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…  
img_6592-1
 img_6567-1  img_6591-1 img_6590-1
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!
img_6604-1
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!
img_6603-1 img_6572-1
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!
img_6575-1 img_6609-1 img_6608-1 img_6574-1
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.

img_6607-1 img_6606-1
img_6610-1 img_6613-1
img_6577-1 img_6584-1img_6578-1 img_6586-1
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.
img_6615-1 img_6614-1
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.
img_6566-1 img_6573-1
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!
img_6618-1 img_6571-1

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!
14572281_1174071029321431_6570482142019077635_n
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!

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 – a 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! 

A Delicious Village Breakfast

Breakfast is a big deal in Turkey. Arguably its the most important meal of the day, and Turkish people turn it into a real family affair, especially at weekends.

Although I’d had countless traditional Turkish breakfasts, the open buffet one at Bogazici in Fethiye on a sunday being my favourite, I’d never really experienced a proper köy kahvaltısı / village breakfast, so on the morning after our wedding day we made the short 20-25minute car journey to a local one just outside Calis/Fethiye, in  Kargı village.

The place we went to is called Yalçın Apart & Yörük Müzesi. It is a family run restaurant but only has one thing on the menu – breakfast. Perhaps not breakfast as you know it, not a cornflake or English fry up in sight, and although similar to the usual Turkish breakfasts it offers a bit of variation.
img_1439
The whole restaurant has a real rustic feel to it with lots of wooden benches upstairs to sit on and admire the view over the village. The village is full of citrus and olive trees and it is lovely to look out on the sea of green, with Babadağ and Mendos mountains in the distance – I always love seeing these mountains, it means Fethiye is close!

Within minutes of arriving and being seated upstairs we had trays full of small plates and dishes filled with all kinds of food delivered to our table and decoratively laid out in front of us. The menu said ’25 pieces’ made up the breakfast and although I didn’t count it seemed like even more than that – what’s even more impressive is that all the plates are refilled as soon as they’re empty. You could literally sit here all day eating! Among the delights on offer were fresh produce such as tomatoes, peppers, cucumber, lettuce, olives, eggs, potatoes, homemade butter, a variety of cheeses, honey, jam, clotted cream, fresh bread, gözleme filled with cheese and parsley and a few other dishes that neither of us could identify! It was so amazing, and so filling. The only thing we managed to actually finish was the eggs and the bread, it felt like such waste. They also bought us glasses of mixed orange and pomegranate juice which was refilled as soon as we put the empty glass down.
img_1435 img_1436
img_1438 img_1437
The best part about all this, it was cheap! 25tl per person, which is less than £6.50!! The views, the service and the food was all brilliant.

The restaurant also doubles up as museum. Just behind the main building is a little wooden barn, full of artifacts from years gone by. It’s free to enter, and was created by the owner of the restaurant,  Enver Yalçın. His intention was to give people an insight into the life of the Yörük people, the nomadic people living around Fethiye and Antalya in the Taurus mountains. The museum has over 1600 pieces, including tools, utensils, rugs and artwork created and used by his ancestors, which he gathered from villages all over the area, along with photographs of some of the nomadic people. Some of the things were very interesting, but some quite disturbing (the animal skins!) The funniest part was an old cabinet which had obviously been moved to the museum purely for storage – the spongebob sticker on the outside rather changed the ‘old’ vibe of the museum! I also loved the notice on the entrance – ‘ chickens will come in, please close the door!’.
img_1441 img_1440
img_1443 img_1442
This is because the land is also home to some animals – the usual farm animals, chickens, birds etc and a donkey or two. A few years ago this restaurant was made famous in the local media when it married two of it’s donkeys and held a ceremony for them – these animals were later taken away as they were found to have poor living conditions on the site, but they seem to have since bought more. They had a sign advertising very expensive donkey milk for sale, so I presume they own more than the one I saw, but I didn’t see their living conditions so I have to be honest and say I don’t know if things have improved for them.
img_1446 img_1445
One last thing to note, the whole restaurant feels very traditional and very rustic and most things (minus the spongebob sticker…) reflect this, including the toilets which are the typical, slightly shocking hole-in-the-floor type! I’ve also been told that some of the tour-guide companies make stop off’s at this restaurant so it may be busy at peak times. Fortunately, on the Thursday mid-morning we went it wasn’t too busy, and we were really impressed.

