AUGUST PHOTO SERIES – DAY 2 – Turkish Dancing

Our village wedding was one of the most bizarre days of my life. One of the best things though, was seeing Berkay and his friends/family dance around like absolute nutters! This photo was taken during one of the special dances only the men do – his brother ran off to grab a firework, stuck it in the middle of the circle and then the men danced around it, knees bending, doing little bunny hops, shoulders wriggling, fingers clicking… Complete madness but it definitely made everyone laugh, seeing the smiles on their faces! I’ve heard of women dancing around handbags, but men dancing around fireworks was a new one to me! Although it’s not a scenic photo, it certainly captures a moment of the ‘real Turkey’ and the madness it sometimes involves!

New Year’s Eve

While most people spent New Years in the warm at parties or celebrating with friends and family, me and Berkay decided to go up to London and watch the fireworks..
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First we took a detour to the O2, where we had lunch at Chiquitos, I booked in advance thinking it would be busy, but we were the only ones in there when we arrived at 2pm, perhaps everyone was preparing themselves for the night ahead. We had a lovely meal, with nachos to start, then Berkay had a half chicken with piri piri sauce, and I had the piri piri chicken fajitas. Well, if you can’t have actual Nandos, you might as well order the closest thing possible, right?
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After lunch we headed straight to Westminster station on the train, we got there around 5pm. Everyone had warned us to get there early in order to get a good spot, we wanted to be facing the London Eye directly from Embankment, and not on one of the bridges like we had 2 years ago. It was a good job we got there when we did, as there were already people sitting down along the whole length of the barriers, apparently some had been there since 11.30am, crazy. We found a good spot almost centre of the London Eye, and there were only 4 people in front of us, so we had a good view.
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We sat on our little fold up chairs and ate our snacks. For 7 hours. I still can’t quite believe we just sat there waiting for 7 hours, literally just staring at the London Eye praying the time would go fast, every dong of Big Ben we breathed a sigh of relief that another hour was over! We didn’t bring anything to amuse ourselves, we had no mobile or internet signal on our phones, and were very very bored. A few little arguments broke out over people pushing in and others complaining about being pushed and shoved, that amused us a little at least, it’s good to be nosey, or ‘people-watch’ as my mum calls it.

We were pretty cold, but thank goodness the rain held off til about 11.45pm. Everyone was too excited by then for the rain to bother them. We couldn’t move out of our spot for the entire 7 hours either, so no toilet breaks for us!
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Finally at midnight, Big Ben struck and the fireworks started. They were really impressive. We had been told beforehand they were ‘multi-sensory’, each of us had a special wristband that lit up and changed colour in time to the music and fireworks, and fruit smelling spray, mist, bubbles and confetti were blown out by huge canisters, when the fireworks were red we could smell strawberry, when they were orange, we could smell orange, etc. It was definitely different! They lasted over 10 minutes and the sky was completely lit up, beautiful!
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Trying to make our way back to the train station after the fireworks wasn’t so fun, hundreds of thousands of people all pushing and shoving, drunk people falling over, smashed glasses and bottles lining the streets, it was a real obstacle course, made all the worse by the rain making everywhere slippery. We followed the crowd of people and ended up in Trafalgar square, which wasn’t where we needed to be… but 4 somewhat helpful policemen later we eventually got there and boarded the packed train. By this point we were half asleep, freezing, busting for a wee and achey, but it was all part of the fun.

Not a drop of alcohol was consumed but we still had a fab time and got some great photos. Can’t say that I fancy waiting another 7.5 hours next year though, the fireworks were amazing and so much better in person, but not sure they are really worth all that waiting around!

Happy New Year everyone, hope 2014 is everything you wish it to be.

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A Turkish wedding..

Turkish weddings are spectacular occasions, I’m pretty certain they invite every person they’ve ever met, literally, hundreds, even a thousand people all gathered together to celebrate, the Turks do know how to throw a party.
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The wedding celebrations go on for days, and it’s not unusual for the legal wedding ceremony to take place months before the actual wedding party, the equivalent of what we would call the ‘reception’. This was the case for our friends. They were legally married in April this year, and had a very small family get together in a restaurant. They held the actual wedding party, and everything else that goes with it, a month later at the end of May. I have their permission to share their photos so thought I’d do a post sharing my experience of a Turkish wedding.

