monday morning, and I’m so glad that we found out early so that I didn’t have to sit in work and wait all day! It was also well worth paying the ¬£450 extra for priority service, if we hadn’t we probably wouldn’t know until January.

After all the stress, worry and hard work, it finally paid off. The months of gathering paperwork, years of searching for a job earning over the minimum income requirement, months of gathering wage slips and letters, printing photos, Facebook messages, call logs, proving every inch of our relationship and explaining every little detail of our lives over the past 6 years, it was all worth it eventually.

Lots of people were saying they didn’t realise how hard it was so I hope all my annoying visa updates and stress and worry has opened your eyes to just how hard it actually is to get a visa for the UK – it took so much effort, time, money and a lot of hard work! We have to do all this process again in 2.5 years time too, and meet the requirements at every check point, it’s not a permanent visa! Next time you hear someone say “we let everyone in, they all come here for free and get everything” please tell them you know that’s not true and tell them our story, educate them! It’s cost¬†over ¬£2,500, including an NHS fee, and the visa is very clearly stamped “no public funds” which means Berkay is¬†not entitled to any benefits, despite what a lot of people would have you believe!

I still don’t think it’s quite sunk in yet to be honest, and I don’t think it will until he’s here, and even then it will feel like it’s just a holiday for a while! Everything is going to change, not just for us but also for my family since we we will still be living at home with them for a while. I’ve already been flat searching and house hunting but it’s going to be very difficult to find somewhere until Berkay is here and working as we need two people’s wages to be able to afford to move out around here!

Berkay worked his last night shift in the hotel in Calis last night, and it closed for the winter season today.¬†I think it’s bittersweet, because although we really wanted him to get this visa and for us to be able to live in the UK together, until now, it’s always been an uncertainty, and now it’s a reality! He has worked in that hotel for 12+ years, since he was a student doing work experience with his tourism school, and now it’s definitely the end of an era. This morning he packed up his things and got the bus to Denizli, where he currently is staying in the city with his uncle and cousins. Tomorrow, he goes to the village again and will stay there for 3 weeks before going back to Fethiye, saying another goodbye and boarding a plane from Dalaman to London mid-November.

Once he’s here we’ll be very busy, adapting to life here, working, saving, celebrating his birthday and Christmas and very much looking forward to what 2017 holds for us. ¬†This time last year he was in Diyarbakir doing his army service in a dangerous place and we were having 30 second phone calls once a day. It felt like the day would never come when I’d be able to post this ‘BERKAY IS MOVING TO ENGLAND’ post, but here it is… and that definitely feels good to type!

Our Traditional Turkish Village Wedding – the Day

Traditional Turkish village weddings can go on for 2-3 days. Time restrictions meant our’s only lasted one day, and I skipped the traditional henna night. Since we had a long way to travel, we woke up at 4.30am on the Sunday morning and drove the 3 hours from Fethiye to Berkay’s family’s village in Beyańüa√ß, Denizli.We arrived there just before 8am, bright and early, and preparations for the day’s events were already well underway. When we got to the house, everyone was out at the local marketplace (where the wedding was being held) taking the delivery of the tables and chairs and getting the food started. After a brief reunion with our dog Boncuk, we jumped back in the car and went down to join the others in the town centre.

