Our Turkish Wedding Part 1.

Back on the morning of the 27th April I woke up in our apartment to the sound of the waves on the beach, with Berkay in bed beside me. It was our wedding day! Traditionally I know the bride and groom aren’t supposed to see each other the night before, or the morning of the wedding, but quite a lot of our wedding day was a bit backwards!

There wasn’t a cloud in the sky, and the forecast rain for the previous day had fallen and cleared ready for our day! Berkay and dad took me, mum, my stepmum and my little sister to the hairdresser in Fethiye around 10am. I had been worrying about how well this would work out since we booked her as she doesn’t speak any English, but she’s the wife of one of Berkay’s work friends so we got a good deal and she was really friendly, despite the rather large language barrier. Dad and Berkay left and went back to Calis and all the ‘boys’ had a shave and massage together, but not before Berkay gave instructions to the hairdresser about how NOT to do my hair and makeup, I did not want to have blue eyeliner and be orange! The lady done my makeup first, and other than some bright pink lipstick initially, it looked really nice, even if I do say so myself! Next was the hair, I came prepared with a photo of how I wanted it and she did that really well too.

Next, the hairdresser started on my little sisters hair while I went into a corner of the salon behind a screen and started putting on my dress. I was worried about the dress fitting right and not showing too much boobage (!) It was a little odd getting dressed in a tiny corner of a hot salon on the 2rd floor of a building in Fethiye town centre, but apparently this is the done thing in Turkey, and most brides do get ready in the salon with their friends/family. After a lot of pulling, tightening and lacing the ribbon by my mum and stepmum, we managed to get my dress on and looking exactly how I wanted it. A quick 10 minutes back in hairdressers chair and my veil was in and hair finished, complete with ALOT of pins keeping it in place, ouch.
 
At around 11.45 Berkay arrived back at the salon, now clean shaven and fully dressed in his wedding suit, to pick me up. Now, this is the backwards part of the day! While usually the bride and groom get ready separately and don’t see each other until the ceremony, we were spending the entire day together having a wedding photoshoot before our service at 6.30pm in the evening. This is normal in Turkey, sometimes they even have their wedding photos taken on a different day to their ceremony and wear their wedding outfits, do their hair and makeup etc twice, sometimes days, weeks or even months apart!

Berkay had already seen photos of me in my dress as I couldn’t resist showing him, but it was still very exciting and surreal when we were stood face to face with each other in the salon fully dressed in our wedding attire. A couple of minutes later and we were walking downstairs and through Fethiye town centre towards the car with the photographer behind us, leaving my family back at the salon.

I think my family found it quite hard to comprehend how, and why, we would spend all afternoon driving around in our wedding clothes and squashing my dress in the back of a boiling hot car. I must admit, when I first got to the car and realised how much of a struggle and how uncomfortable it would be to sit in my ridiculously tight corsetted dress squashed in the back seat, I did wonder ‘what the hell am I doing?’ but when I thought about the beautiful photos we’d get as a result, I realised it would be worth it and I certainly wasn’t disappointed!

Our photographer knew all the best places to go for photos. Berkay was driving and the photographer gave him directions. We ended up driving through Kayakoy and onto the road towards Gemiler Island. In the middle of the road high up on a cliff side, the photographer instructed Berkay to pull the car over and with a bit of help I struggled out of the car and scrambled across the dusty road and rocks to the side of the cliff. The photographer climbed up a few rocks, knelt down and snapped some photos, shouting at us what poses to do. These two photos are some of my favourites because I love how blue the sea looks in the background, it captures the true beauty of the whole Fethiye area and looks almost too perfect, like we were photoshopped in! I can 100% say we were not and actually none of these photos have been at all edited or photoshopped as we collected the CD the day after and they didn’t have time to edit them.
 
On the way to Gemiler the photographer had spotted a perfect photo opportunity in a field, so he made sure we stopped there on the way back. There’s a funny photo he captured of me and Berkay walking through these plants and me with a look of pure disgust on my face because of the amount of bees that were buzzing around my feet and all the other wildlife in the flowers that I was trying to avoid getting stung or bitten by! ‘Just sit down in the middle’ the photographer said, easier said than done with my dress on, so I settled for a half kneel-half sitting pose, but it still came out really pretty.
 