For 50tl / less than around £13 for 2 people at today’s exchange rate, it’s definitely worth a visit to experience a traditional village breakfast and enjoy the beautiful views.
img_1450 img_1451
img_1444

6 years together..

Yesterday, 8th July, was our 6 year anniversary. Back on 2nd July 2010 I flew to Turkey with my friend and stayed in a small hotel in Calis, Fethiye. Little did I know that during that week I’d meet Berkay, one of the staff at the hotel, towards the end of the holiday we got speaking, went out one night and the rest is history.

Who would have thought that now, 6 years later, we’d be married? Proof that a ‘holiday romance’ can work out!
We have spoken to each other every day since 8th July 2010,  we lived together in Turkey for 3 years, he visited the UK 6 times, we survived 9 months without seeing each other during his 12 month army service and managed with just a 1 minute phonecall as our only contact everyday for a year. We haven’t seen each other since a few days after we got married back in April, but hopefully we’ll be together permanently before the end of the year and then we can start a whole new chapter!

In order to apply for Berkay’s spouse visa to live in the UK, we have to provide a lot of paperwork and proof of our relationship so I have been going through old photos to show as evidence – since they were handy and saved into a folder on my computer I thought I’d share some here, Danni & Berkay through the years!
 
This was the first photo we had together, and the only one for months! I think it was taken right before I left to go back to Dalaman airport. It’s really funny looking back at this photo as when it was taken I never for 1 second thought we’d end up having wedding photos taken together 6 years later! The 2nd photo was taken in October 2010, when I went back to Turkey for a week alone, to get to know Berkay better. Before that week we’d only spent a couple of hours together, but after talking to each other every day for hours on MSN for 3 months, it felt like we’d known each other forever.
 
In January 2011 I flew back to Turkey for a week and spent more time with Berkay. This photo was taken at aksazlar koyu in Fethiye, the first time I’d ever been there. Today it’s our favourite spot to go to for a BBQ! The 2nd photo was taken on our 1st anniversary in July 2011, by this point I had been living in Turkey for 2 months having only actually spent 2 full weeks with Berkay before moving. 
In December 2011, after 2 attempts, Berkay got his visit visa to the UK granted and we went to the UK together for Christmas, followed by another 2 years living in Turkey together..
 img_1923
In 2013, I made plans to move back to the UK, but not before a little weekend getaway in Bodrum, where we had some fun dressing up as sultans!
 
I moved back to England for 8 months, and Berkay came to visit for Christmas and for my mums wedding – it was during this time I realised how hard it was to be apart and how much I didn’t want to live in the UK without him while we still had the choice, so I moved back to Turkey for 6 months in 2014. The 2nd photo is taken on Berkay’s birthday in December 2014, the day before I moved back to England once again.

2015 was without a doubt the most testing year for us, as Berkay had to do his 12 month national service which I ranted, cried and moaned my way through. In April 2015 we were reunited for a week during his army leave and the rest of the year was very tough with Berkay being sent to Diyarbakir and not being able to take any of the remaining leave. This meant I didn’t see him again until January 2016.
img_1929 
A
fter 8 very long months without seeing each other, the longest we’d ever spent apart, I spent 10 days back in Fethiye with Berkay in January. It felt like I’d never been away, and like we’d never been apart. In April 2016, we got married. Unfortunately I had to fly back to the UK just 4 days after… and we haven’t seen each other since.

I’m hoping to go back to visit in September, and then we’ll apply for Berkay’s spouse visa around then. I hope that by the end of this year we will be able to settle, rather than be backwards and forwards between both countries, or having long periods of time apart. The last 6 years certainly haven’t been easy or without obstacles, and it’s so funny looking back on old photos and thinking how different things were back then.