At this point, things were calm, everything was fairly relaxed. I greeted Berkay’s mum, dad and brothers and then our attention was drawn to a small gathering of 4 women by the side of the road. They were cooking some of the food for the wedding. When you have 5000 guests invited, you have to do everything on a larger scale… and they certainly did. They had 4 huge pots (rather like cauldrons..) full of various things, one of which was keŇükek. KeŇükek is a very traditional part of Turkish weddings and they take great pride in cooking it. It’s a weird food, served at special occasions, weddings, funerals, religious celebrations etc. A lot of people are involved in the preparing and cooking. It’s made from wheat, locally produced from the villages in most cases, and ground meat, and is lovingly and slowly cooked in these huge cauldrons. It’s a hard job to mix it with the huge wooden spoon as it is so thick, it’s definitely a good arm workout! It’s reminds me of porridge… but porridge mixed with ground meat, butter, and lots of oil… once it’s ready it’s often slopped in a bowl and covered in spicy pepper sauce. It certainly doesn’t look, or sound very appealing but it doesn’t taste as bad as you think and it’s a good, hearty food that definitely feels like it’s been lovingly homemade by your grandma.
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Aside from keŇükek, there were various other dishes being cooked up by paid chefs in the market place – rice, beans, cacik, a meat stew, brain soup (yes… BRAIN soup) and hundreds of loaves of bread. We were the first ones to try the food at around 9.30 am, just before the official 10am start time of the day part of the wedding.

After sitting down with some members of his family to eat the food, Berkay left me to go and help the men of the family carry on laying out the tables and chairs. 100 tables, 500 chairs, huge rolls of tissue tablecloths, hundreds of packets of napkins, jugs of water… it was certainly a mammoth task to get everything ready.

At 10am the steady flow of people started arriving. Most of them I’d never seen before, only a handful would even recognise me in a lineup, and thankfully I didn’t need to wear my wedding dress until the evening, so I could blend in a little. We didn’t greet everyone who attended, as there literally were not enough hours in the day, but we did get called over every now and then to greet important guests, the older generation, old family friends or those who have a higher standing in the village. I must say, in the most polite way possible, that it was very much more of a thing for show. Berkay’s dad has his own business and is very well known in the village and nearby areas – he sells animal feed, and since everyone owns a farm there, he clearly has a good client base! As a result, he spent most of the time standing greeting people and talking to his friends, gesturing for us to go over and say hello every now and then. It was much less of a celebration of our marriage, and more of a ‘look, I’m such a wonderful dad doing this huge wedding for my son’ kinda thing, and if you’ve read my previous posts about Berkay’s childhood you’ll know why that leaves a bit of a bitter taste.
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Anyway, as the day went on and lunchtime approached, the marketplace became very busy, with hundreds of people coming to join in and eat. Berkay’s brothers, younger cousins and family friends were running around like headless chickens trying to make sure everyone who arrived got their tray full of small silver dishes, filled with the different foods from the kitchen. It’s normal in Turkey for 5-6 people to share from one bowl, although everyone has their own spoon, so that helped minimise the washing up! As you can imagine, it took a lot of work to make sure the bread was restocked, fresh tablecloths were placed on the tables after each group of people left, the water jugs were refilled, the empty plates and trays were taken away, washing up was done in a little washing up station behind the kitchen area, chairs were rearranged, tables cleared, tea glasses filled and delivered, making sure the elders and the important people were greeted as a sign of respect… It was a lot of work for them, and really very overwhelming for me. At this point I was sitting alone with Berkay’s aunts and female cousins who were really trying to do a good job of looking after me, they could definitely sense the panic in my eyes! Berkay was rushing around helping but I was told to sit down and drink tea..

I’m not entirely sure just how many people turned up during the day for the food giving, but I can say with some certainty that it was over 2500 people. Just to put it into perspective, Berkay’s family slaughtered one of their cows, which provided 60kg of meat, they also had another 30kg of beef gifted to them so that makes a total of 90kg. Half way through the day, all 90kgs of beef had been eaten in the meat stew and they had to rush out and buy another 12 chickens to cook!! 90kgs of red meat, all gone, and we’re not talking about whole steaks for each person that came, we’re talking a few small cubes of meat in a bowl of stew shared between 5-6 people at a time over a period of about 7 hours, so that should give you an idea of just how many people came to enjoy the food!

Each family that came gave Berkay’s parents a small envelope with money in, to help cover the costs. I’ve spoken to a lot of people about this, and some say that it’s normal, other’s say that it’s not normal at all and that any money given should be for the bride and groom, and not for the family. It seems that each village has it’s own customs and traditions, and this is one of theirs. Over 13,000tl was given to Berkay’s family throughout the day, again emphasising just how many guests actually attended!