Next stop was Kayakoy, but not before parking the car next to a pancake house for a lunchbreak and a glass of tea. Yes, local people and tourists were sat in the shady pancake house enjoying a spot of lunch when in we strolled, dressed up in our wedding outfits looking totally out of place. So many people walking past wished us well and said ‘may God make you happy’ etc in Turkish (Allah mutlu etsin / hayirli olsun) but I felt really silly sitting struggling to eat a pancake with my big white dress on with everyone staring! It was a lovely sunny day without a cloud in the sky, but thankfully not unbearably hot so wandering through Kayakoy after our little detour was quite pleasant, if a little difficult because I was holding my dress up making sure it didn’t get caught on any sticking up stones or rocks. The first few photos were very posed, and reminded me of something you’d see in a catalogue. He had us doing all sorts of poses which had me in fits of giggles because they were so ridiculous! He had me staring into a stone window at  a random person and pretend sniffing flowers at one point.
  
 
I really love the individual photos of me and the full length shots of my dress, the photographer definitely captured the surroundings well as well with the green trees and ruins in the distance. I’m not usually that much of a fan of Kayakoy but it’s nice to have a bit of Turkish history in our wedding photos.
 
 
 
After having a lot of snapshots taken at Kayakoy we headed back towards Fethiye where I requested we stop at Asiklar Tepesi (lovers hill) as that is my favourite place to get beautiful panoramic views of Fethiye. Each time I visit Turkey we always drive up there and sit down with a drink and an icecream or something similar and admire the view so I’m glad we managed to have some of our wedding photos there.
 
By this point it was around 2.45pm and the photographer suggested we drive to Gunluklu bay, via Calis. On driving through Calis, he decided it would be a good idea to stop at the infamous half finished, multicoloured houses by the canal. Rumor has it that these old houses were owned by someone in the Turkish mafia who was either killed or put in prison and the wife/s argued over what should happen to them afterwards, so they’ve remained unfinished, unused and left to be ruined by weather and old age. Whatever the truth about these buildings is, it’s a real shame as they would have been lovely properties in a nice location and keeping them there with no plans to use them is a waste of good space. We accidentally walked around the area once and got told we weren’t allowed to be there, so when the photographer told us to get out of the car, enter one of the buildings and walk up the the top floor I was a little worried, especially with the potential ‘mafia’ link!! Regardless, we did as he said and walked inside the house, through piles of rubbish and a lot of broken glass, mindful of my dress all the time, and up the stairs to the first floor. The photographer did manage to get some nice shots but it was still a very random, slightly scary location!
 
The next stop was Gunluklu bay, the other side of Calis, past Ciftlik and Yaniklar, on the main Fethiye-Dalaman road. They took a small entrance fee and we parked up, got out and stood among the huge trees which provided much welcome shade. The trees in the background made a lovely backdrop and I love all the out of focus green blurs behind us. The only bad thing was that I got absolutely eaten alive by mosquitoes and covered in bites that swelled up, I had 3 elbows on one arm at one point and had to make an emergency stop at the chemist on the way back to Fethiye.
     
One final stop was a tiny beach that I’d never been to before, I didn’t even know it existed and I’ve forgotten the name now but I hope to go there again and find out next time I visit Turkey. It was down a long road near Yaniklar and it was really beautiful and empty.

At this point it was 4.30pm and time to go back to Fethiye, Berkay walked back to get the car and I stood waiting in among the trees for him and the photographer to come back. I think this photo perfectly captures my mood at that moment, hot, bored, stressing about the wedding that was due to take place in a couple of hours time, covered in itchy mozzie bites and worn out from lifting my dress everywhere. 

Right after these photos were taken we headed back to Fethiye and back to the hairdresser who done a quick touch up of my hair and makeup and then we set off on our way to our wedding ceremony and celebration in Calis.