The days and weeks leading up to the big wedding party were spent planning, we went to their house often and each time they were doing something wedding-related. On on particular occasion, they came in with a massive box of invitations to send out, ”how many people are they inviting?!” I asked, ‘not too many, just 500”….

500 people, and that is considered a fairly small wedding by Turkish standards! I don’t even know 50 people, let alone 500. The wedding party was taken very seriously, the groom’s father spent an awful lot of money on it, with the help of credit cards!

The night before the wedding, they had a henna night, I’ve heard this is normally a women-only thing, but both bride and groom attended in this case.
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The next morning, the day of the wedding party, Berkay headed off to our friends village where they had sacrificed a cow and were serving up traditional Turkish meals to everyone who happened to be passing by. There was a steady flow of hundreds of people throughout the day, all coming to eat the food being offered as part of the celebrations. This carried on until late afternoon when it was time to get ready for the big party..

Typically, wedding parties are held in the late evenings, and can go on until the early hours of the morning. They are often held in large halls, ‘wedding salons’ or school yards. In this case, it was the school yard directly opposite their house. It seems so bizarre to me to hold a party in a school playground, when we think of traditional British wedding receptions, they are held in fancy halls or venues, all beautifully decorated tables and chairs, balloons, seating plans, perhaps a buffet or meal, and plenty of alcohol flowing. This was not the case here at all. Everyone was sitting on plastic garden chairs, hired from the local council, there was no food, no alcohol, not many decorations. It was all very simple, yet completely bonkers at the same time. We arrived at 8 o clock, just in time to see the bride and groom’s extravagant-looking car speeding through the village beeping its horn loudy to let everyone know there’s a wedding going on. The bride and groom’s names were written on the banner draped over the car, and it was covered in streamers and huge ribbons, I wish I had taken a photo!

After greeting the bride and groom’s parents, we found a couple of spare chairs and sat down, completely overwhelmed by the amount of people and the noise of the drums, something that is ever-present at Turkish weddings.

The bride and grooms close family and friends stood up and lit some sparklers, held them in the air and formed a little walkthrough archway with their arms, the bride and groom arrived and walked hand in hand through them, it all looked quite romantic with the sparklers! They walked straight into the middle of the yard and stood opposite each other, the bride had a veil over her head and a red ribbon tied around her waist, this is a ‘maidenhood belt’ or bekaret kuşağı which is tied around her by her family before leaving for the wedding. The groom said a prayer and removed his bride’s veil, revealing her face. Small fireworks were lit in the background and they then had their first dance, a typical slow dance, and then other couples started to join in.
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After the first dance, the real party begins. Loud drums, all kinds of musical instruments, live music and singing and A LOT of dancing. The dancing goes on all night and is crazy, traditional Turkish dancing. The wedding we were at had only Turkish music, but many are more modern and include western music, I can’t count the number of times I heard wedding parties in the school yard behind my house playing gangnam style last year!
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After a while, it was time to bring out the cake. The cake was HUGE, 7 tiers (yet still nowhere near enough to go around all the guests) and had yet more fireworks lit on top. The bride and groom placed some lira notes on the cake and it was cut up and distributed to guests, we didn’t stay around long enough to get any, unfortunately, as Berkay had to get to work!
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Just before we went, the dancing was put on hold for a while and the bride and groom stood at the front of the seating area with ribbons draped around their shoulders. Guests are expected to pin money or gold coins to the ribbon, instead of giving presents. This was one of my favourite parts, I think it’s a good idea and a nice little tradition that looks great on the photos! We were near the front of the queue to pin money on, right after the groom’s family. Each person that pinned money on got a photo taken with the bride and groom and then went back to their dancing.
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We had to go home after this as Berkay had work, but I’m certain the wedding carried on until the early hours with plenty more fun and dancing.

It was very different to any wedding I have ever been to before, but it was an experience to say the least. If we ever get married, I’m sure we’ll incorporate elements of both traditional British and Turkish weddings, or maybe we’ll do as many of my friends have and have two, they are very different after all. (: