Sunrise over breakfast in Istanbul

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Visiting Istanbul in winter had a lot of advantages – one being the late sunrises. The sun came up at around 8am in January and this coincided perfectly with the hours breakfast was served at our hotel.

We stayed in Spectra hotel which was basic and cheap – I think we paid around £55 for 3 nights, but the location was absolutely perfect. Just a stones throw away from the Blue Mosque. It had a roof terrace room where the breakfast buffet was served each day. One morning we were 15 minutes early and sat in the terrace waiting for breakfast and admired the stunning view.

The sun was just starting to light up the sky, creating a beautiful silhouette of the Blue Mosque, with Hagia Sophia sitting proudly opposite. The sky was all shades of orange, peach & blue and looked absolutely magical! The mosque is undergoing some repairs, so scaffolding on two of the minarets kind of ruined the photos a little bit – otherwise they really would have been perfect!

 

I had to open the terrace windows to get a good shot, and it was absolutely freezing, so quickly shut them back up. Before we knew it, the sky had turned yellow and orange, and the night sky just disappeared – but the view was still equally as magical while we sat eating our breakfast. Boiled eggs, tomato, cucumber, peppers, cheese, simit, bread, honey, jam, chips… My favourite things were these puff pastries, with icing and sprinkles – not very authentically Turkish but very yummy!

 

Mısır Çarşısı – Spice Market

We stepped off the tram in Eminönü one afternoon when Berkay’s eyes lit up at the sight of Mısır Çarşısı.  This historical and famous spice market is right next to Galata Bridge and the impressive ‘Yeni Cami’ / New Mosque (which is actually over 350 years old). It is the second largest undercover market in Istanbul, with the Grand Bazaar obviously being number one. 

Built in 1664, this market is a real joy for the senses! Piles of colourful spices stacked high, beautiful chunks of lokum / Turkish delight in every flavour, chocolates, dried fruits, nuts, herbs, teas… the list is endless! 

Mısır means Egypt in Turkish, and the market got this name from the trade routes the spices took to reach Istanbul before being exported to Europe. It has an oriental feel to it and reminded me a bit of Aladdin, which was coincidentally the name of one of the vendors stalls.
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Foodstuff isn’t the only thing for sale here, with vendors catering more and more for tourists you can find souvenirs, ceramics, jewellery, lamps, soaps, oils and all sorts! One shop we went into had real sea sponges for sale, which doubled up as lovely ceiling decorations! You can also find holistic remedies for almost everything, including natural ‘Turkish Viagra’, proudly advertised and sold.

We bought some Turkish delight which I took back home to share with my colleagues, and some chocolate covered fruit and nuts, which were all neatly vacuum packed, making them last longer and handy to put in my luggage!

I believe the market has been renovated in the last few years, with the archways reinforced and painted – it does look shiny and fresh, but I don’t think that this has taken away anything from the atmosphere.

The place just feels magical, beautiful arched ceilings with the newly painted patterns, the sound of the call to prayer echoing around from nearby mosques, bustling with locals and tourists shopping, and the smells, oh the smells! Cinnamon, mint, thyme.. every herb and spice you can think of just fills the air. Wonderful! 



What a strange few months!

It’s been a long time since I posted on here – just as I was getting into the swing of blogging again and writing all about our trip to Istanbul at the beginning of the year, corona virus arrived, changed all our moods and took over our lives! It just didn’t feel right, writing on here about all the things we did in Istanbul and sharing my photos of the busy city streets from January because they made me sad, it felt like a million years ago, not two months!

Like everyone else in the country, we spent nearly 3 months in complete lockdown – instead of doing the commute for 2 hours a day, I began working from home and the longest commute I made was from the bedroom to my living room. Berkay was furloughed, and going a little more insane with each day that passed. Other than when he was in the army, this was the longest period he’d not been working since he was about 14 years old. I adapted easily to the ‘stay-at-home’ life, but Berkay really struggled. Knowing that Turkey had banned all flights from the UK really affected him, he felt trapped here and just wanted to get back there.

We had a trip planned in April. We were going to fly out the day before and then check into Jiva on my birthday for nearly two weeks. My family were going to fly out as a surprise, they had organised it all with Berkay and I had no idea. I’ve spent years conniving my dad to give Jiva a go, despite him not liking the idea of all-inclusive at all, and when he had finally decided to go, nobody was allowed to leave the country! It was a big disappointment. We also had our 4th wedding anniversary in April too.

In the middle of June, Berkay heard there was a repatriation flight to Izmir and he decided to book his seat. At the time there were still no normal flights, so it was a big risk and we weren’t sure when he’d be able to get back home to England – though I’m not sure he particularly cared! Luckily, the day he flew, somewhat-normal flights resumed from London to Istanbul, and with internal flights back in service in Turkey, he was able to book one back home for the beginning of July.  Whilst he was in Turkey he spent time with his family in Beyagac (whilst following all the corona and mask-wearing rules!), saw Boncuk dog, visited Calis & Fethiye, and he even bought an apartment in Denizli. He plans for it to just be an investment for us, and hopes to rent it out until he can sell it. Here are some photos he took on his travels:

When Berkay came back to London, he had to do the two weeks of quarantine, this time he wasn’t even allowed out of the house for a walk, so that was a struggle too! As soon as his two weeks were up, he was back at work, so now he’s back to his usual commute and daily routine – keeping him busy.  A couple of days after Berkay came back, our Turkish sister-in-law gave birth to a baby girl – our first niece! I can’t believe Berkay missed her by just a few days. I still have posts to write about their big-fat-village wedding almost two years ago, too!

As things start go back to normal-ish, we hope we are able to holiday in Turkey as planned in September, 8 days in our favourite place – Jiva, and then a chance to meet our baby niece, fingers crossed. I’m excited to go and meet up with some friends there but I know that it won’t be like ‘normal’ so I’m a bit nervous.

In the meantime, I’ll start searching through my photos and dedicating some time to writing on here again – keep your eyes peeled.

 

Sent Antuan Kilisesi / St. Antoine Church

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Saint Antoine of Padua Church is the largest Catholic church in Istanbul. Construction began in 1906 and it was opened for worship in 1912. Istanbul had approximately 40,000 Italian members of the community at the time, and the church was built with them in mind.

Located along the bustling Istiklal street, it is still a popular church today, run by Italian priests, holding mass in Italian, Polish, English and Turkish. I think when people think of Istanbul they don’t necessarily think of beautiful churches, so if they stumble across it whilst walking down Istiklal street, it can be a bit of an unexpected hidden gem!
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The church has red brickwork on the outside and is beautifully designed. At the entrance there is a statue of Pope John XXIII who served there for 10 years, he was known to have a fondness of the city of Istanbul.  The ceiling inside is a shade of blue, making it feel particularly bright, and the sun shining through the many stained glass windows adds to the beauty. For a small charge (I think it was 1tl) you can buy a candle to light – we bought two and placed them together.
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We visited in the second week of January and they still had Christmas decorations up – inside we were greeted with huge wreaths, trees and tinsel and outside, a massive tree decorated with red and white poinsettias and a nativity scene. I love Christmas so I was so pleased I got to see it all beautifully decorated – it really was stunning!
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P.S click on any of the photos above to enlarge them and see them in all their glory!

Early morning at Galata Bridge..

The first morning we were in Istanbul we woke up early and headed out straight after breakfast – the sun was just coming up and it was freezing cold. We got the tram to Eminönü, just two stops from where we were staying in Sultanahmet. As soon as we got there we saw Galata Tower, dominating the skyline on the opposite side of the water, so we knew we were in the right place for what we we looking for – Galata Bridge/Galata Köprüsü.

The bridge crosses the ‘Golden horn’ stretch of water, from Eminönü to Karaköy, connecting the old town to the more modern, ‘hip’ area. You can cross it by foot, car or by tram, and there are 6 lanes so it’s quite wide!

The views from the bridge are amazing, especially early morning when we were there. The sun was still low in the sky and the cold, glowing, morning haze just made the view even more beautiful. Galata Tower can be seen on one side, while several mosques and minarets can be seen on the other, including the impressive Süleymaniye mosque.