We’re a little older, fatter and bolder, but still just as happy… even though we act like an old married couple most of the time! We have come a long way in 6 years, here’s to the next 60… 
13620026_10154952937008776_6528661245895798506_n

Our Turkish wedding Part 3.

img_0084
Our wedding was always going to be a little ‘different’ as we tried to incorporate both cultures. The theme for the whole day was red and white, to signify both the English flag and the Turkish flag. We were conscious that for the Turkish guests this was going to be a slightly more boring wedding than they were used to as traditional village weddings are massive with hundreds, or thousands, of guests and have things such as loud drummers, gun shots and loud Turkish music all night long. One of the most traditional things we done was the pinning on of the money. We didn’t actually plan to do this until a couple of days before the wedding, after we went to collect my flowers and they asked if we needed ribbon for the money to be pinned to, only then I realised I actually really wanted to do it and have photos of something more traditional for our photo album.

So, after we had group photos taken on the beach we asked people to gather around and make a line to pin the money on us. I always thought this was a bit cheeky, but I guess it’s really no different to having guests bring wedding presents, and since we currently live in separate countries, the typical ‘British’ wedding presents like toasters, kettles etc would be pretty pointless. Its tradition that the guests line up in front of the bride and groom, collect a pin and one by one pin lira notes or gold coins onto a sash that is tied around the bride and grooms necks. It’s also usual for the bride to receive gold bracelets or coins from the groom’s family, but I didn’t receive any. With a bit of help from Berkay’s uncle and cousin, our guests greeted us one by one and pinned the money on us, it was really windy at this point and the money was close to blowing away, but it was really fun and I’m so glad we decided to include this part in our day as Berkay’s family loved it. His uncle was posting photos on Facebook all day and when it came to this part he proudly shared photos under the heading ‘Now time for the Turkish part’ which made me smile.
img_0085  img_9993img_9995  img_9997 
As part of the table favours, I had ordered personalised cards with our photos on with the words ‘let love sparkle’ and a little sparkler for each guest to light. Obviously I couldn’t travel with the sparklers as fireworks aren’t allowed in the suitcase, so I had to hunt around to find some suitable in Fethiye – we eventually found them in Oludeniz Azda and bought 100 of them! I’d seen lots of photos of other weddings using sparklers as the ‘send off’ idea for the end of the night when the bride and groom leave the venue, but we decided just to use them right in the middle of the evening, just after sunset. 3 men from my family (Dad, brother and step-dad) and 3 from Berkay’s family (his 2 brothers and uncle) lit the sparklers and held them up either side of us and it proved to be a lot more easier said than done as they had trouble lighting all 6 sparklers at the same time in the wind! Along with the sparklers I also made other table favours – a little box filled with Turkish delight and a heart shaped Cadbury chocolate which I’d spent the previous day melting, making and filling, and a small bag containing a pebble which we had picked off Calis beach, written our names and date on, and a small Turkish eye pin. I loved the pebble idea the most and I have my own one sat at home in my bedroom, a little piece of Calis Beach in my house to remind me of that day.
img_0093
img_9936
After the sparklers, I was reluctantly pulled to the dancefloor and persuaded to have a first dance. I’ve never danced before and can’t dance at all, we really should have practiced first! I do love these photos though.
img_0069  img_0067
By this point we were really hungry, and so were the guests, so when the restaurant declared the buffet open we were very excited! Here another part of Turkish tradition popped up, a part I’d never heard of before. Apparently it’s normal that the staff serving the food won’t do so unless the groom tips them. The chef who was responsible for opening the buffet counter refused to lift the food covers until Berkay had tipped him, after the first 50tl note he opened the lid a tiny bit then closed it again, and after a further 10tl he opened it fully – much to the amusement of Berkay and my dad! The food was all made by Guven’s restaurant and it was delicious, an open buffet of chicken and meatballs, rice, salad, mushrooms, potatoes, yogurt, bread and a few other Turkish meze dishes. We also had free sprite, cola and fanta on the tables and it all just cost roughly 40tl per person, which is amazing. They done such a good job.
img_0054  img_0056    img_0096
After our belly’s and glasses were full my dad made a speech, followed by Berkay. My dad also read out a poem one of my friends had written and given to him which was really sweet:
For Danni and Berkay on this special day,
I wrote this poem, just to say,
We wish you both the very best,

