The Christmas Poinsettia – Ataturk Çiçeği

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It’s that time of year, Christmas Eve, Eve, in fact! Where festive things are all around, twinkling lights, pretty trees, tinsel, enough food to feed the 5000, endless tubs of chocolates, and perhaps a poinsettia or two!

It’s the latter that I want to talk about – up until last year I had no idea that our festive red poinsettias have a link to Turkey, and not the kind that forms our Christmas dinner!

In Turkey these beautiful flowers are called ‘Ataturk Çiçeği’. I have read that they were Mustafa Kemal Atatürk’s (founding father of Turkey) favourite flower, and named in his honour as he encouraged the cultivation of them in the country – the beautiful red colour certainly matches well with the Turkish flag, doesn’t it?
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I have 3 poinsettias adorning my table at the moment, a deep pink one which was a gift from a friend, a glittering, sparkly red one, and the one in the middle which is almost completely green, and overgrowing, as it has been in my house since last Christmas! When I got it last year it was red and glittery like my new one, and reduced to £1.50 in Tesco, so a real bargain! It’s not red anymore, though I have that read sticking it in a dark place for 12 hours a day will make the leaves turn red again so maybe I will try that… I tried to jazz it up with some fake berries. I’m amazed I managed to keep it alive, I’m not very good with plants… I’m a big fan of Christmas and start getting excited about it half way through the year, so I joked that the only reason it was still alive is because it’s always Christmas in my heart… of course Berkay said no, it’s because Ataturk is always in his! 
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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…

 

 

30 DAYS, 30 DISHES – DAY 21: Kuzu şiş


Kuzu şiş (lamb shish) is a simple kebab dish, but delicious. Marinated cubes of lamb on skewers, cooked perfectly and served with special flat bread (which is hiding some of the meat in my photo above), rice, grilled peppers, onions and tomatoes, and raw onion salad with sumac sprinkled on top. Perfect when the meat is tender! My photo above was taken at Mozaik Bahçe in Fethiye, their presentation is especially impressive.

I always feel like ordering lamb or chicken shish kebab is so boring when eating out, but it’s so tasty I can never resist!

30 DAYS, 30 DISHES – DAY 5: Türk kahvesi


Turkish coffee is very strong and very thick black coffee. It’s unfiltered, so you really need to master the art of avoiding swallowing the grains at the bottom of the cup, otherwise it won’t be a very pleasant experience! It’s always served black, with a small glass of water, and is often accompanied by a piece or two of sweet Turkish delight.

It’s served in tiny, porcelain espresso cups, some of which have beautiful brass or copper cases, with intricate designs and patterns, making it look rather regal!

Turkish coffee has it’s own traditions. When a boy wants to marry a girl in Turkey, the boy and his family have to visit the girl’s family’s house to ask for their blessing in marriage. Whilst there, the potential bride will make Turkish coffee for the guests. Sometimes, she puts salt in the potential groom’s coffee, instead of sugar, and waits for his reaction. If he doesn’t react negatively, or show his disgust, it’s said to show his good character.

Turkish coffee also has fortune-telling abilities. After you finish your cup, turn it upside down on the saucer and wait for the grounds to form a pattern. Some people are able to read these grounds and interpret the meaning. Last year, when Berkay was awaiting the decision of his visa application, he had a BBQ with his friends. One of their wives made coffee and they sent a photo of the remaining grounds from the bottom of the cup to an app which reads them and tells you the meaning. The app said Berkay’s meant the following: “you’re waiting for some results and they’ll be on the doorstep tomorrow, it’ll be good news. You’ll be going on a long journey”.. and how right they were too, because the very next morning the visa arrived in his hands!!

30 DAYS, 30 DISHES – DAY 3: LOKMA


Lokma are balls of dough, deep fried then covered in sweet, sticky syrup, best served while hot or warm.

Crispy on the outside but soft in the middle, when you bite into them they are slightly chewy, they are similar to donuts, but less cakey.

Lokma is often made in large batches and is a popular choice of food at celebrations or festivals, given out for free by families to all the local people during weddings, henna nights, openings of new shops/restaurants and even during sünnet (circumcision celebrations) and funerals (a certain amount of days after someone dies, their family arranges to serve food to local people).

When we were down in Ölüdeniz in April, there was a parade and celebration marking the official start of the summer season and they were cooking fresh batches of Lokma in the street and handing them out to everyone passing by. Wherever you find a stall giving them away, you can be sure there will be a huge line of people waiting!