The bridge is very popular with locals who love to fish- we were there around 9am and there must have already been hundreds of men wrapped up in coats, hats and scarves, lining both sides of the bridge, from one end to the other, fishing. My photos don’t really capture just how many fishing rods were hanging over the sides –  we also crossed the bridge early afternoon one day and there were triple the number of people there and triple the number of rods! Berkay was amazed by it all, and loved watching to see what they were catching – although they only seemed to be small fish! He loves fishing and would no doubt happily spend hours there joining in. Some people were selling their ‘catch of the day’ too.


The lower level of the bridge has dozens of cafes and restaurants selling all sorts of fish dishes – and probably most famously, Balik Ekmek / Fish sandwich (we tried this but I’ll save that for another post!)

If you’re visiting Istanbul I definitely recommend taking a little while to walk across the bridge and soak up the views and the buzz of the cars, trams, boats, seagulls and fishermen – I bet it would be lovely at sunset too!

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P.S click on any of the photos above to enlarge them and see them in all their glory! 🙂

Two weeks in Turkey …

This time 3 weeks ago we had just landed in Dalaman, with our whole 14 days holiday still ahead of us! This time last week, we were waiting back at Dalaman for our flight back home.

I’ve definitely had post-holiday blues this week, because we had the best time! We visited a lot of different places, old and new, and of course I took lots of photos to share in future blog posts.

We spent our first night in Köyceğiz before driving to Denizli, where we spent the day having a BBQ with family, amongst the trees. Then we spent a night in the village of Beyagac, visiting more family and of course we were reunited with our beautiful doggy Boncuk. We drove to Akyaka and spent a night there, as well as taking a boat trip down the river Azmak, then onto Dalyan where we spent a day at the beach, a night in a hotel and then a visit to the Caretta turtle hospital. After what felt like the longest 3 days ever, we drove back towards Fethiye, via Yeşil Vadi in Yaniklar. Nothing quite beats the feeling of driving over the hill and seeing Babadağ mountain in the distance! We drove briefly to Oludeniz, Hisaronu and Kayakoy before spending the night in Calis and then checking into my favourite place, Jiva Beach Resort – we were supposed to stay there for 6 nights but I just couldn’t tear myself away and we managed to take advantage of someone’s last minute cancellation and stay for another 2 days!

We landed back in London last Saturday morning, and by Tuesday night, less than 84 hours after stepping off the plane, we booked our flights to go back in October! That’s the best way to beat the post-holiday blues, right?

Here’s a tiny selection of photos I took – I just love all the colours ❤

 

 

 

Two versions of myself?

Standing at passport control at Gatwick airport having just stepped foot onto British soil once again after 10 wonderful days in Turkey, many thoughts were whirling around my head.

12 hours beforehand I was tucked up in bed with Berkay in the apartment in Calis that we had called ‘home’ for 10 days. It felt like suddenly I was ripped out from that life and plonked down back into my other one again.

It’s very difficult to explain, unless you’ve been in that situation, but I will do my best. I have researched other people’s blogs and articles on the internet and know that it’s normal to feel this torn, like there are two different versions of myself, existing in two different countries, and that the two versions of myself rarely, if ever, cross paths.

I have the life in Turkey, the one I go back to every few months for a week and immediately switch back in to the mindset of ‘less is more’. While I’m there I’m happy to live with bare minimum, wait for hours for the solar panels to heat up the water for a shower, wash up the plates without the help of a dishwasher and walk for miles up and down the market to find a fruit or vegetable a couple of kurus cheaper than another stall. I sit on the floor eating food and drinking cay with our Turkish friends, I eat Turkish food, I embrace the culture and way of life of the Turkish people and slip right back into that mentality easily. I have someone there to wake up with, eat my dinner with, walk hand in hand with, and fall to sleep with. Life is simpler. Here in the UK I’m alone. Although I have friends and live with family, I wake up alone, go to sleep alone and more often than not eat alone due to everyone’s busy schedules. I travel to work alone, walk at lunchtime alone, and my only contact with Berkay is through a facebook message or skype conversation every now and then. I walk into a supermarket and spend £1 on a packet of 6 tomatoes and think nothing of it, if I want something I buy it, and I succumb to the more materialistic way of life. I sit up the dinner table and eat ready meals, I put my plates in the dishwasher and take advatange of the fact I can take a shower at any time of day I want and there will be hot water. It’s a different life, and I am a undoubtedly different person.