Despite doing things backwards that day, and having our photos taken before actually being married, seeing each other before the ceremony, I’m so glad we did it that way. All the wandering through fields, getting a bee stuck in my veil(!!), climbing over rocks, through dusty ruins and being squashed in the back of the car with my big white dress for hours was all worth it and having these photos of all the beautiful places around Fethiye as our wedding pictures to look back on forever is just the best feeling – we certainly wouldn’t have got those lovely photos from a wedding in England, would we?

Turkey Day 3 – Breakfast on a boat, Göcek and tavla.

The morning of my 3rd day in Turkey, and the final day in January, was spent on board a boat! I am going to write a more detailed post on this soon as we enjoyed it so much. We had booked the previous day and were hoping for good weather and how lucky we were, it turned out to be a really beautiful, sunny morning. We boarded the ‘Princes Serap’ boat at 10am, departed at 10.30am and enjoyed an amazing open buffet, unlimited breakfast, with plenty of Turkish tea to accompany it. There was everything you could think of that makes up a Turkish breakfast – boiled eggs, salami, sausage, olives, tomatoes, cucumber, lots of cheeses, cooked vegetables, potatoes, fruit, bread, simit, borek, sigara borek, jams, honey and other spreads. It was so delicious.

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Shortly after 10.30am the boat set sail towards Calis and floated along past the beach. It was weird to see Calis from that angle, we’d never been so close to it on a boat before as we usually do the 12 Island boat trips that go further out. We stayed out for around 2 hours, turning the engine off halfway through and stopping for more tea and coffee. It was really relaxing. I love boat trips in the summer months, but this was a totally different experience, all Turkish families just enjoying a family breakfast on their Sunday off, as opposed to a boat full of people in bikinis and sunbathing under the boiling sun.
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The boat arrived back at Fethiye harbour around 12.30pm and we made a spontaneous decision to drive to Göcek to visit the Sunday market there. I’d only been to Göcek once before, and that was on a boat trip, so we really didn’t know where to go or what to see. We found the market, bought me a pair of baggy village pants, then got an ice-cream, some doritos and a bottle of coke and sat on the beach having our mini picnic. We walked along the very quiet seafront for a while admiring some of the luxury yachts, and came across a pretty street with multi-coloured bird houses suspended above – similar to the popular multicoloured umbrellas in Fethiye, very simple and very effective, they definitely brighten everything up.
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On the way back from Göcek we stopped off at a viewing area where you can see the sea and across to several islands – these islands usually make up the backdrop of my sunset photos from Calis so it’s funny seeing them from a different angle! My photos don’t really do it justice – it’s a great spot to just stop and admire the view.
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After going back to our apartment for dinner, we headed out in the evening to a restaurant/bar along the promenade in Fethiye that we’d never been to before – Matisse. I fell in love with this place instantly, and we ended up going back there most evenings. There was a great atmosphere about the place and it was always packed full to the brim – sometimes we even had to wait for  table to become free. It was full of young men and women sitting playing tavla (backgammon) and drinking tea, beer etc, while smoking the traditional Turkish water pipe / Nargile. There were tables inside and out, and little sofas. Some of the outside tables were under a plastic covering which meant all the smoke lingered around which I’m not a fan of, so we preferred the sofa tables that were uncovered – they also had little bonfires going to keep us warm which were definitely needed back in January! While the bars/restaurants either side of this one were empty, the staff at Matisse were rushed off their feet and the tables all full. With the added bonus of free wifi and live music, we could have quite happily sat there for hours drinking cay and playing tavla – definitely my new favourite place to go in the evening.
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Wedding date and 4 busy days..

I got back on Sunday evening from 4 lovely days in Turkey. We didn’t have much time to relax as we had a million and one things to do to get organised for our wedding in April, and with only 3 working days to do it!