In love and trust and happiness.
You’re meant to be, it’s fair to say,
You suit one another in every way.
You’re married now, man and wife,
and so begins your married life.
Be kind, be patient, honest too,
We really hope the best for you.
The time has come, so it would seem,
To start living your Turkish dream.
img_0089
 img_0090
One of the cutest moments of the whole evening was my little sister and Berkay’s little cousin dancing. They’re both 5 years old, although Berkay’s cousin is 7 months older than Abbie. I told Abbie to go and dance with her and the two held hands and danced around, despite not being able to communicate a single word with each other. Abbie also made friends with Berkay’s family and friends, many of them picked her up for a cuddle and a dance which was so cute, Abbie was loving all the attention. It just shows that the language barrier and culture difference means nothing to children, so lovely to see. Abbie still talks about Berkay’s little cousin now.

Later in the evening, after complaining that it was far too quiet for his liking, one of Berkay’s friends took control of the music and started blasting out Turkish songs. All the Turkish people suddenly got up on the dance floor, and were giving my family members some Turkish dancing lessons. I refused to take part until very late in the night, where I was persuaded by Berkay, I’d never even done Turkish dancing before. I think my nan and grandad win the award for best effort in the Turkish dancing, their shoulders were rocking and their fingers clicking all over the place!
img_0087
 img_0086 img_0094 img_0095
By 12.30am we were all danced out and everyone was heading ‘home’. By this point I could not wait to get my wedding dress off as I’d had it on since 11am that morning with only one ‘pee-break’. The corset was done so tight I had blisters from the bones of the dress and I was definitely ready to take it off and breathe out!
img_0098
 img_0099
I have to say a huge thanks to Carole and Guven of Guven’s restaurant, it was the first wedding they’d ever held but they made it so special. I know they went to a lot of effort in the days leading up to it, especially Carole and her helpers making all the decorations and designing the drapes, chairs, tables etc. They put it so much effort to make it such a lovely day and I totally recommend them to anyone, it looked beautiful, the food was lovely and they are just such a lovely couple in general. Also very thankful to all of my family and friends for coming and making the day so perfect.

The only sad part was knowing we only had 3 more days of married life together before I headed back to the UK, but we definitely made the most of every moment and have lots of lovely memories and photos to treasure.
img_0092
Click here to read part 1 of our wedding, and click here for part 2.

Our Turkish wedding Part 2.

img_9939 img_9938
After an afternoon of driving around Fethiye for our wedding photoshoot, at 5.30pm we arrived back in Calis and back to our apartment. Berkay left and went to the wedding venue while I met my nan, Mum, step-mum and sister in our apartment for a quick re-tighten of my dress and a toilet break, which was hilariously awkward and dignity depriving!

After some final tweaks and best wishes, they left me and my sister/bridesmaid, Abbie, alone in the apartment and headed to the venue themselves, while we waited for my dad to knock on the door and collect us. Dad hadn’t seen my wedding dress at all before the moment he walked into the apartment, so it was an emotional moment for him when he did knock on the door and see me I think, he definitely had a few tears in his eyes! At this point it was around 6.15, and we were expecting to be at the venue by 6.30, however the registrar lady had rang Berkay and hold him she’d be late as she was lost… I have many friends who have also been married by this lady and being late seems to be her trademark!

