Visa renewal time – an unfair system?

It’s been a few months since I posted on my blog, now its 2019 and it’s March already, can you believe it?!

Now that we’re already into the 3rd month of the year, it’s time to start thinking about renewing Berkay’s visa. He arrived at the end of 2016, on the ‘spouse visa’ which enables him to live and work in the UK for just over two and a half years. It cost around £2500 at the time, and when we got it, there was that relief of knowing there were no more visas to worry about for two years! Of course, now those two years have flown by and its time to start gathering all the paperwork, and money, to renew it!

I think visas are one of those things that nobody really understands the process of, until they know someone who has gone through it. I think people assume its easy for people to come to the UK, we’ve all read those newspaper reports about ‘foreigners coming here, getting our benefits’ etc. I probably had those misconceptions before too, to be honest.

Even though me and Berkay have been together for nearly nine years, and he has been living here, working for two and a half years, applying for the extension of his visa is still stressful and full of uncertainty. It’s not just a case of filling out an application form and ticking a few boxes – it’s a lot of work.

When he initially applied for the visa two and a half years ago, Berkay had to pass an English exam. To renew it, he has to pass a higher level exam, which he will actually be sitting this week – that’s not cheap either, £150, so fingers crossed he passes or he will have to keep trying and paying out for it.

Then there’s the cost involved – the application fee is £1033 currently, but this will go up again in April as it does every year. There’s also a NHS surcharge, which has just doubled from £500 to £1000…despite the fact that Berkay earns a fair wage (he found a job within three weeks of arriving in the country..) and pays national insurance like everyone else in the country with a job, he has to pay this £1000 towards the NHS as part of the application, so essentially he’s contributing twice! If any of you reading this have heard people say before ‘foreigners come here to use our NHS for free’ please inform them of this! I can understand if he wasn’t earning and needed to contribute something so that he wasn’t just coming here for the sole purpose of abusing the National Health Service, but when he’s already paying taxes and national insurance every week this seems very unfair!

So, total so far is £2033 + £150 for the English test, assuming he only needs one attempt at passing, but the fee’s don’t end there either… If he applies via the standard service, it can take months and months to get a decision, and they keep his passport all that time, so if there was ever a family emergency in Turkey, or he wanted to travel for whatever reason, he wouldn’t be able to, which leaves the option of paying a further £630 for a priority service, with a faster decision within a few days. So, £2033 + £150 + £630 = £2813, before travel costs to the visa application centre in London, sometimes they charge extra for the appointments where you hand over the documents, also! With the fee going up again in April, we will undoubtedly be paying over £3000 for this visa extension.

Perhaps finding the money to apply is the easy part. We also have to prove our relationship is genuine, with letters of support from friends and family, evidence we live together in the form of letters and bills addressed jointly to us at our address, spread across over the two and a half years he’s been in the country, to show that we have consistently lived together. Luckily, I knew that this was a requirement so I have folders of letters filed under my bed in preparation for this! We also have to prove we have the right to live in the property, with land registry documents, mortgage statements etc, and proof that we meet the £18,600 income requirement, with evidence in the form of payslips, work contracts, a letter from my HR department, etc etc!

Once this visa is granted (fingers crossed!) we will have to go through the same thing again in another two years time, only next time Berkay will have to pass a further test, a ‘life in the UK’ multiple choice exam paper, with general knowledge questions such as ‘when was Hadrians wall built?’, ‘how many members of the Scottish Parliament are there?’ and ‘When did the first Christian communities appear in Britain?’ – questions that seem better fitted for contestants on ‘The Chase’, rather than someone wanting to settle in the UK – I don’t know many Brits that would pass this 24 question test, by getting 75% correct.

As you can see, we have a busy couple of months ahead, getting all this paperwork organised, scanned and written, so that when we are able to apply in May/June, we are ready to do so.  I’m not really complaining about the process, I understand that rules have to be in place, but everyone I explain this process to, unless they know someone who has done it themselves, seems to be shocked when I tell them what it entails. With Brexit bringing out the worst in people recently, I have seen more and more people stating that ‘UK has no control of its borders, no immigration rules, no checks on people entering the country’ – I’m writing this post in the hope that if any of my readers believed this before, or have heard people making these assumptions, please, educate them and tell them you know differently!

It is very frustrating, handing over piles of paperwork to a complete stranger, to judge us based on the evidence they have in front of them, like we are some sort of criminals, and pay them £3000 for the privilege or believing we are genuine, or not.

 

AUGUST PHOTO SERIES – DAY 30 – FETHIYE HARBOUR


I think Fethiye is overlooked by a lot of tourists, with some people not straying further than the Tuesday market, but it has so much more to offer. The harbour area is so pretty, especially early in the morning when it’s quiet, the only people around are those getting the boats ready for a day trip around the islands or going out fishing. I love the green hills in the distance, the masts of the boats and the calm water the boats bob up and down on. If you’re lucky, you might even see a turtle or two popping his head up for food!