Thankfully, Berkay’s family’s house was only a 5-10 minute drive away from the marketplace and we were able to go back to the house a couple of times for around half an hour just to sit with no eyes watching, use the wifi, speak to my family, play with Boncuk and most importantly, breathe.

Initially, we were sent back to the house to retrieve ‘my’ gold.  I say ‘my’, but effectively we just rented it. As I have already mentioned, the whole day really felt more about ‘keeping up with apperances’ rather than really being a celebration, and this tradition of the bride wearing gold is another which really made this clear. It’s normal for the groom and his family to give the bride gold, and lots of it. Unfortunately gold is very expensive at the moment, and we are not rich! The day before the wedding we stopped at Ortaca, near Dalaman, and went to the nearest gold shop, where Berkay purchased five 22 karat gold bangles which cost the best part of ¬£1000 – even then, I had to convince Berkay that that was enough, and he would have happily got into a lot of debt and bought more just so my arm looked a little more decorated! Clearly after the wedding we would have no use for ¬£1000 worth of gold bangles, so we planned to sell them straight back the day after, and we were prepared to lose a little money in the process. (As it happened, when we did sell them back we would have only lost around 90tl but I decided to keep 2 of the bangles as I liked them so much!) I’m not a person for expensive jewellery or designer items, so I had never worn anything worth so much as all this gold. Berkay’s mum let me borrow her gold necklace, and her sash, which was covered in cloves and gold coins, but we forgot to wear this! It’s apparently tradition in this village to wear it across the body which I had never heard of before. We did genuinely forget about it until it was too late, but I’m quite glad because the clove smell reminded me of the dentist, and I am terrified of the dentist so it didn’t help to calm my nerves!
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After going back to the marketplace in the afternoon and greeting more guests, it was time to head off to the hairdresser to get ready. Berkay dropped me off at the ‘salon’ (a concrete basement with a sink in the corner, a mirror and a chair) with his cousins and aunt while he went off to get changed, go to the barber and get the car covered in ribbons.

Despite not being able to communicate much, the 4 hours I was sat in that salon room were quite enjoyable. It appears that this is the only hair salon in the whole village and she was very busy.She started with Berkay’s cousins hair, then the children, then his aunt, and eventually it was my turn. The whole time I was in there people were wandering in and out, and lots of little girls coming in and out waiting their turn too. I could sense people’s excitement. A young girl sat next to me completely fascinated, she kept staring at me and edging closer and closer, almost sitting on my lap and kept nudging my arm. Another little girl came in and spotted my dress hanging up on the back of the door and her eyes lit up – I guess every little girl loves the thought of being a bride and Turkish little girls are no different. After what seemed like a lifetime of curling and pinning my hair, the hairdresser then started on my makeup. “Sade”, Berkay had told her when he dropped me off, which means plain. I knew from friends who have had their own village weddings that I wasn’t getting out of that salon without bright blue eyeshadow, thick black eyeliner and bright red lipstick, I’m not sure what the significance is between blue eyeshadow and brides, but apparently the two go hand in hand! As predicted, I ended up wearing more makeup than I’ve ever worn in my life, which was the furthest thing from ‘plain’, but I actually liked it as it made me feel different, I guess almost like a mask, which I definitely needed to help with my confidence to get me through the evening – I even asked for extra glitter which was then sprinkled all over my hair and chest.