As it got closer to 6.30 we decided to start walking towards the venue – Guven’s restaurant, which was less than a 10 minute walk from where we were staying. On the way two very lovely Welsh ladies who read my blog, and happened to be staying in the same apartments as us, stopped me to say how lovely me and my sister both looked and snapped the below photo, which I love. I hate being the centre of attention so walking down a fairly busy road on the way to the restaurant was quite embarrassing, Turkish and English people sat in the bars and walking past us were all saying ‘awww look’, and shouting that we looked lovely, one person even said ‘aww are you getting married today?’ erm, no, this is just my usual evening wear! D’oh.
img_0157
When we arrived at Guven’s the registrar still hadn’t arrived but shortly after we saw Berkay running down to meet her from the bus. Once they had gotten into position, Carole (owner of Guven’s) started playing the traditional ‘here comes the bride’ music over the speakers, Dad took my arm, I took my little sister’s hand and along we walked, down the long makeshift aisle of Turkish rugs. At this point, my poor mum was crying hysterically much to the bemusement of our Turkish guests. It wasn’t a little sob, or a silent tear in her eye, it was a loud, wailing cry, which really made me laugh, a welcome distraction from the realisation that everyone had their eyes on me! I love the photo of Mum crying and the smiley faces of Berkay’s family in the background as they saw me walking towards them.
img_0070 img_0071
After dad handed me over to Berkay, we took our seats in the beautifully decorated area just meters from the beach. The ceremony was very quick, and with the help of my lovely bilingual friend, we had a translation of the service read out in English too.
“You have declared your wish to marry. According to the documents you have submitted, there is no objection to your declaration. Now, in the presence of the witnesses and in our presence, will you please tell us once more:
Dear Danni, under no obligation and with your own will do you wish to marry Berkay? – Yes.
Dear Berkay, under to obligation and with your own will do you wish to marry Danni? – Yes.”
img_9944 img_9945
“You have heard Miss Danni Smith & Mr Berkay Degirmenci wish to marry. Do you bear witness to the marriage? – Yes.
In the presence of myself and the witnesses, you have declared your wish to marry. As there is no objection, your marriage agreement is now made. With the authority vested in me by the Turkish Civil Law, I now pronounce you husband and wife, congratulations and best wishes.
The main aspect of a marriage is that the family union is protected with an eternal peace and happiness. A long lasting marriage is bound together by mutual love and understanding. You must support and help one another on your bad days and difficult times with as much love and understanding as on your good days. Your support for each other will also form the foundations of the happiness of your children. I wish you both health and happiness, you can now kiss your wife!
img_0066 img_0065
img_9956 img_9955
img_0063 img_0064
Our two witnesses were Berkay’s brother and my step-dad. After the registrar had completed the paperwork and we had signed all the right places, she handed us our official red marriage book, the Turkish alternative to a marriage certificate. My brother gave us our wedding rings which were tied together with red ribbon to signify us being bound together, he then cut the ribbon straight through the middle once the rings were on our fingers. This is traditionally done in Turkey at engagement ceremonies rather than weddings, but we really wanted to incorporate that into our day and I think my brother really enjoyed being a part of the ceremony and having that role.

It’s also tradition in Turkey that whoever stamps on the other persons foot first after reading the vows and being confirmed as husband and wife, is the boss of the marriage. Berkay will tell you I’m always in charge anyway, in fact he sometimes lovingly refers to me as ‘boss’, but it was nice to be able to make a statement to confirm that. I’m glad the photographer captured the moment, perhaps we should get this framed and put in every room as a small reminder…
img_0072
After a round of applause by our guests, it was time to greet everyone, starting with our families. My mum was crying again at this point but I love the photo of us hugging, and of Berkay and my dad too. Slightly more traditional was the way I greeted Berkay’s parents, with his stepmum and dad putting their hands out for me to take, kiss and raise to my forehead as a sign of respect. I really dislike doing this, but it’s a cultural thing that I know is important to them, so I have to embrace it.
img_9948 img_9949
img_9950 img_9952
My family had never met Berkay’s family until this day, so I was nervous about what their opinions of each other would be, the two backgrounds are very different and neither side really knew what to expect. Berkay introduced everyone to each other and although they were unable to communicate with each other, both families joined in the hugs and handshakes and were united in their happiness for us both which is all that really matters.