AUGUST PHOTO SERIES – DAY 28 – Yesil Vadi, Yuvarlakçay


Around 1.5 hours away from Fethiye, near Koycegiz, there is a place called Yuvarlakçay. It has several little restaurants in the forest area that go by the name of ‘Yesil Vadi’ – I’m sure there is only one original one… I’m not exactly sure which one we went to, but we walked into three and this was the one we liked best! The best part about it is the swings hanging from the huge, shady trees. As you swing, you soar a few meters above the freezing cold flowing river below. I’m a big kid and love swings so this was very relaxing and the shade a welcome relief from the hot sun! On this particular day we had a go on two different swings, it was all going well until my foot slipped down the bank when trying to stop the swing and I fell in the freezing cold water, witnessed by a Turkish family and Berkay, who was stood on the bank laughing his head off at me! I was also laughing, even though it was highly embarrassing, and got out and tried to walk away pretending like nothing had happened, although my soaking wet, dripping denim shorts said otherwise…

AUGUST PHOTO SERIES – DAY 16 – Lake Köyceğiz

Whilst on a trip to Dalyan, we got on a boat and were taken for a short ride down Lake Köyceğiz, to one of the mud bath & sulphuric hot spring centres along the bank. It was good fun, but a little odd, swimming chest deep in mud and rubbing it all over yourself, then washing it off and getting into a hot bath that stinks like rotten eggs… all part of the experience, but not particularly attractive! The boat journey down the river, though was very pleasing to the eye. We were there fairly early in the morning and was one of the first boats out, so the water was very still with no ripples from other boat engines, allowing the reflection in the lake to be crystal clear. I love the contrast between blue sky and green trees, and the reflection acting like a mirror image. Apparently, the lake was formed 7500 years ago, as a result of several earthquakes. A major fault line runs through the lake, and this is were the sulphuric hot springs come from too! Nature at its finest.

AUGUST PHOTO SERIES – DAY 2 – Turkish Dancing

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

7 years together today!

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

 

Şeker Bayramı/Eid 2017?

As some of you will know, for the past month Muslims all over the world have been participating in Ramadan, the Islamic holy month of fasting. After a month of fasting from sunrise to sunset, they celebrate the end of Ramadan with a three day festival known as ‘Şeker Bayramı’ (sweet/sugar festival) or Eid al-Fitr.

The festival begins at sundown on the last day of Ramadan, which this year falls today, 24th June 2017.  After the call to prayer at sundown, people break their fast for the last time and the celebrations begin.

In Turkey, generally the most important day of the holiday is the first full day, which will be tomorrow, Sunday 25th June. Families may wake up early in the morning, get washed, clean and wear new or their best clothes, the men may go to mosque for their Eid prayer. Many will donate money to poor or needy people as an act of charity. The holiday period is seen as a chance to forget any grudges or issues with people and to forgive, forget and move on.  It’s customary for the younger members of the family to visit their elders, neighbours and friends and wish them “İyi Bayramlar”. They greet their elders by kissing their right hand then raise it to their forehead, if you have Turkish relatives you’ll know what I’m talking about! There will have been days of preparation beforehand with houses being thoroughly cleaned, traditional desserts like Baklava being cooked and new clothes purchased.  In the days leading up to bayram the supermarkets are VERY busy with people stocking up on sweets and chocolate to give their visitors, hence the name of the festival literally translates to ‘sugar/sweet holiday’.
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Aspects of the festive period reminds me of a cross between Easter and Halloween. Of course they are very different celebrations for very different purposes, but there are similarities – traditionally at Easter children would be given new clothes to wear and obviously there’s the giving of the chocolate eggs. During bayram the children often knock on their neighbours doors and are given sweets and chocolates or even money, similar to Halloween. 

How will it affect your holiday to Turkey?
During the whole 3 days government buildings, banks and offices are closed and ATM machines are likely to run out of cash – so if you need some, get it as early as possible.  Most of the shops, bars and restaurants in resorts will remain open as they have to make money. You may wish to greet people in shops, hotel staff or waiters with wishes for bayram such as: “Bayramınız kutlu olsun” / “Bayramınız mübarek olsun”– may your holiday be blessed, or “Iyi Bayramlar” – happy holidays.

It’s normal for the roads to be very busy at this time of year as families go on a 3 day vacation or to visit family and friends in other towns and cities, coaches and buses are likely to be full and you may notice that there are a lot more Turkish people and cars in your holiday resort during this time, beaches are busier and hotels are full. It’s advised to avoid travelling if you can, even the small dolmus’ are likely to get very busy, and that’s never fun in the summer heat. In general, it shouldn’t affect your holiday too much, just be aware of the celebrations going on, you may be offered sweets and it could be considered rude if you decline. The atmosphere in general will be happy, with plenty of excited children running around! 