My two lives rarely cross paths. Berkay hasn’t visited the UK for 2 years, my family haven’t seen him for 2 years either. Although they’re very supportive and acknowledge him, he’s not a part of my everyday life and to them I’m just ‘Dan’, I’m not ‘Dan and Berkay’ here. Christmas and special occasions are always when I notice it most, when his name is missing off the cards… In the UK I’m basically a single person, in Turkey we exist together.

When I knew Berkays army leaving date and I had booked my flight, I was worried about returning to Turkey, having not been there for nearly 10 months. I’d settled into the UK version of me, the version of me who has money and a job and a fairly solitary life. I was afraid of going back and worried if I’d still appreciate Fethiye as much as before. As soon as I got off the plane and into the car with Berkay it was like I’d never been away. We visited our friends and it was like I’d just seen them last week, not 10 months beforehand. When I arrived back in the UK I sat around a dinner table in a restaurant with my family and it was like a totally different version of myself, not quite 100% present, almost like an out of body experience from the outside looking in. When I got into bed the night I arrived back in the UK I had to seriously lay down and think if the previous 10 days had actually been ‘real life’ or a dream. Looking back at photos I thought to myself ‘was I really there just 24 hours ago, sat on that balcony with Berkay?’ because it felt so surreal once I was sat back in my room in England and existing as the ‘other Danni’ once again.

It’s entirely bizarre, and I’m aware that this post makes me sound slightly crazy – I’m not. I’m sure everyone experiences this on some level when they return from a holiday or travelling, but this is more than that. I had a life in both countries for a long time, and I still do, I spent most of my adult life living in Turkey. I have friends, family and a part of me in both countries. I guess that makes me lucky, although sometimes I really wish it wasn’t the case and that life were simpler. Although physically my body is only in one place at a time, my head is always split between the two countries, and it’s really mentally exhausting.

“You will never be completely at home again, because part of your heart always will be elsewhere. That is the price you pay for the richness of loving and knowing people in more than one place.” ― Miriam Adeney.

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Turkish goodies giveaway!

When I started my blog back in August 2013, 9 months ago, I never expected many people to read it, it was more of a personal thing for me to look back on, so when I reached 1,000 views I was amazed. Time went on, and it became more popular, more people read including some very loyal members who comment on every post, and then I got to 10,000  views… then 50,000….. then 100,000 and I really was flabbergasted.

I also created a Facebook page for my blog a few days ago, and have over 400 likes on that – which is also amazing! 🙂 Click HERE to go to the page and please like it if you haven’t already so that you won’t miss any blog updates!

Four months ago I done a little thank you giveaway to celebrate 70,000 views. Now I have almost double that, with 136,000+ so I think another giveaway is well overdue. It’s not much, just another little something to say THANK YOU to my readers. Although there will only be one winner, I’m so thankful to each and everyone of you for reading, liking, sharing and commenting on my posts – I really do feel like I’ve made some friends through doing this. The comments I get always make me smile, I read every single one. Just knowing people click onto my blog to read what little-old-me is saying is a weird feeling – but a good one. I feel like you’re all on a little journey with me, from when I first started and was living in Turkey, to the challenges and emotions I faced when moving back to England, the stress of visas and excitement when Berkay comes to visit me, the sadness when he goes home again, and now of course all the excitement of moving back to Turkey again for the summer. I hope to keep my blog posts up while I’m there, even if I don’t have internet access at home to enable me to post regularly, I’ll continue to write posts occasionally using a wifi spot elsewhere.  I hope you’ll all carry on reading and carry on going on this little journey with me!