After the greetings, it was time to step down onto the beach for photographs, much to the annoyance of my poor little sister who cried her eyes out when she felt the stones and sand in her shoes, so we didn’t manage to get any good group photos with her as our bridesmaid.
img_9963 img_9961
Me and Dad, and us with my mum and dad.
img_9965 img_9964
Us with my brother, and my grandparents.
img_9957 img_9958
Us with Berkay’s dad, step-mum and brothers.
img_9960
 img_9959
Us with Berkay’s aunt’s and cousin, and with his uncle, aunt and younger cousin.
img_0091
Back on dry, flat, non-sandy land with my sister, our little princess bridesmaid.

One of the main reasons we wanted this particular venue, and at such a late time of day, was to ensure we got some sunset photos on the beach together. Anyone who has read my blog will know just know much I love sitting in Calis and admiring the sunset, so getting these photos taken was something we both really wanted, and the photographer didn’t disappoint. He had us pulling all sorts of poses and it was rather embarrassing as everyone else was standing and watching, it had also started to get very windy and a bit chilly, my veil was blowing all over the place which actually made some of the photos even better!
img_0061 img_0062img_0074 img_0060
By the time we had finished the sunset photos it was time to cut the cake. A very, very lovely lady made this cake for us and I’m so pleased with how it came out, it was exactly as I’d asked for it. The cake had two layers, one was chocolate sponge with chocolate chip cream filling, the other was lemon sponge with lemon curd filling and it was delicious! I spent days and weeks looking online for ideas and knew I wanted something relatively simple, then settled on this design with red hearts flowing down one side, both the Turkish and England flags at the bottom along with the bride, groom and of course our lovely Boncuk dog! She done such a great job, especially on little Boncuk! Guven’s restaurant had arranged for little fireworks around the cake which looked brilliant at the time, and in the photos, but not so good when I realised one of the sparks from the firework had hit my dress and burnt a small hole. I was trying to figure out what caused it then saw the culprit caught on camera, as you can see below – honestly with the amount of hairspray I had on I’m just glad the spark didn’t touch my hair, it would have gone up in flames!
img_0003 img_0082img_0083
In the lead up to the wedding I’d been so worried about being centre of attention and how nervous I’d be but after the initial ‘Oh shit, everyone is looking at me’ thought faded, I really enjoyed it and started to relax. It was so lovely having my close family and Berkay’s family together. I know some family members were annoyed or sad about not being invited or about the fact we had the wedding in Turkey, making it nearly impossible for them to come, but honestly I’m so glad we did it this way.  A wedding in England would have meant none of Berkays family would be able to come, and even Berkay himself would never have got a visit visa at this point in time! Berkay’s family wanted a village wedding with 500+ local people invited but that’s not me either, and having the wedding in Calis, the place that is such a huge part of our lives, was definitely the best choice. 
img_0077 img_0076
Dad, stepmum, Berkay & I, Mum and Stepdad, and Berkay with his immediate family.
img_0079 img_0080
After all the slightly cheesy but very lovely photographs were taken, it was time to sit down, enjoy the buffet, drink and dance, but not before the traditional Turkish practice of ‘pinning the money’ on the bride and groom…

Part 3 coming soon.

Click HERE for part 1.

We got married!

In case you’ve been living in a bubble for the past week and don’t follow me or my blog page on Facebook, you’ll know that last Wednesday, 27th April, we got married!
DSC_1875
After all the worrying I did about our two families coming together and how nervous I was about being centre of attention for the day, it turned into the best day ever and I’m very proud to now officially be Mrs Değirmenci!

I spent 10 glorious days in Turkey but 48 hours ago came back down to earth with a massive, painful bump as the time came to board the plane back to the UK. People say that the time I spend in Turkey must go by really fast, but it honestly doesn’t. Each time I return to Turkey it feels like I’m going home, and all my visits blur into one. It feels like I’ve been there forever, which only makes it all the harder when I leave again.

It’s never easy leaving Berkay behind, but instead of getting easier each time, it gets harder, and this time was the worst. We’d been married for 4 days and spent 10 whole days together, waking up together, eating breakfast together, walking hand in hand together, doing the washing together, eating dinner together, sleeping together.. and had just 4 days as husband and wife before I flew back to the UK and all of that became impossible again. 48 hours ago I had a husband next to me, now I find myself back in the daily 9-5 routine of work, living with my family and not feeling like a married couple at all 1000’s of miles apart.