We were running around like headless chickens in Fethiye all day Wednesday getting paperwork, photocopying it, driving backwards and forwards from marriage offices and council offices to doctor’s surgeries (as part of the marriage requirements Berkay needed a blood test to check for diseases that can be passed onto children etc)! I had had 0 hours sleep the night before as I had been flying all night, and landed at 7am, so I was walking around in a tired, half asleep, half awake state. By some miracle we managed to get everything done in one day, apart from the blood test results, and we were able to book a date for our wedding…

27th April 2016! 5 weeks tomorrow!

After booking the date, we managed to order and pick up wedding rings in the space of a couple of hours, book a hairdresser, photographer and venue, order flowers for me and my little flowergirl sister, buy some items to use as wedding favours, speak to a lovely lady about making our cake and get Berkay’s suit ordered, tailored and picked up. All in just 3 working days! After all the plans were put into action, my family have all been able to book flights and accommodation and apart from my wedding dress fitting next weekend, I think everything is sorted and organised!

Fethiye and Calis are still as lovely as ever, and it was great to catch up with our friends there, and of course spend some time with Berkay, even if it was just a few days. It always amazes me how quickly I adapt back into ‘Turkish Danni’ and whenever I land in the country it’s like I’ve never even been away.

I have lots of photos to share from my visit, and also lots to share from my previous visit last month! It’s all a bit crazy at the moment and I feel like a bit of a jet-setter flying back every month! I really need to catch up with my blogging but with wedding plans, and also trying to gather the hundreds (literally..) of documents and paperwork required for Berkay’s visa application, and working 9-5 weekdays, means I have little time to think of anything else.

I love that I can sit and write on my blog and it’s so funny to see how life has changed since I first started writing it 3 years ago, it started out as a blog about living in Turkey, then moved onto the struggles of army life and separation, and now I’m definitely going to bore you all with wedding and visa updates!

For now, I’ll leave you with some of my favourite photos taken last week.

Back in Turkey & Wedding planning?

It seems like I’ve only just got back from Turkey (5 weeks ago) but tomorrow I’m flying back again! It’s only a quick visit this time, I’m going to the airport straight after work tomorrow evening, flying all night via Istanbul, and then landing in Dalaman at 7am! I fly back to the UK on Sunday morning so it’s just 4 days/nights.

I didn’t think I’d be back there again so soon, and the only reason I’m going is to put some of our wedding plans into action. I have completed the relevant paperwork here, had it signed by a solicitor and certified by the foreign office, but now we need to take our paperwork into the registry office in Fethiye, have some blood tests and book a date!

What started out as a small wedding in the registry office followed by dinner in a restaurant in Fethiye has turned more into a ‘proper’ wedding – I went dress shopping a few weeks ago and despite being adamant I would just have a pretty, basic dress from a high street shop, I ended up walking into a ‘Confetti and Lace’ bridal shop, trying on a beautiful, sparkly white wedding dress and the rest is history!!
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Since then, we’ve been planning the wedding, I have sorted out favors, a cake, a venue, flights and accomodation, and now all we need to book is an actual date for the wedding in April, a photographer, flowers and wedding rings… It’s going to be a very busy, but exciting 4 days!

Online check in is done, my suitcase is packed full of nandos sauce for Berkay, and I’m nearly all ready to go…
See you tomorrow, Turkiye!

The Frustrating misconceptions about visas.

 If there’s one thing that gets me most passionate, most vocal, and most annoyed, its the topic of visas.

Visas, ah, bane of my life. Our whole life is determined by visa applications and the result of them, the verdict reached by someone sat a desk in an office making assumptions about our intentions and relationship. I can deal with that, it was a choice we made, a life we chose to follow when we met each other and started our relationship, although recent changes in the law have made things more difficult, it’s still something we just have to accept.

What I do find hard to deal with, and what really frustrates me more than anything is people’s ignorance.