My experience of bayram?

During my time living in Turkey, I experienced the holiday 3 times. Like most of the people working in tourism, Berkay never had any time off whatsoever during Bayram, in fact it’s quite the opposite, most tourism staff work harder and longer with more guests staying at the hotels and going out to restaurants! Spare a thought for those workers, unable to travel home to spend the holiday with their families, the ones who work hard to make sure everyone else has a lovely holiday instead.

This year, Berkay is off work on Sunday so we might do something a bit celebratory, even if it is just eating some baklava and more chocolate than usual, it would be rude not to, right?! It’s his first ever bayram outside of Turkey, so although he never really made a big thing of it whilst there anyway, I expect he’ll miss being in Turkey and soaking up the atmosphere! A lot of our local supermarkets, Asda, Morrisons and Tesco, actually have whole ‘Eid’ aisles at the moment, so I might have to make a quick trip later and see if I can find something a bit special for him.

İyi Bayramlar/Eid Mubarak
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Village life – Beyagac, Denizli.

Village life in Turkey is totally different to city life or tourist resort life – there’s nothing quite like it and it’s like marmite, you either love it or you hate it!

Berkay’s family live in Beyağaç, a town in Denizli province, 2 hours away from Denizli city centre. It takes around 3.5 hours by car from Fethiye, and is a fairly straightforward drive.  It’s pretty much in the middle of nowhere – surrounded by fields, mountains and forest. Most of the people who live in the village own their own fields and grow their own crops, tobacco plants, or keep farm animals. The views from the family home across the hillside are stunning.
  
Berkay’s family live in a small bungalow house up on a hill, a few minutes drive from the town centre. Their house has a lounge, kitchen, 2 bedrooms, wet room/toilet and outdoor toilet. Three people live in the house at the moment, Berkay’s Dad, Stepmum and half brother.
I’m going to be honest, I really struggle to cope when visiting, the lifestyle just isn’t for me. They just do things so differently. One example I can’t get my head around, is the sleeping situation. They do have one bed, but they mostly sleep on cushions on the floor, in one room together, and there’s no real night-time routine, they just go to bed in the clothes they’ve been in all day, wake up in the morning, put the cushion away and carry on the next day in the same clothes, just like taking a giant nap. I also have no idea where they keep their clothes as nobody seems to own wardrobes, or have any real personal space. The village is very traditional too, with the men going out to work, and spending the evenings playing okey or tavla while the women stay at home, cook and look after the children – I guess like the UK 60 years ago. Women and men seem to be separated a alot, too, with definite ‘no go’ areas for women, which isn’t easy when I try to follow Berkay everywhere, as I can’t understand ‘ village turkish’ to talk to anyone else – the dialect is so different.
  
 
Behind the house, they have sheds built for the animals. They have a lot of sheep, goats, cows, chickens, a guard dog, and of course our dog Boncuk!  They use the animals for their eggs and milk. Berkay’s dad wakes up very early everyday to milk the cows – they even make their own yogurt, butter and cheese from it. They do use their own animals for meat, but only on special occasions, as they get more money for selling the livestock.
 
 
 
The family house is very simple, but it has everything they need, including a soba (wood burner) for heating in winter, cooker, washing machine and the slightly more suprising dishwasher and very nice Samsung fridge. From looking at the house, you would think they don’t have much money, a very simple lifestyle, bare minimum things. But this isn’t the case, they do have money, they just invest it in a lot of land, animals and business. Berkay’s father owns a animal feed business, supplying and delivering hundreds of bags of food and hay to houses every week, which as you can imagine in a farming community is a good business to own. I asked Berkay why they don’t improve their house rather than buy more land, as with the money they have they could really have a totally different lifestyle, but he said that things like that aren’t really important to the people in this village, they have what they need. Although I will never understand their lifestyle, I guess it’s something to admire – how they don’t place importance on such material things! Berkay has inherited that attitude to material things, too. I have to force him to buy clothes, as he’d be happy with 2 tshirts and a pair of jeans to last him years!

One thing you can definitely say, is that the Turkish people are very hospitable! The number of blankets Berkay’s stepmum has in the cupboard really made me smile – she has two cupboards piled up with spare cushions and duvets, so that guests can sleep – very prepared, she must’ve had about 30 different ones! They also will keep feeding you until you’re full enough to burst, and don’t take no for an answer. If you turn down a cup of Turkish tea, you can guarantee that you’ll get one anyway.
 