I’m not really sure I can describe it in a way that anyone would understand, unless they’ve already been through it themselves but it’s really emotionally draining and although people mean well with their wishes and comments saying ‘you’ll be together again soon’, ‘now you can start focusing on the visa and getting everything ready to apply’ etc,  it doesn’t make it any easier and that’s really not what I want to hear.

The days after your wedding should be happy, you should be putting congratulations cards up in your house and buying toasters and kettles and things for your house together – not sat in an airport departures hall in tears preparing for that one last glance back at each other before you pass through passport control and can’t look them in the eyes or feel their touch again for several months. It should not be that way at all.

I only have 5 days of annual left to take now so won’t be able to visit Berkay again until September as I have to space the time out carefully. I think it’s even harder for us because we once lived together for 3 years straight, with barely any days without seeing each other, and then suddenly the army reared it’s ugly head and separated us for a year, and now that’s over and done with but we’re still unable to be together in the same country.

People ask why I don’t move back to Turkey but the truth is I would in an instant. I LOVE Fethiye and Calis and our life there. Sensibly and practically though, that’s just not an option. Winters out there are very hard, and although the lifestyle is more relaxed, friendlier and less materialistic, the long working hours in summer are tough too. We want to have children and having Berkay working 15 hour days 7 days a week in summer and then finding work in winter and not knowing if he’ll actually get paid that month is just too stressful, plus there’s no time for family time. I lived there for 3 years and only saw him for 3 hours a day. Money isn’t such a problem in summer, but in winter its too hard. We budgeted hard and rationed our electricity and food and while that was fine for us back then, we would never be able to have a family that way or get into debt with Berkay’s employers again through borrowing money to get him through the winter months. As I write this I’m not entirely certain if I’m trying to explain my reasons to you readers, or if I’m just trying to convince myself that it’s the right thing…

Living in the UK would be a real challenge for Berkay, and it would take a lot of adapting and hard work, but at the moment it’s our best option. I have a great job in a good location and I have no doubt he’d find work somewhere too. I earn the income requirement needed to apply for his visa at the moment and it took a lot of time to get to this point, giving it up now would be silly. I’ve saved a few thousand pounds which will be enough for us to apply for his visa and hopefully a deposit to rent somewhere here. We will be applying for his visa around September time, and hopefully have a definite yes or no answer by Christmas. If it’s a yes, we’ll start our life in the UK, and if it’s a no I’m willing to move back there and make sacrifices. We really have one shot at his visa, it costs thousands of pounds and a lot of time and effort so we really will only try once. I suppose the only thing for certain is that by Janaury 2017 we will know where our future is, be that in the UK or Turkey, and we won’t have to spend anymore time apart figuring it out as the decision will be made for us by the UK government. As soon as we hand those papers in in September-time, it’s out of our hands and into the hands of a complete stranger who has never met us and who judges our life by flicking through a pile of paperwork.

We’re married now but things regarding the future are as unstable as ever. Thankfully, we have each other no matter how far apart we are and the long distance aspect of our relationship means we never take each other for granted. Every meal together, every time we open our eyes and wake up next to each other, every time we walk hand in hand is a moment we treasure as it doesn’t happen everyday. I can’t stop looking at our wedding photos they make me smile even if looking back at them is bittersweet…

Brace yourselves for a lot of wedding posts soon!!

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!!
12801293_998719406856595_7289491038309597562_n.jpg
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!

Turkey Day 1 – The desire for familiarity, Sunsets and BBQ’s.

img_6240 I’ve been back from Turkey a month already, but haven’t yet posted any photos from my trip, so I’m going to do a little mini-series about the 9 days I spent there in January/February, starting now with Day 1!

It’s always weird when I go back to Turkey, especially this time as it had been so long since I last visited. There is always that desire to go and visit all my favourite places immediately, to check that they’re still the same and to reassure me that while our lives are full of uncertainty and obstacles, we have our own ‘happy’ places where things have stayed the same, the beautiful scenery, the promised daily sunrise and sunset, the friends we hadn’t seen for nearly a year… It’s an almost overwhelming urge for familiarity.