Delicious, sticky, gooey, crispy… and full of sugar!

Turkish village baggy pants..

Every time we visit Turkey, I come back with at least one new pair of baggy pants! Last month was no exception.

Shortly after we arrived in the village to surprise Berkay’s family, his step mum suggested we go to the weekly market and go and buy some material. The market place in Beyağaç is actually where we had our village wedding last year so walking back through the undercover area bought back some memories!

A few stalls down, past the usual fruit, vegetable and shoe stalls, we came across a table full of rolls of material. All different colours and patterns, most flowery and quite obnoxious. “Choose one”, Berkay said, and I rummaged through the rolls, trying to find a pattern I didn’t already have! I eventually chose a black pair with white, pink and purple flowers on. The man selling the material asked how much we wanted but of course we didn’t really know, so he just looked at me, got his meter ruler out and guessed, cut it and gave it to us for 25tl. Usually, you’d take the material to a seamstress to turn it into a pair of baggy pants – luckily for us Berkay’s aunt is really good at making them so we left the material with her and picked it up a few hours later once she’d worked her magic!

Baggy village pants are my FAVOURITE thing. For years I never wore them, but then I bought one pair one winter while living in Calis and fell in love – so comfy! I never used to wear them outside of the house, apart from when in the village, but now I wear them all the time here in England. I use them as pajamas, something comfortable to put on when I get home from work, I even wear them to the shops (it’s just one step away from wearing pajamas to Tesco..right?)

They come in every different colour and design, I think each region must have slightly different styles because when we were in Dalaman airport once, one of the security men asked if we were from Denizli – ‘yea, how do you know?’ said Berkay, the man pointed to my baggy trousers and said he could tell by them! They are worn all over the country though, I think it might just have been a lucky guess!
 
 
If you want to get some baggy pants for yourself, they sell them in Fethiye market, or markets anywhere really, but also in little back street shops, or you can just get the material from fabric shops. If you want some a bit less in-your-face with not so many brightly coloured flowers on, you can usually find plain black harem pants on the internet somewhere, but I prefer the more traditional, crazy look! When everyone else is wearing them, you blend in strangely well. The women in Berkay’s village usually pair their multicoloured baggy pants with a long sleeved top of a completely different colour, and a knitted, sleeveless waistcoat, in yet another mismatching colour.

Berkay’s friends and family all think it really funny how much I love my baggy pants! I have around 25-30 pairs now, even my old ones with holes in that have shrunk in the wash I still love and wear.

They might be the least flattering thing ever, but they’re definitely the most comfortable!!

 

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!

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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Our Traditional Turkish Village Wedding – the Day

Traditional Turkish village weddings can go on for 2-3 days. Time restrictions meant our’s only lasted one day, and I skipped the traditional henna night. Since we had a long way to travel, we woke up at 4.30am on the Sunday morning and drove the 3 hours from Fethiye to Berkay’s family’s village in Beyağaç, Denizli.We arrived there just before 8am, bright and early, and preparations for the day’s events were already well underway. When we got to the house, everyone was out at the local marketplace (where the wedding was being held) taking the delivery of the tables and chairs and getting the food started. After a brief reunion with our dog Boncuk, we jumped back in the car and went down to join the others in the town centre.

At this point, things were calm, everything was fairly relaxed. I greeted Berkay’s mum, dad and brothers and then our attention was drawn to a small gathering of 4 women by the side of the road. They were cooking some of the food for the wedding. When you have 5000 guests invited, you have to do everything on a larger scale… and they certainly did. They had 4 huge pots (rather like cauldrons..) full of various things, one of which was keşkek. Keşkek is a very traditional part of Turkish weddings and they take great pride in cooking it. It’s a weird food, served at special occasions, weddings, funerals, religious celebrations etc. A lot of people are involved in the preparing and cooking. It’s made from wheat, locally produced from the villages in most cases, and ground meat, and is lovingly and slowly cooked in these huge cauldrons. It’s a hard job to mix it with the huge wooden spoon as it is so thick, it’s definitely a good arm workout! It’s reminds me of porridge… but porridge mixed with ground meat, butter, and lots of oil… once it’s ready it’s often slopped in a bowl and covered in spicy pepper sauce. It certainly doesn’t look, or sound very appealing but it doesn’t taste as bad as you think and it’s a good, hearty food that definitely feels like it’s been lovingly homemade by your grandma.
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Aside from keşkek, there were various other dishes being cooked up by paid chefs in the market place – rice, beans, cacik, a meat stew, brain soup (yes… BRAIN soup) and hundreds of loaves of bread. We were the first ones to try the food at around 9.30 am, just before the official 10am start time of the day part of the wedding.

