Two village weddings, some bizarre traditions and saying goodbye to the summer..

Last Wednesday we returned from our end-of-season trip to Turkey. We wouldn’t normally visit so late in the year, but we mainly went out for Berkay’s brother’s wedding. Berkay went out 5 days before me to help with wedding preparations, and then I flew out the day the wedding celebrations began (all 3 days of it)…. I missed the actual ceremony as that was earlier in the week, but was there for 2 full days of wedding parties, one in the brides village, one in the grooms. It involved some bizarre traditions, like men beating the groom, having him dress up in women’s clothes then cooking his wife an egg… Thousands of people came to the family home and the final night ended in a few tears after police were called and closed down the wedding due to several fights…… Honestly, if I didn’t have photographic evidence of all this stuff you’d all think I was making it up…

Anyway, after surviving 4 nights in the village, with the help of some ‘rescue remedy’ drops (seriously…) I breathed a huge sigh of relief when it was finally time to drive to Calis. Berkay’s brother and his new wife came with us for a few days too. We stayed in our favourite hotel, Jiva Beach Resort, which was lovely but also not without its surprises, partly because there was a loud, intimidating, narcotics anonymous convention in the hotel for a few days while we were there, with people from all over the world gathering… After a few days, that was over and during the end of our stay we were one of very few occupied rooms left…in fact, we checked out the morning the hotel closed for winter, so we had a very quiet last two days and practically had the hotel to ourselves! In amongst all that, we did the usual things, watched some beautiful sunsets, visited some old friends, made some new furry 4 legged ones and ate a lot of food! We also had some new experiences, visiting the new beautiful park in Calis/Fethiye was definitely a highlight, as well as hopping over to Sovalye Island for lunch, a first for us! Also somewhere amongst all the fun, we’re sure Berkay broke his toe.

As with everything, all good things must come to an end. Saying goodbye to our family and friends is horrible. Even saying bye to the hotel staff was hard, its funny how quickly you get into a routine of doing things and seeing people and then it’s hard to leave them all behind and go back to reality! I could never be one of those seasonal workers, making friends and knowing you’ll probably never see them again…I know they’re used to it and probably don’t really care about the people going and coming, but even for them I think it felt a bit weird right at the end of the season, there was definitely a strange atmosphere around! The hardest goodbye of all, was when we left the village and had to say bye to our Boncuk dog, she had the happiest face when we were around, and the morning we were leaving she just knew, she had the saddest face ever and she just broke my heart!

While we were out there, the clocks went back in the UK, but stayed the same out in Turkey, meaning the time difference is now 3 hours, long enough to leave us with a little jet lag on our return!

All in all, it was a good 12 days away, even if a little….very…stressful at times… It was the perfect end to the summer.

Now we’re home it’s full on CHRISTMAS mode…

 

 

Our Traditional Turkish Village wedding – the evening.

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

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

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

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

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

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

img_6518-1For those who don’t follow my Facebook page – I have just come back from 8 days in Turkey! Amongst many other things during the very, very busy week (including our big village wedding party…) a major event happened – we applied for Berkay’s visa!

This has been a very, very long time coming. Ever since I came back to the UK in December 2014 this visa has been the end goal, but it has been the main obstacle in our relationship since day one. The whole time Berkay was in the army I was working hard to find a job earning the minimum income requirement, then once I found that 18 months ago, I began slowly ticking the other things off the list of visa requirements.

Since July I have spent every waking moment after work gathering paperwork as evidence and organising it all – hundreds of pieces of paper, constantly writing letters, perfecting them, making sure everything was explained, printing, reprinting, proof-reading, triple-checking everything, getting paperwork from outside sources to prove everything, collecting wage slips, bank statements and saving enough money to apply. Then, a few weeks ago we finally had everything ready, paid the extortionate total £2500 visa fee and booked our appointment to submit the papers in Antalya on 6th October.

So, while I was there last week (after a couple of late nights on the terrace having a final run through of the paperwork) on Thursday morning we woke up bright and early at 5am and made the 2.5 hour journey to Antalya. Actually finding the visa application centre was a mission in itself – thank goodness we had GPS on Berkay’s phone, although him trying to drive on the massive, extremely busy Antalya city centre roads was rather scary too, nothing like the Fethiye roads we’re used to which are tiny in comparison! There was so much pollution too, the whole city area was all smoggy. We arrived in plenty of time so we stopped for some breakfast – delicious meat borek and a glass of cay.
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We eventually did find the visa application centre, which was in a big multi-purpose community centre with a lot of different rooms and security scanners on the doors. It was very modern looking and had a lovely big water fountain outside. Berkay had to register in a small room and I was allowed to sit in there with him while a man rummaged through the paperwork. Seeing him reorder the paperwork that I had painstakingly ordered and labelled according to my contents page was hard to watch, that paperwork has been my treasured possession for months, I felt like snatching it all back! After the intital registration, we had to wait outside another room – there seemed to be at least 5 other people there with the same appointment time as Berkay, and there was no order to people being called into the room, it just seemed to be whoever managed to make eye contact with the man on the door first! He eventually got seen 30 minutes after his appointment, I wasn’t allowed in so I had to sit outside but I could see him through a section of glass in the door and was trying not to make him laugh when he realised I could see him. They took the paperwork, shoved it all in an envelope, took Berkay’s fingerprints and a photo and then that was that.
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It was a relief that it was all over – I had gone over the paperwork so many times and was happy with it, I was confident that we had done all we could and shown all we could possibly show, but I always ended up second guessing myself and trying to add more, so having it finally sent off and knowing I could do nothing else was like a huge weight lifted off my shoulders instantly.