This time was no different. After landing late evening the previous night, when I woke up in the apartment the next day I was ready to go and see ‘my’ Fethiye. After a quick breakfast, we headed to the Friday famer’s market to stock up on fruit and vegetables for the apartment for the week, trundling through the market with bags full of fresh produce, eyes stinging from the smoke blowing around the stalls, arms aching from carrying the bags, but the welcome familiarity of the sights and smells.. just like old times. Then to the bank, the exchange office to change some currency, and the old age question of tost or döner for lunch… We settled for the tost.

I love sitting at this little toastie place and watching the world go by, the kids skateboarding in the park, workers rushing around the town, people paying bills.. the hustle and bustle of everyday life for the locals. It’s one of the best spots for people watching, that’s for sure! The added bonus is that the toasties are amazing, definitely the most popular in Fethiye! I had cheese and tomato (I think that’s the English girl in me..) while Berkay had the slightly more traditional karışık tost, cheese, sucuk (spicy sausage) and chilli flakes. The price was perfect for our budget too .. 10.50tltl for two toasties and two drinks (less than £2.60)!
img_6022 img_6023
After lunch we headed up to ‘Aşıklar Tepesi’ – lovers hill, which overlooks Fethiye bay. I love parking the car up, sitting on one of the benches and just admiring the beautiful view – it’s a good view all year around, but especially on clear winter days when the skies are blue and the mountains in the distance are covered in snow, it makes it look rather dramatic.
img_6223 img_6226img_6224 img_6225
Another thing that always looks better in winter is the Calis Beach sunset. Although also rather spectauclar in summer, in winter the sun sets right on the horizon rather than behind the mountains,making it even more impressive.Watching the sunset from this beach was definitely something I knew I had to witness again on my first day back in the country for 9 months, so after a quick google search for the daily sunset time to make sure I wouldn’t miss it, we headed back to Calis and waited. 
 img_6238 img_6239
The sun set around 17.30 that day, and it didn’t disappoint! Although I love taking sunset photos, and have thousands (literally..) of shots of the exact same thing on my iPhone, iPad and camera, none of them really capture the moment well enough. The sun reflecting off the water, the boat sailing in the distance and that brief moment where the sun is perfectly aligned on the horizon and you don’t want to blink because if you do you’ll miss that last split second of the red glowing sphere before it disappears until morning… sunsets are really just something you have to see in person!
img_6234
Apart from Berkay, Boncuk and the sunsets, the other thing I really miss about Turkey is the BBQ’s, so it made sense than on my first day back, that was our dinner of choice! BBQ’s are so much a part of our life there that now whenever I see (or smell..) one, the first thing I associate it with is Turkey! They don’t care what season it is, how cold it is or how wet it is, it’s always BBQ weather, even if that means sitting outside on the balcony wearing layers and freezing! There’s something so satisfying about preparing it, cooking it and having a good old chat while it’s grilling away, then sitting down to eat it straight off the coals. Mmm. We love BBQ’s so much that we had 4 in the 9 days I spent there. In fact, I’ve just this minute booked an apartment for us to stay in when I go back to Calis next week, we toyed with the idea of staying in a hotel as we haven’t done that for years, but the number one thing that swayed our decision was the fact we’d have no BBQ facilities, nowhere to store meat, no plates or cutlery etc in a hotel! Turkey just isn’t Turkey without a BBQ.

After washing up (that’s the downside to eating in…) we met our friends for a chat and a coffee at Erasta, and then headed off to our other friends house for Çay and baby cuddles. I’ve shared photos of their twins before, when I first met them in 2014, and even back in 2013 when I posted about our meal with the family celebrating the news that she was pregnant! Now, fast forward to 2016 and the twins are nearly 2.. not only that, but they have another baby who is 9 months old! Realising that our best Turkish friends had ‘grown’ a small human in the amount of time I’d been away from the country made me think about just how long I’d been away..
img_6235 img_6236