After sitting down with some members of his family to eat the food, Berkay left me to go and help the men of the family carry on laying out the tables and chairs. 100 tables, 500 chairs, huge rolls of tissue tablecloths, hundreds of packets of napkins, jugs of water… it was certainly a mammoth task to get everything ready.

At 10am the steady flow of people started arriving. Most of them I’d never seen before, only a handful would even recognise me in a lineup, and thankfully I didn’t need to wear my wedding dress until the evening, so I could blend in a little. We didn’t greet everyone who attended, as there literally were not enough hours in the day, but we did get called over every now and then to greet important guests, the older generation, old family friends or those who have a higher standing in the village. I must say, in the most polite way possible, that it was very much more of a thing for show. Berkay’s dad has his own business and is very well known in the village and nearby areas – he sells animal feed, and since everyone owns a farm there, he clearly has a good client base! As a result, he spent most of the time standing greeting people and talking to his friends, gesturing for us to go over and say hello every now and then. It was much less of a celebration of our marriage, and more of a ‘look, I’m such a wonderful dad doing this huge wedding for my son’ kinda thing, and if you’ve read my previous posts about Berkay’s childhood you’ll know why that leaves a bit of a bitter taste.
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Anyway, as the day went on and lunchtime approached, the marketplace became very busy, with hundreds of people coming to join in and eat. Berkay’s brothers, younger cousins and family friends were running around like headless chickens trying to make sure everyone who arrived got their tray full of small silver dishes, filled with the different foods from the kitchen. It’s normal in Turkey for 5-6 people to share from one bowl, although everyone has their own spoon, so that helped minimise the washing up! As you can imagine, it took a lot of work to make sure the bread was restocked, fresh tablecloths were placed on the tables after each group of people left, the water jugs were refilled, the empty plates and trays were taken away, washing up was done in a little washing up station behind the kitchen area, chairs were rearranged, tables cleared, tea glasses filled and delivered, making sure the elders and the important people were greeted as a sign of respect… It was a lot of work for them, and really very overwhelming for me. At this point I was sitting alone with Berkay’s aunts and female cousins who were really trying to do a good job of looking after me, they could definitely sense the panic in my eyes! Berkay was rushing around helping but I was told to sit down and drink tea..

I’m not entirely sure just how many people turned up during the day for the food giving, but I can say with some certainty that it was over 2500 people. Just to put it into perspective, Berkay’s family slaughtered one of their cows, which provided 60kg of meat, they also had another 30kg of beef gifted to them so that makes a total of 90kg. Half way through the day, all 90kgs of beef had been eaten in the meat stew and they had to rush out and buy another 12 chickens to cook!! 90kgs of red meat, all gone, and we’re not talking about whole steaks for each person that came, we’re talking a few small cubes of meat in a bowl of stew shared between 5-6 people at a time over a period of about 7 hours, so that should give you an idea of just how many people came to enjoy the food!

Each family that came gave Berkay’s parents a small envelope with money in, to help cover the costs. I’ve spoken to a lot of people about this, and some say that it’s normal, other’s say that it’s not normal at all and that any money given should be for the bride and groom, and not for the family. It seems that each village has it’s own customs and traditions, and this is one of theirs. Over 13,000tl was given to Berkay’s family throughout the day, again emphasising just how many guests actually attended!

Thankfully, Berkay’s family’s house was only a 5-10 minute drive away from the marketplace and we were able to go back to the house a couple of times for around half an hour just to sit with no eyes watching, use the wifi, speak to my family, play with Boncuk and most importantly, breathe.