Dinner time is a little different in the village, instead of being seated around a dining room table on chairs, they eat every meal on the floor around a special ‘table’cloth. People joining them for dinner don’t have their own plates, but instead share from various sized metal dishes, each with a different food inside.  Everyone has their own fork and spoon, but they don’t use knives, which sometimes proves troublesome when it comes to larger pieces! Everyone also drinks from the same water glass. The good thing about eating this way is you can eat as much or as little food as you want, without the pressure of wanting to empty your plate so as not to offend. I do like sitting on the floor to eat, but it does give you terrible pins and needles after a while! I suspect if someone has a cold the sharing thing isn’t so pleasant.

I love the different colours and patterns of the rugs they put on the floor, although it does baffle me why they don’t just buy the same kind. Underneath all these rugs and mats they have wooden floor, but it’s kept covered all winter and summer. I love the different patterns but it would drive someone with OCD crazy for sure.
  
The first day we were in the village, Berkay’s brother asked him to help deliver some hay, as part of the family business. I decided to go with him. Off we went in a big, rickety, dusty truck, to the huge barn where they keep the hay. Berkay and his brother filled up the truck with bales while I sat around the corner wondering what on earth I was doing. 24 hours before this moment, I had been sat in a 5* all inclusive hotel, and now I was sat in a pile of hay, covered in dust and surrounded by the smell of animal poo. What a difference a day  makes! Certainly a tale of two halves, two totally different lifestyles and two totally different sets of people.


Later that evening , having recovered from the inital shock of village life which always hits me like a ton of bricks (or hay bales?), I wandered around the family farm and took a moment to appreciate the scenery. It is beautiful. I love this photo I took of the sun going down, greenhouse to the left, sheep shed to the right, pile of fire wood in the foreground, and bird soaring in the background. 

Dinner time provided entertainment in the form of Boncuk. We all sat outside on the patio to enjoy chicken cooked on the fire, with a special guest peeping her head over the wall behind Berkay’s dad, hoping for some leftovers! Can you spot her? She looked so funny, every now and then her little head would just pop up, until someone threw her a piece. Adorable.
 
The next morning, me and Berkay decided to go for a mini-adventure to a view point across Beyağaç. As we were getting in the car, Boncuk jumped in and joined us, so we took her too.  Everytime we visit the village we come up to this point as it provides lovely panoramic views.  This time there was a new addition to the view – 3 old, falling apart arm chairs. Interesting. I guess fly tipping is a universal problem! It did make a good photo though.
  
Berkay drove along to the next village, Yeniçeşme , to show me the  house he was born in, I took a photo of the building, which is now falling apart but still inhabited, I love the fact you can see Boncuk in the wing mirror! Berkay kept pointing out places he used to go with his friends as a child, fields he used to work in, and things his Grandad built like the village water source. Berkay always speaks highly of his grandparents, they raised him as a baby as his mother and dad abandoned him when he was only 28 days old, he’s still not seen his mother since and knows nothing about her, and although he is on speaking terms with his dad, he definitely had a stronger bond with his grandparents, who have both now passed away, he showed me the cemetery they’re both in too.
 
Back at the family home,  I had a walk around finding interesting things to photograph – you’re never far away from something with a story behind it! These red peppers are picked when they’re in season, and hung out to dry out in the summer, then they’re used in stews and other dishes when not normally readily available. Aside from their main purpose, I think they make great decorations!
 
After dinner, despite being stuffed, plates of walnuts, biscuits, popcorn and tea were bought out.  The funniest thing was Berkay’s stepmum breaking the biscuit in half and dipping it into her glass of cay, its the equivalent of dipping a rich tea in a mug of PG tips, I’d never seen a Turkish person do that before so I giggled to myself – seems like us Brits have a rival for our tea and biscuits!

That night, we visited Berkay’s brother’s girlfriend and her family about an hour away. Upon telling her of my love of baggy village pants, they went to their stash, ironed a pair and gave them to me in a bag as a gift, along with a pair of crocheted slippers they had made – it took so many attempts to find a pair that would fit me, I felt like Cinderella! Another fine example of their hospitality.

The following morning, we said goodbye to the family, and Boncuk, and got ready for the drive to Denizli city centre. The photo below is of us with Berkay’s brother just before we said bye – my eyes were red and blotchy after bawling my eyes out saying bye to Boncuk 10 minutes before hand. I’ve deliberately left her out of this post and will do a whole new post about her, she’s so cute she deserves her own one!
 
Village life in Beyağaç is so different than anything I’m used to. It’s way beyond my comprehension, but it is interesting and always provides me with plenty of funny stories! I could never live there myself, but after the initial shock, it’s not too hard to settle in to the way of life, become a bit more comfortable and embrace it – however, it is always a bit of a relief to leave again at the end of the visit, even with blurry eyes from teary goodbyes.

5* Jiva Beach Resort Hotel – review

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

Our Traditional Turkish Village wedding – the evening.

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

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

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

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

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

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