Enough of the soppy stuff – now for the details of the giveaway! I was struggling to think of something to give, but I wanted it to be Turkey-related. I decided to take a trip to the Turkish Food Centre to buy some goodies to put together a little package. Here’s what it will include:

Apple Tea – good hot or left to cool with ice cubes in – yum!
Turkish delight – rose and lemon flavour. This is really, really good. I took a box into work yesterday and it was all eaten! It’s better than the normal pre-packed boxes.
 Cin biscuits – biscuits with orange jelly and chocolate sprinkles – a bit like Jaffa cakes.
Tutku biscuits – biscuits with chocolate cream in the middle.
Kombo biscuits – biscuits half dipped in chocolate and coconut- my favourites!
A sachet of Salep – just add hot milk, it’s a thick, milky drink with cinnamon. Mmmm.
A Turkish Eye keyring.
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To enter, all you have to do is comment on THIS blog post – it has to be on here directly, not on a facebook comment – and say what your favourite thing to eat in Turkey is – it can be anything, even an English breakfast 😉 I’ll choose the winner at random using a random number/name generator.  It’s only open for people in the UK/ROI I’m afraid, as I don’t know the customs rules for sending food to other countries. Winner will be chosen after 8pm on Monday 26th May and will be announced on here via a new post.

A little disclaimer, I paid for this with my own money, it was not given to me. I also earn no money at all from my blog, I do not get paid per view or receive any income from adverts, I blog entirely for fun, and just wanted to do a little giveaway to say a huge thanks for helping me reach over 136,000 views, and 400+ on Facebook! 

Thank you all so much once again, and good luck.

Moving back to Turkey!?

Since the last post I wrote, a lot has changed. I had big decisions to make over bank holiday weekend, and now that I’ve made up my mind and informed everyone in ‘real life’, I can share here! So here it is…..

I’m moving back to Turkey!

… temporarily at least.

Since Berkay came here in April I realised how unhappy I really am here – I don’t know what it was but something just snapped and changed my mind. The plan was to stay here and save until after Berkay has finished his army service, which he’s supposed to be doing in February next year, but now I’ve decided to go out there for the summer to spend as much time with him as possible before he goes. I’m hoping to go at the beginning of June til November.

Last Monday I told my manager I was leaving. I have been working on a 3 month temporary contract, and she told me they were going to extend it, but I told her my plans and explained as I didn’t want her to think I was just giving up my job for a 6 month holiday or that I was unreliable.  As it happens she said they were impressed with me and to keep in contact in case they have anything available when I come back – so here’s hoping!

There’s a lot to plan before I go – I haven’t even booked a flight yet but can’t because I’m waiting on my passport to arrive – my old one got ripped! We also need to find a house – Berkay has been living in the hotel and we can’t stay there so he’s been wandering the streets door to door to find one. He’s had no luck. Now it’s the summer season it’s proving really difficult to find a house that isn’t charging hundreds daily, we need one in Calis as that’s where Berkay will work, the other issue is that we need one that is furnished as we own nothing of our own,  and not forgetting we need somewhere that has a garden so that Boncuk can stay. Our previous apartment was 350tl a month which was amazing, but we’re willing to pay up to 500-600tl now, if anyone knows of anywhere in Calis?! It’s proving difficult.

I’m having mixed emotions about going back- of course I’m really looking forward to it, I miss life there, and I can’t wait to see Berkay and Boncuk everyday, but at the same time, I know it’s not going to be like before, because I won’t be living there for long, I’ll know the days are numbered, and I won’t be in OUR house as it’s been rented to someone else. A part of me just wants back those old days – but I guess those are gone forever. Going back is going to be so strange!

I’m not feeling as excited as I should about going back because of the comments people have been making. Apparently going back for 6 months means I am ‘ruining’ my life and subjecting myself to an ‘existence not a life’. It’s always the people you least expect to make those hurtful comments. Apparently it’s also common knowledge that I am going only ‘to avoid working for a living’ because I think the world owes me something – also not true. I’ve worked, I saved, I’m going with the money I have. I’m not asking for help financially from anyone.  Sure, I’ve given up my job which is a silly thing to do the way things are at the moment – but I didn’t do it just to get a holiday. It’s not going to be a holiday at all – I’m just going to spend time with Berkay, in the two and a half years I lived there I never lived like a tourist, and won’t, I don’t want to be judged as one of those girls who just goes for the season to party hard – that’s not me at all. When Berkay goes in the army, I won’t see him for a year unless he gets leave at a time when I’m able to visit for a week. The way I see it is if I don’t go now, I may spend that year regretting it and wishing I’d spent as much time with him as possible. Maybe in a year’s time I may regret going and giving up my job, but I have the rest of my life to do that, I only have one chance to go before he goes into the army, so that’s what I’m doing.