Next was the part which I had been dreading the most – putting on my dress. Thankfully, it was a corset dress so it allowed for a few extra lbs that I’d gained since the last time I wore it in April, but it was very difficult to do up. Berkay’s cousin and aunt were in charge of lacing me in, although I knew it didn’t feel quite right, so the hairdresser done some final tweaks to make sure it was done properly. I was so concious of my wedding dress as most of the villagers are very, very traditional and even having shoulders on display is a no-no. I had come prepared with shrugs and shalls to cover up but everyone reassured me that it looked fine – a lot of the guests had never even met an English girl before so I didn’t want to give off the wrong impression, it was definitely a lot of pressure!
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Finally, after 4 hours of being beautified, I was reunited with Berkay, who was now dressed in his suit, freshly shaved and covered in hair glitter which looked a lot like sparkly dandruff…interesting. With a lot of help, he got me and my dress up the stairs and into the car which had been decorated with ribbons, flowers and fancy number plates, letting everyone know that we were the bride and groom, just in case the outfits didn’t give it away! We went back to his house, I mustered up the courage to have a last minute pee, which was very difficult in my dress and definitely a two-person job, thank God they have a ‘normal’ sitting toilet and not just a hole in the floor, otherwise that could have gone very, very wrong.

Eventually, about 7.45pm it was time to get back into the car and make our grand entrance.. We pulled up outside the marketplace and Berkay jumped out to speak to his brother’s about the plan of action.. I was sat in the car hyperventilating and lots of little girls came running over to the car door. ‘Gelin! Gelin! Bak, gelin!’ – ‘Bride, Bride, look, Bride!’ they shouted out to each other and to their mums. They were so excited to see me and my dress and it was weird having so much attention and excitement directed at little old me!

Once Berkay had had his instructions, it was time to get out, take a deep breath and make our entrance together, with all eyes on me, the ‘yabancńĪ gelin’ – foreign bride…

Next visit to Turkey & Visa Paperwork…

I haven’t posted on here for a month now, this is because every waking moment outside of work I have been preparing visa paperwork!

It’s been over 4 months since I last saw Berkay, after leaving just 3 days after getting married, but I am going back to Turkey in 26 days time on 1st October. While I am there we are planning on doing a little road trip to Antalya to submit his visa application. It has taken me months of planning to get all the paperwork together and we’re still only half way there!

In order to apply for the visa we need to supply evidence of every single detail of our lives and the people in it. The main things are proving that we are in a genuine relationship, proving that I earn above the income requirement, proving that Berkay has a safe place to live in the UK, and proving that he can speak English. We do this via piles and piles of paperwork as evidence. Letters, 18+ page application forms, declarations, passport copies, birth certificates, bank statements, wage slips, a letter from my employer, contract, a house inspection report, land registry documents, mortgage statements, letter from the house owner and other letters of support from my family, proof of address, utility bills, passport details of everyone else in the house, university certificate, army papers, English exam certificate, criminal record check, insurance papers, blog information, marriage photos, wedding cards, engagement cards, photos of us over the whole 6 years of our relationship, visa stamps, evidence of every flight I ever took to Turkey, extracts of Facebook, MSN and Skype conversations and call logs over the 6 years, etc, etc etc. These are just the things I’ve thought of off the top of my head, there are many more that I’ve forgotten.

Gathering all this information is painstakingly time consuming, especially scrolling through the 180,000+ Facebook messages we have had together and picking a few conversations from each year of our relationship to print out and show them – a nearly impossible task! It’s also frustrating trying to gather paperwork we need from other people, like getting blood from a stone! It seems people don’t realise the importance of this application and all the information that goes into it.

With all the documents, application fee, house inspection report fee, NHS surcharge, translation fees, travel to/from Antalya to the application centre and the £450 fee to prioritise the application and get a slightly quicker decision, the total of the application is well over £3000 Рa huge amount of money.

It seems so surreal that in October, when Berkay goes and hands in the paperwork at the application centre, it will be out of our hands, we will be totally out of control of our future. The decision of where we spend the rest of our lives will be in the hands of someone we’ve never met, sat at their desk reading through our pile of paperwork, all we can do is put our blood sweat and tears into that pile of paperwork to make sure it leaves no doubt in their mind that we are a genuine, loving husband and wife just trying to live together and settle down. It’s nerve wracking, and we’ve been working towards it for so long that when the application is submitted I won’t know what to do with myself or my free time – I expect I’ll spend every waking moment tracking the application status online and praying that we get a quick decision!