Initially, we were sent back to the house to retrieve ‘my’ gold.  I say ‘my’, but effectively we just rented it. As I have already mentioned, the whole day really felt more about ‘keeping up with apperances’ rather than really being a celebration, and this tradition of the bride wearing gold is another which really made this clear. It’s normal for the groom and his family to give the bride gold, and lots of it. Unfortunately gold is very expensive at the moment, and we are not rich! The day before the wedding we stopped at Ortaca, near Dalaman, and went to the nearest gold shop, where Berkay purchased five 22 karat gold bangles which cost the best part of £1000 – even then, I had to convince Berkay that that was enough, and he would have happily got into a lot of debt and bought more just so my arm looked a little more decorated! Clearly after the wedding we would have no use for £1000 worth of gold bangles, so we planned to sell them straight back the day after, and we were prepared to lose a little money in the process. (As it happened, when we did sell them back we would have only lost around 90tl but I decided to keep 2 of the bangles as I liked them so much!) I’m not a person for expensive jewellery or designer items, so I had never worn anything worth so much as all this gold. Berkay’s mum let me borrow her gold necklace, and her sash, which was covered in cloves and gold coins, but we forgot to wear this! It’s apparently tradition in this village to wear it across the body which I had never heard of before. We did genuinely forget about it until it was too late, but I’m quite glad because the clove smell reminded me of the dentist, and I am terrified of the dentist so it didn’t help to calm my nerves!
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After going back to the marketplace in the afternoon and greeting more guests, it was time to head off to the hairdresser to get ready. Berkay dropped me off at the ‘salon’ (a concrete basement with a sink in the corner, a mirror and a chair) with his cousins and aunt while he went off to get changed, go to the barber and get the car covered in ribbons.

Despite not being able to communicate much, the 4 hours I was sat in that salon room were quite enjoyable. It appears that this is the only hair salon in the whole village and she was very busy.She started with Berkay’s cousins hair, then the children, then his aunt, and eventually it was my turn. The whole time I was in there people were wandering in and out, and lots of little girls coming in and out waiting their turn too. I could sense people’s excitement. A young girl sat next to me completely fascinated, she kept staring at me and edging closer and closer, almost sitting on my lap and kept nudging my arm. Another little girl came in and spotted my dress hanging up on the back of the door and her eyes lit up – I guess every little girl loves the thought of being a bride and Turkish little girls are no different. After what seemed like a lifetime of curling and pinning my hair, the hairdresser then started on my makeup. “Sade”, Berkay had told her when he dropped me off, which means plain. I knew from friends who have had their own village weddings that I wasn’t getting out of that salon without bright blue eyeshadow, thick black eyeliner and bright red lipstick, I’m not sure what the significance is between blue eyeshadow and brides, but apparently the two go hand in hand! As predicted, I ended up wearing more makeup than I’ve ever worn in my life, which was the furthest thing from ‘plain’, but I actually liked it as it made me feel different, I guess almost like a mask, which I definitely needed to help with my confidence to get me through the evening – I even asked for extra glitter which was then sprinkled all over my hair and chest.

Next was the part which I had been dreading the most – putting on my dress. Thankfully, it was a corset dress so it allowed for a few extra lbs that I’d gained since the last time I wore it in April, but it was very difficult to do up. Berkay’s cousin and aunt were in charge of lacing me in, although I knew it didn’t feel quite right, so the hairdresser done some final tweaks to make sure it was done properly. I was so concious of my wedding dress as most of the villagers are very, very traditional and even having shoulders on display is a no-no. I had come prepared with shrugs and shalls to cover up but everyone reassured me that it looked fine – a lot of the guests had never even met an English girl before so I didn’t want to give off the wrong impression, it was definitely a lot of pressure!
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Finally, after 4 hours of being beautified, I was reunited with Berkay, who was now dressed in his suit, freshly shaved and covered in hair glitter which looked a lot like sparkly dandruff…interesting. With a lot of help, he got me and my dress up the stairs and into the car which had been decorated with ribbons, flowers and fancy number plates, letting everyone know that we were the bride and groom, just in case the outfits didn’t give it away! We went back to his house, I mustered up the courage to have a last minute pee, which was very difficult in my dress and definitely a two-person job, thank God they have a ‘normal’ sitting toilet and not just a hole in the floor, otherwise that could have gone very, very wrong.

Eventually, about 7.45pm it was time to get back into the car and make our grand entrance.. We pulled up outside the marketplace and Berkay jumped out to speak to his brother’s about the plan of action.. I was sat in the car hyperventilating and lots of little girls came running over to the car door. ‘Gelin! Gelin! Bak, gelin!’ – ‘Bride, Bride, look, Bride!’ they shouted out to each other and to their mums. They were so excited to see me and my dress and it was weird having so much attention and excitement directed at little old me!

Once Berkay had had his instructions, it was time to get out, take a deep breath and make our entrance together, with all eyes on me, the ‘yabancı gelin’ – foreign bride…

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 …