4 years ago, we applied for a visit visa for Berkay to come to the UK for a 3 week visit over Christmas. I was living with him in Turkey, he had a full time job, was a student, had money going in and out of his bank account every month, rented a house, had family ties and we had letters of support and a sponsor (a member of my family) in the UK. The visa was refused, because they didn’t think he’d return, despite the hundreds of pieces of paper we supplied as evidence that he would. We applied again a week later with even more evidence and got the visa granted, and he’s had two more granted since then, but knowing the time, effort and cost of the whole process just for a week’s holiday makes it really hard to accept ignorant comments from people such as:

“Turkish people rip us off paying £13 for the visa”
“This Evisa is so hard, I don’t even have a printer, It’s too much effort to print it”
“England should take a leaf out of Turkey’s book and charge people to visit”
“We have property in Turkey we should be able to visit when we want”

Now, where do I start to address these comments? These people have no idea. To put it into perspective, this is the amount of paperwork my partner had to show in order to convince the entry clearance officer that he was a genuine visitor to the UK…
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Just some of the things we had to show to convince them to give Berkay a visa for his 3 week holiday included a 20 page form, list of all his family ties, proof he was a student, proof of address, rent contract, 6 months bank statements, a letter from his boss stating he had a job to return to, insurance papers, police check, a 5 page letter explaining why he wanted to visit, a letter from me, proof I exist, photos of us together, a planned itinerary + expenditure, a letter from one of my family members who would be his sponsor, proof they exist, proof of address, bank statements, job status and a letter stating Berkay could stay with them for the 3 week holiday.

Can you imagine having to show all of the above just for a 2 week holiday to Turkey? If us British people had to show all of that to visit, we’d never bother to leave the country! Doesn’t it put it into perspective, it’s not really that much effort to log on to the evisa website, submit a few details and press print is it? That’s not even considering the fact that that can be done from the comfort of your own home (unless you haven’t got a printer..) To apply for a visa to the UK, Turkish (and most non eu-nationals) have to travel hundreds of miles away to their nearest British visa application centre. For us, it was Izmir, 4 hours away from Fethiye, and 4 hours back again – an 8 hour round trip. Some people even have to travel to different countries to apply. Plus the running around involved in getting all the documents from the many different people and places, and printing, photocopying and translating them all into English. Compare that to the effort it takes to fetch your passport from a hidden drawer somewhere in the house and enter your name, date of birth and verification code on the evisa website…. there really is no comparison, is there?

As for the £13 fee, the fee for Non-eu nationals to visit the UK is £80, plus the bus/train/car journey to the visa application centre, and the fee back again to collect the decision 2-3 weeks later or the fee for the courier to deliver it by special delivery instead. There’s also the fee to print, photocopy and translate the documents… so the £80 fee turns more into a £250 fee. £13 doesn’t look like such a ‘rip off’ afterall, does it?

The last point was something that I saw posted on a Facebook group recently. “We have property in Turkey we should be able to visit when we want without visas” – well, in theory perhaps, but when the situation is turned around and family’s in the UK are separated from their non-eu partner at Christmas because they are unable to get a visit visa for a holiday, people say  “you should have thought about that first, you made your bed now lie in it”, does the same principle not apply then? Why buy property in a foreign country and then complain you can’t visit as often as you’d like due to visa restrictions?

A lot of people also seem to assume that the difference in difficulty and price is because of the fact that ‘foreigners visiting the UK get nhs and benefits’ .. really? If it was safe to do so I’d post a copy of Berkay’s visit visa on here which clearly states on it “no recourse to public funds” which means no benefits, and no free healthcare. He had to purchase travel insurance before travelling to the UK, just the same as we purchase travel insurance to cover us for medical issues when abroad.

I think a lot of people truly do not realise just how difficult the process is for non-eu nationals to visit the UK. We are blessed that Berkay has been granted 3 visas, but that doesn’t mean he will be granted future ones, there is always the possibility of refusal and all that wasted time, money and effort. It’s something we, and millions of other people just have to deal with, but please do spare a thought next time you complain about the visa process for visiting Turkey. It’s not a rip off, it’s not a lot of effort and it’s not that the Turkish government has a vendetta against British holiday makers at all.

Instead, be thankful that we have British passports which allow us visa free and/or fairly easy travel to most countries in the world, and be thankful that Turkey doesn’t have a reciprocal agreement and invoke the same requirements for a visa as the UK, because then most of us would probably never have visited the beautiful country in the first place.