Berkay’s family have been asking us to visit them for a long time and it was just impossible during the summer, however, now that it’s winter and life is moving by at a slower pace, we had the chance to make the trip. His step-mum is quite ill and recovering from an operation so we were hoping our visit would cheer her up a little.
They live in a town called Beyağaç in the Denizli province, it’s a town 1.5-2 hours away from the city centre. Instead of travelling on the bus from Fethiye for 6 hours, we rented a car for a relatively cheap amount (150tl for 3 days) and made the journey in just 4 hours instead, even with the cost of running it taken into consideration, it doesn’t work out much more expensive than the bus tickets, that’s the plus side of having a car that runs on LPG instead of petrol.
We left Fethiye at 1.45 pm on Friday and arrived at the village at around 6.15 pm. I was really looking forward to the drive because I knew it would be beautiful and I wasn’t disappointed, we had amazing views of the mountains and it was a relatively easy journey with nice roads. That’s the beauty of Turkey, you can reach almost any city just by following a single road. When in one place you can see sign posts pointing in all directions, directing you to other cities hundreds of miles away. Imagine being in London and seeing a sign post for ‘Manchester’ – it would be weird, but it’s normal here. So simple.
As we were driving further inland, we began to feel a bit chilly. When we reached a town near Tavas and stopped to fill up on gas, we realised just how cold it was. Freezing. We had to turn the car heater on to defrost ourselves.
Eventually we reached the town of Beyağaç, it’s actually a lot larger than I remember, with a population of 7000 people. Driving through the main town centre I saw a few apartment blocks, a post office, police station, school etc.. and of course the customary Ataturk statue (there’s one of these in every single town in Turkey). It’s very much a working farming town – most of the businesses deal with fixing tractors, delivering and supplying coal, animal food etc..
Berkay’s family live a 5-10 minute car drive from the main town centre, up on a hill surrounded by fields and beautiful scenery. They have wooden shacks behind their house full of animals, sheep, goats, chickens and cows. They use the cows for their milk, eggs and meat. They even make butter from the cow’s milk. Almost every fruit or vegetable they eat they have grown themselves. Everything there is very simple, back to basics.
We went inside and were greeted by his step-mum (from now on I’ll just call her his mum, as he has never met his birth mum), aunt and brother. All gave me a big hug and kisses both sides of my cheeks, as is the norm here in Turkey! ‘Who is that?’ I said to Berkay referring to the neighbours sitting in the living room that also joined in the hugging, ‘no idea’ he said… You have got to love their friendliness! After the welcome greetings were over, I felt a little more relaxed, I’m always nervous about that first ‘hello’ – mainly because I always end up in a panic about the polite way to do it. It’s normal here when greeting someone significantly older than yourself, to kiss their hand and then raise it to touch your forehead. It’s polite and shows that you respect your elders. The only person who really expects this in Berkay’s family is his father (and elderly neighbours etc). As it happened, his father arrived later than us so I had time to prepare for ‘the hand kiss’, I seriously practiced with myself first…
After his father arrived it was time for dinner. Berkay’s aunt is the main carer of the house, she goes every day and cooks, cleans etc, mainly because Berkays mum is ill, but also because her husband died a few years ago and her daughter has her own husband and house to take care of. I think she enjoys going to other people’s houses to spend her time being useful and so that she’s not so lonely.
The village is very traditional, the women do not work, they just stay home, cook, clean and look after the children and animals. I suppose it’s like going back in time 50 odd years in the UK , when housewives were the norm, and not frowned upon like they are today (in my experience, stay at home mums etc are often considered ‘lazy’). If I were to walk around the town centre, I would stick out like a sore thumb and it would be very apparent that I’m not from the area, not because I’m a foreigner, but because I’m a woman. There are just no women wandering around there, ever.
Anyway, the dinner was lovely. We had rice, chicken (fresh from the garden), an aubergine dish, yogurt and some fresh crusty bread. It was served in the traditional way here, in big metal bowls on a large tray on a blanket on the floor. The whole family sits on the floor to eat and shares food from the same bowl/plate, although everyone has their own fork/spoon. I really like this way of eating actually, it used to be a strange concept but now we do it so often it’s normal. It works out well if you don’t like a certain food too, instead of being served a plate of something and feeling under pressure to eat it, you can avoid it and take spoons of something you do like instead, they’ll never even notice! I avoided the yogurt, as I’ve still not quite grasped the concept of having yogurt served with dinner, but very much enjoyed the aubergine as I have become addicted to that since living in Turkey this time!
After dinner, everyone sat down with a glass of Cay and had a gossip, I have no idea what they were saying as I find it really difficult to understand a word. When in Fethiye, I can understand a lot, but there in the village it was different, I don’t know if it’s the dialect or if they just speak at super speed, but I can’t keep up with it. I just sat taking the atmosphere all in instead.
We were then served another large tray of fruit, watermelon, oranges, grapes, apples etc, sunflower seeds, nuts and cake. I didn’t want any but it’s rude to say no so I ended up eating a whole bowl of sunflower seeds, as you do, it’s impossible to eat just one!
We were really tired after the day of travelling so as soon as the neighbours went home at 10pm we headed to bed. Berkay’s mum wouldn’t let us sleep on the sofas in the living room or the cushions in the other bedroom (there’s only one bed in the house)- she made us take her bed instead, even though she’s sick. Bless her. These people might not have much themselves, but they are very welcoming and would give you anything.
Part 2 of our village trip coming soon!