I’m trying to keep my blog updated in the meantime, but all my effort at the moment is going into work and the visa… In October I’ll hopefully have lots of photos and thoughts to share from my trip. Other than the road trip to Antalya, we’re also planning on going to the village to visit Boncuk too, with a stop-over at Pamukkkale, and the usual BBQ’s, sunsets and breathtaking views of Fethiye of course!

26 days to get everything ready to go! 

Sailing the day away on a Fethiye boat trip..

This post is long overdue! 10 days ago we went on a boat trip to the islands around Fethiye. We went along for free with one of the tour groups that visit the hotel Berkay works in Рthe perks of the job!

The tour group we went with is calls ETS, they go traveling around on excursions from Istanbul and stay in the hotel for 3-4 days, using it as a base while they see the sites of the surrounding areas. We hopped on their coach and headed to Fethiye where we boarded the boat.
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The boat’s name was Grand Baris. We set off around 10.30 and went on a different route to most of the other ’12 islands’ trips, which I quite liked, although we seemed to be sailing forever until our first stop, it must have been over an hour.

The first stop was called Olive Island and was near Gocek I think, we had a swim and stopped there for 45 minutes. It was all going well until my foot touched a sea urchin, those things really hurt. I didn’t even step on it, just brushed it with my foot and it hurt for the entire day! I could see a really tiny black dot which I removed, but my foot felt like it had painful pins and needles until the following day – it was so weird, thank goodness I didn’t step on one completely and get the entire spike embedded in my foot, because that would definitely have ruined our day!
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After that, we moved onto the next stop, I’ve forgotten the name but it was lovely there, turquoise water and really pretty. This is where lunch was served.¬†Everyone else on the boat had to pay 15tl for their dinner (I assume because they didn’t pay for the boat trip individually, it was just part of the tour group’s excursions) but we got it for free as we knew them. It was fish, chicken or meatballs with spaghetti, salad and bread. It was a big plate full too, I couldn’t eat all mine, but it was lovely. I found the price of the drinks/food on board more expensive than usual. We had a small glass of Turkish tea which were 2tl each, and I noticed the 5tl Cola and Fanta were smaller glass bottles, rather than 33 cl cans. We also paid 5tl for a tiny plate of about 20 chips… I know we can’t really complain as we got everything else for free, but everyone else who were paying customers still had to pay those prices.
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After another swim, the next stop was Flat Island. It was a lot busier here but really beautiful. We got off the island and had a walk around, it looks even better from photos above (google search ‘flat island fethiye’ to see some!). The flat part of the island is shaped almost like a number ‘6’ with a calm, shallow area of water in the middle which you can walk through. We walked along the flat strip until we reached the hill and then turned back, it was so hot we didn’t fancy hill climbing! There were some ducks and chickens present on the island hiding in the shade of the bushes – cute. After another quick swim we got back on the boat and headed off to our last stop – Red Island.
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Red Island is the name of the island you can see from Calis and which forms the backdrop of most of my sunset photos! Berkay had had no sleep and had been working all night, so he was napping on the boat, but I went for a swim and took my goggles so I could look for some fish. The boat moored near a corner of the island and I was able to swim to it, there were alot of beautiful fish there, I wish I’d taken my iPod in with me to get some good underwater photos, but I forgot! I’m so glad I took my goggles, because towards the side¬†of the island the water became shallow and I could see and feel the rocks underneath – I peeked through my goggles to see if it was safe to step down and there were so many black, spikey sea urchins waiting for my feet… Definitely learned my lesson the first time and kept my feet firmly off the ground! More boats starting arriving at the island so I swam back towards ours and after 45 minutes they pulled the anchor up and set off back towards Fethiye.
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This is always my favourite part of the journey, it was around 5pm so the sun wasn’t directly overhead, making it slightly cooler. I love sitting at the back of the boat with my feet dangling in the water watching people fishing – they caught 2 fish and a starfish – Berkay was jealous, wishing he had bought his fishing rod! The sight¬†as you come into Fethiye marina is beautiful, with the mountains and rock tombs in full view – lovely.
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The boat itself was nice, clean and well-kept. The women’s toilets were large, clean and well-lit but Berkay said the men’s weren’t so nice – so much so that he actually used the women’s one instead! The staff were really friendly and it was a good day out, but we probably wouldn’t chose to use this boat again ourselves, we preferred the one we were on back in July. (click HERE to read the post about that trip)