The decision usually takes 12 weeks, but we paid £450 to prioritise the application which means a decision should be made within 3 weeks – a huge difference and well worth the extra money. There is an online tracking system that tells us exactly where in the process the application is currently at – it’s so addictive, we keep logging in to check, even at completely random times of day when we know the office is shut, even at weekends. Berkay wakes up during the day and checks it then goes back to sleep, I check several times a day when I wake up, during work, when I come home… The day when it changes to ‘decision made’ I think our hearts will stop beating for a second!! Unfortunately, the decision won’t be known until they send it back in the post and Berkay opens the envelope and searches through the passport for visa or a refusal letter.

Our whole future is in someone else’s hands at the moment… please keep your fingers crossed for us!

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A big fat village wedding?

As much as I loved our wedding day back in April, I was relieved when it was all over. I no longer had to worry about the day going well, fitting into my dress, having my hair and makeup done, looking good for the photographs, socialising with the guests, being centre of attention… Since I only plan on getting married once in my lifetime, I never expected to be worrying about that all again so soon.

Now, 4.5 months later, Berkay’s family have decided that we need a village wedding party. Not a quiet, family get-together – a real, big, fat, Turkish, village wedding.

It’s normal in Turkey for the bride and groom to get married weeks or months before the big wedding party, so the fact that we’re having a 2nd wedding is not unusual, its the norm. Berkay’s close family came to our actual wedding and ceremony in Fethiye, but on their return to the village they felt a bit awkward when everyone asked when the ‘proper’ wedding was going to be, it’s not normal for them not to have a big village party so they were embarrassed that they hadn’t yet put on a big, loud, party for us in the village for everyone to come to…

So last week when I spoke to Berkay he told me that his family had called him begging for us to have a village wedding party. It seems to be more about the family showing off to the neighbours than a celebration for the bride and groom, but it’s their culture and it’s important to Berkay and his family so that’s what we’re doing.

As usual with Turkish things, it’s all last minute yet everyone is so laid back. Since Tuesday when I first heard about these new wedding plans, they’ve booked the village market place out for the 2nd October (I only land at Dalaman the day before….) they’ve found a hair and makeup lady, a drummer and music player, and sent out invites to people.

This is the part that terrifies me – Turkish village weddings involve hundreds, or thousands of people. They literally invite anyone they’ve ever met, anyone the family has ever met, even if the bride and groom have never met these people themselves. Berkay’s family are well known in the village as they have their own business selling animal feed, everyone in the village owns a farm so they have a lot of customers. They have sent invites out along with little tea-towels as it’s tradition to give out little gifts like that as invitations. They haven’t invited 100 people, not 500 people, not even 1000 people…they went to the local council offices, got a list of every person in the village and surrounding area and are delivering the invites out on motorbikes to EVERY SINGLE PERSON on the list, 5000 people. Five thousand people. FIVE.THOUSAND.PEOPLE…..

Let’s just let that sink in for a minute. Those 5000 invites don’t even include the people Berkay knows from Fethiye who might make the journey to the wedding… and a lot of the guests will never have even seen an English girl before, so I suspect even more people will come than usual just to be nosey! I don’t think I’ve met 5000 different people in my lifetime, I have 3-4 close friends, I keep myself to myself and I’m very shy. I get nervous around 5 strangers, let alone 5000 people who I’ve never met and can’t communicate with! It’s literally my worst nightmare come true, but hey, at least it’s an experience… what other ‘normal’ English girl can say 5000 people attended her 2nd wedding party? It will be a great story to tell the grandkids, right? I think I’m past the original ‘oh my God’ stage and now I’m in the ‘I have to roll with it and laugh or I’ll cry’ phase. (I say as I type this in the middle of having a mental breakdown…)

I land on the 1st October and will spend the afternoon rushing around going to Fethiye to try on a different wedding dress. I am taking my old one out with me, but it’s just been neatly cleaned and packed ready for storage and it seems such a shame to get it dirty again.. the problem is I’m too fat to be able to walk into a wedding dress shop in Turkey and pick one off the hanger to rent – Berkay has found one and reserved it but I don’t think it will fit.. so we’re going to try that the day I land and if all else fails, we’ll get the woman in the dress shop to show Berkay how to lace my original dress up. I have no idea how the women in his family are going to get me into that dress and lace it up correctly.