I’m not really sure why I feel like I have to defend my decision, because it is MY decision after all, I’ve made up my mind to go, I shall do my very best to enjoy every minute of my 6 months there and when I come back I shall have to face all the consequences of my decision, which I am absolutely fine with.

3-ish weeks to go!

3 years ago…

3 years ago yesterday, I had just made the biggest move of my life, and was now sitting in my new house, 2000 miles away from ‘home’.
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On the 26th April 2011 I moved to Turkey, to live with Berkay, despite only having actually spent a total of 2 full weeks with him. What a crazy move. Do I regret it? Hell no.

I can’t even remember the day I got on that plane, not a single second of it. Perhaps it was over-excitment, worry, fear? I couldn’t tell you, because I honestly can’t remember a thing.

When I moved there, none of my family had met Berkay. My mum flew out with me, so she could meet him and judge him for herself… over the week that she was there, he proved himself, issues arised which left mum’s partner-at-the-time  in hospital, and without Berkay to help, it would have been even more stressful for them. Although she was still worried about leaving me there, and the end of the week I think she felt much better knowing I was in safe hands with Berkay.
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^^.Photos taken during my first few weeks living in Turkey.^^
Moving to Turkey wasn’t as I had expected it to be – I knew Berkay would be working all day everyday, but I hoped that sometimes I’d be allowed to go to the hotel he worked at and sit there for a few hours – even just to be nosey at the guests and do some people-watching.  His boss didn’t let me – so I ended up home alone for most of the day. He worked from 7.30 in the morning til 10/11pm at night. He used to get 4 hour breaks in the day, so we’d go to a pool somewhere or eat lunch at home together. Thinking back on these days now makes me smile… even in just the 2.5 years that I was there things changed a lot.

I was at home alone most of the time, I talk to people who assume that because I was in a resort, I had a party lifestyle, met up with fellow expats or girls who were out there for the summer season, and spent all day on the beach or in bars. NOT TRUE. In the years that I was there, the most I spoke to fellow expats was when recognizing them from their Facebook photos as they were walking down the street and saying ‘Hi’. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not rude, and I don’t dislike these people, I’m just stupidly shy.

How did I deal with the loneliness? By buying a pet. I’d only been in Turkey for a couple of weeks when we went to the pet shop looking to buy a hamster, and Berkay persuaded me to get a rabbit instead. We named her Abbie. Sadly she died a year ago…we really loved her!
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When I first moved to Turkey those 3 years ago, I honestly don’t think I really missed anything about England. I’m not someone who gets homesick, which is weird, because normally I really hate change.  It took a lot of adjusting to living in the house – I’d never lived alone before and our house wasn’t a luxury holiday apartment, no central heating, air con, double-glazing windows or constant running hot water like I was used to at home! Of course I missed my friends and family, but I had 24/7 access to the internet, so was always able to contact them.
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This is my favourite photo from my first few weeks in Turkey. I’ve mentioned it before. It was taken on a trip to Oludeniz, it’s like I’m looking out to sea, miles away from home. You really feel small when you stand beside the big, blue ocean. The world is a big old place, and there I was, 18 years old and exploring another part of it.

Although I’m no longer living there, (actually I moved back to England exactly 7 months ago today) the two and a half years I spent in Turkey were the best of my life so far – somehow I feel a stronger connection to there than I do to England. Some people can’t understand why I decided to move there in the first place, some don’t understand why I want to go back, others belittle the experience and assume it was easy because I was living in the sun and not working.

Whatever anyone thinks, I’m pretty proud of myself for getting on that plane 3 years ago, it was the best decision of my life so far, I don’t think I’d still be with Berkay today if I hadn’t.

click HERE to read a previous blog about the house I was living in, and HERE to read about how life in Turkey wasn’t just one big holiday.