Also, I always cringe when British people complain about the lack of fellow Brits in their hotel or on boat trips etc, we are in Turkey afterall… but there was one¬†small family of English people on the boat who booked separately to the huge (over 100 people) entirely¬†Turkish tour group that we went with and I can understand that they may have felt a little awkward mixed in amongst them. I do wonder if they were informed when they booked that a large tour group was booked on the boat for the same day? That being said, the staff made sure everything was announced in Turkish and English and were equally as welcoming to both groups of people from what I saw.
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We had a great day and I’m grateful we got the opportunity to go for free (apart from extras like drinks). I recommend the boat, we had nothing but a good experience, but I would suggest making sure there are no large tour group bookings on the day you plan to go if that bothers you.

I just love being at sea, perhaps I should have been a pirate! Or married someone with alot of money and a  fancy yacht.
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London with Berkay – part 2

I posted part 1 of my birthday day out in London  yesterday, and as promised, here is part 2.

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On our way to Buckingham Palace, we found ourselves at St.James Park. It was a lovely sunny afternoon and it was absolutely gorgeous walking through the park at this time of the day. There were beautiful yellow daffodils, blossom on the trees, flowers growing, green grass- beautiful! The lake looked lovely with the water fountain and ‘duck island’ in the middle.
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Anyone who knows me know’s I’m an animal lover – so seeing all the cute ducks, swans and pelicans was sweet, the pigeons not so much- I hate it when things fly near me! This duck was so funny, doesn’t it just look like he’s posing for the camera?! He turned around, looked at me, tilted his head then started walking towards me – I think he was hoping for food, but we had none… sorry Mr Duck.
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Berkay was trying to get the pigeons to sit on his arm, ewwwww. A nearby man who was obviously a regular at the park spotted him and gave him a handful of bird seed from a huge sack he had, he told him to hold his hand down low and feed the birds… and he did! Look how happy he looks, he’s an animal lover too.
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We spotted some squirrels who were surprisingly not shy at all – they were obviously used to being photographed as I held my camera literally an inch away from his face and he just sat there eating his nut…cute!
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When we came to the end of the park, we could see Buckingham Palace, or ‘The Queen’s house’ as Berkay calls it. ¬†We made our way over and dont the typical touristy things, took a photo of the guard, took a photo of each other standing outside the gates.. thought about popping in to visit my old mukka Queenie for some tea and scones…
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There’s something about London that makes you feel patriotic. I’m not the least bit patrotic normally, I’m normally moaning about the country, but standing outside Buckingham Palace and looking out accross¬†The Mall, seeing all the Union Jack flags – it really made me feel..well… British.
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We walked to St James Park station, again relying on my phone’s GPS to guide us, what a lifesaver that was – and got off at Leicester Square. It was really busy with street performers, people laying on the benches and grass, there was even a dog playing in the water fountain – sweet! One of the street performers was a magician, he had a little mouse with him… we missed most of the act, but at the end he put his little pet mouse on the floor and let everyone go and stroke it. ‘Please be careful with her’ he said … it melted my heart! Nothing cuter than a man and his pet mouse hehe!
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The main reason we were at Leicester Square was for M&M’s world! I’ve been to the one in New York before while I was there on a school trip, but I’d never been to the London one. The smell when you walk in … oh.my.god. Chocolate heaven! After a while it all looks the same, and you get sick of seeing all the overpriced merchandise – but some of it is cute. I think I purchased the cheaperst thing in the shop – a ¬£3.50 fluffy m&m purse. There are giant M&M statues all around the store – all 4 levels of it – making for some perfect¬†photo opportunities..
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The best part about the whole place are the walls with tubes stacked full of M&M’s in every single colour possible, chocolate ones, peanut ones, crispy ones… ahhh, I’ve just realised I still have some left over from the bag we made up¬†– as soon as I finish this post I’m going to tuck into them!
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After a good 45 minutes in chocolate heaven, we walked all the way to Oxford Street – and to the massive Primark. We didn’t get much, a few bits for our friends baby twins, and a pretty awesome pug duvet cover for me. What’s the point of having birthday money if you can’t spend it eh?