We’ll head to the village on Sunday 2nd, which is 4-5 hours away in a remote village an hour and half away from the nearest city of Denizli. During the day on the Sunday the family will be serving traditional Turkish food to everyone in the market place – on the menu will be dishes made from a few sheep from the family farm! They’ll lay out tables and chairs and have huge pots of food and bread for everyone and a steady flow of people turning up for food throughout the day. We’ll go for a couple of hours and then go back to his family’s house to get ready and go to the hairdresser… Berkay will go off and leave me with the women in his family. I can understand a bit of Turkish and usually can get the gist of the conversation, but village-speak is totally different, a whole different accent and dialect and I can’t understand or speak a word, so that will be interesting. Around 8pm we’ll be reunited and drive through the town in the car decorated with balloons, ribbon and flags and beep the horn to let everyone know about the wedding… then we’ll go to the market place and spend the night dancing. I only done one dance at our other wedding but I won’t be able to get away with that this time, not with potentially 5000 eyes watching! Drummers, musical instruments, the traditional Turkish music that sounds like a swarm of angry bees…and the traditional pinning on of gold coins and money.

I’m trying to think positive, but I’m absolutely dreading it…. as if I didn’t have enough things to worry about with the visa application and getting all that paperwork ready, I now have the stress of a big fat village wedding to add the to mix! I suspect I’ll be walking around in a daze with absolutely no clue what’s going on… but hey, it’s all part of the craziness fun that comes along with marrying a Turk eh?

3 weeks today … 

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.
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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.
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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!’.
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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.
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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.
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Izmir & the English test..

This morning straight after finishing his night shift at the hotel Berkay headed to Fethiye Otogar and got the bus to Izmir.

The journey takes 5hours and 45minutes, so it’s quite far away and not the usual place he’d spend the day – he only went because that is where he needs to sit his English exam tomorrow morning.

This English exam is really the first step to applying for his visa to join me in the UK. The whole process is very long, very expensive and very time consuming, but as part of the requirements he has to pass the IELTS English life skills A1 test. It has to be taken at specific visa approved test centres in major cities like Izmir, Istanbul, Antalya, Ankara etc, and although Antalya is slightly nearer, Izmir was the only place with a slot available within the next few weeks, so that’s where he had travel to.

He was quite willing to get the nightbus, travel all night and arrive in the early hours of the morning and wait outside for the test centre to open but I convinced him to book into a hotel overnight so he could relax and get a good night’s sleep before the big exam at 9am Friday morning. He has a good knowledge of English, very understandable but not fluent, so he has spent weeks practicing for the exam, watching sample tests on YouTube and downloading English teaching ebooks on his phone to listen to while he sleeps. I’ve tried to help him as much as I can but I think he’s really nervous about it – he FaceTime’d me from his hotel room tonight panicking a bit and had all his pens, pencils, rubber and blank sheets of paper ready just in case, even though it’s a listening exam, bless him.

The exam itself cost us around 820tl / £200, so it’s not cheap. Plus the travel there and back, along with the hotel for the night. By the time we apply for the actual visa, we’ll have paid out around £3000, with no guarantee it will be granted, so it’s an awful lot of money. The exam only lasts for 18-25 minutes, so the 11 hour round trip is an awful long way to go just for that. I’m sure people don’t realise this when they’re complaining about ‘foreigners’ coming to the UK so ‘easily’ and ‘not even being able to speak English’. It’s really frustrating being on the other side, seeing the hoops we have to jump through just to live together and knowing that people are so oblivious and unaware of the effort, time and money it actually takes.

On the plus side, Berkay gets a day away from work, he won’t get another one until summer is over. He had a few hours spare this evening and went for a walk around Izmir – it’s very much a big, built up city, nothing at all like the places Berkay is used to, so it’s all very new and overwhelming to him although he did spend the first few weeks of his army service there last February. Whilst out on his walk he took a little detour and managed to get lost. “I lost myself in Izmir and found myself again” he said. Bless him!
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He’s had quite a busy week, my grandparents are out in Calis at the moment so he’s been meeting up with them most days – it’s probably nice for him to have some company. Straight after his exam tomorrow morning he’ll be making the 5 hour 45 minute journey back to Fethiye again, hopefully in time for dinner with them before they fly home tomorrow night.

We’ll know in a couple of weeks time whether he passes or not, but please wish Berkay luck for his exam tomorrow morning at 9am Turkish time… we really need him to pass to get the ball rolling visa-wise! It’s just the first of many nervous long waits!

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Our Turkish wedding Part 3.

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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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!
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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!
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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.
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Click here to read part 1 of our wedding, and click here for part 2.

Our Turkish wedding Part 2.

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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.
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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.
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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.”
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“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!
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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…
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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.
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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.
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Me and Dad, and us with my mum and dad.
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Us with my brother, and my grandparents.
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Us with Berkay’s dad, step-mum and brothers.
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Us with Berkay’s aunt’s and cousin, and with his uncle, aunt and younger cousin.
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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!
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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!
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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. 
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Dad, stepmum, Berkay & I, Mum and Stepdad, and Berkay with his immediate family.
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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.

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?