We met up with my dad, stepmum, brother and sister for dinner. We all went to a little Indian restaurant near Aldgate, in London. It was really yummy.. Berkay went for a hot dish and think he regretted it later!
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How cute is my baby sister? ‚̧ ¬†She adores Berkay.. and me. She follows me around like a little sheep when I come home from work. Bless. She gave me lots of birthday cuddles, and helped me show off one of my birthday presents- a sweet picture for my wall made by my step mum. A photo of me, Berkay and Boncuk and the word ‘Happiness’ – that says it all.
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Visa time..

It’s been 6 weeks since I last saw Berkay, thankfully time is going by quickly, he’s currently in the process of applying for a visit visa so he can come to England for Christmas.¬†

He’s actually on the bus for the 5 hour journey from Fethiye to Izmir as we speak. We completed the application and made his appointment at the visa application centre for 9am tomorrow morning, fingers crossed everything goes to plan and he gets it granted with no problems, but we won’t find out for up to 3 weeks/15 working days.¬†

He’s had two visit visas granted before, and one refused 2 years ago. Despite what most people think, the UK’s borders are not open for all and it is not easy for citizens of non-European¬†countries to come to the UK, even for a 3 week holiday. The whole process is a very long, detailed one and it is very frustrating. I have spoken before on here about how annoying it is to hear Brits complaining about having to pay the ¬£10 visa fee on arrival in Turkey, and moaning about having to wait for 30 minutes in a queue for the visa stamp. If you compare that to the process of a Turkish person visiting the UK, it really is nothing to complain about at all. ¬†The visa fee for non-EU citizens to enter the UK is ¬£80 and even after paying, it is not guaranteed that the visa shall be granted, as we discovered the first time Berkay applied, and was refused.¬†

The amount of paperwork we have to provide is also ridiculous, not only does Berkay have to show his entire life history, prove his ties to turkey in the form of property, land, employment, family links etc, but me, as his partner also have to prove that I exist, copies of my passport, proof of address, evidence of our relationship, photos… Then there is the issue of having enough money. Berkay has no money saved as wages are rubbish, and so has to have a sponsor. My dad is his sponsor, who also has to show bank statements, work contracts, invoices, tax returns, earnings, passport copies, letters, etc. If British people had to show all of this to travel to Turkey, nobody would ever bother going, can you imagine the amount of people who get into debt to pay off holidays etc, they’d all be refused unless they just so happened to have a friend in Turkey who had money saved in the bank.

The previous times Berkay has travelled to England, I have travelled with him. On arrival at the airport we felt like criminals with all the questions asked and people watching us. I understand that checks have to be made, but the whole visa process is ridiculous and horrible. There is always a risk of people overstaying visas or working illegally, but when you’re genuine and know you are going to stick to the rules, it’s frustrating having to prove yourself and have strangers judging your life and making important decisions just by reading pieces of paper.

Fingers crossed he hands in his huge pile of papers ok tomorrow morning, and that we get the decision back as soon as possible. The wait to open that envelope searching for a refusal letter or a visa stamp in his passport is a horrible one too, glad I’m not there to go through that this time.

Let’s hope we hear ASAP and Berkay can join me in the UK for 3 weeks over Christmas and New Year. Wish us luck please! ‚̧