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…

 

 

Akyaka – Beautiful scenery, authentic houses & crystal clear sea..

 
Whenever we visit Turkey we end up doing the same things and going to the same places, so this year we fancied a bit of a change and did a few days exploring. After spending a day in Denizli and the village, we left in the early afternoon and drove a couple of hours to Akyaka.

The road down to Akyaka is very winding and bendy, and has a place you can pull over and take photos of the view – we stopped there when we were passing by last September and it looked really pretty so that’s what made us chose there to visit!

By the time we arrived it was late afternoon and we were really tired, hot and bothered so we found our hotel and freshened up before going out for dinner.
  
We went to the first restaurant we came across, which was more of a lokanta, selling traditional Turkish dishes which are cooked in bulk and then you can chose which you want. There were a lot of those type of small restaurants around, advertising home cooked food – Berkay chose it expecting it to be cheap, but it wasn’t really! He had Etli Nohut (beef and chickpea stew) and rice, and I had Karniyarik (aubergine stuffed with mince) and rice. We also had künefe to share for dessert, yummy!
 
After dinner we went for a walk, totally clueless about where we were actually going or where anything was! We came across a river and walked across the bridge to the other side and followed the little marina around and then walked back again. I’d heard about the boat trips down the river Azmak and when we were crossing the bridge we saw one returning so we went to ask about it and ended up on one 2 minutes later! I will write another post about that as I have lots of photos to share.
 
When we got back from the 20 minute boat ride, the sun was close to setting so we followed the path from the river towards the main marina where the big boats were docked. Whilst walking along the promenade we came across lots of little stalls selling handmade goods and souvenirs like jewellery, painted pebbles, dream-catchers, fridge magnets etc – they were really pretty.  We also came across a ‘phone box’ in the shape of a seagull, which I just had to get a photo with, I loved its quirkiness!
 
All the wandering around we had done and we hadn’t yet found the beach… until we turned the corner and finally reached it, just in time for sunset. It was really beautiful small beach, the shallow waves lapping on the sand, the red glow on the horizon and the mountains framing the view perfectly.
 
The beach in Turkey wouldn’t be the beach without some street food vendors selling Midye (stuffed mussels) and salted corn on the cob, so we just had to get some before heading back to our room for the night.
 
The next morning we went for a early morning walk before breakfast, we went straight to the beach and saw it in all it’s glory – blue sky, palm trees, calm sea and crystal clear water. The best thing about the beach is the fact the sea is so shallow, you can walk really far out and it only be up to your knees, perfect for children paddling. The water was so clear you could see the pattern of the sand on the floor, and little fish swimming around. I wish we had a little more time to spend there, so we could have swam properly!
  
After our walk we went back to our hotel’s restaurant for breakfast (it was a separate building a few feet down the road, owned by the same people). There was a bit of an issue getting it, since the staff didn’t turn up to open it until after 10.15am, and that was only because we asked someone to ring them and wake them up! But when we finally did get it it was a nice, traditional Turkish breakfast with eggs, honey, jam, tomato, cucumber, cheeses, olives and bread.

We stayed in the Ala Butik Hotel, a small boutique hotel. It didn’t have a pool but the rooms were lovely, modern and clean and it was in a perfect location a few minutes walk away from the marina, but honestly the staff weren’t very friendly or helpful at all (even before the breakfast incident!) I don’t think either of the receptionists smiled once which made us feel more of a nuisance to them than a welcome guest!

Something we loved about Akyaka was the fact that the houses, hotels and buildings were all the same design, white buildings with carved brown wooden roofs, windows and balconies – they looked really impressive and pretty.

Unfortunately, like most places, too much tourism is having an impact on Akyaka. In the 1970’s it was a small fishing village, but it’s becoming more popular and struggling since it’s not built for so many people. Before we went, I was warned to avoid it on a Sunday, since that’s the day when a lot of Turkish people have their day off and flock to the beach for a free day out, often leaving lots of rubbish behind. We arrived on the Sunday afternoon and it was really, really busy, with cars everywhere, parked in really random places, leaving us struggling to find a spot anywhere near our hotel. The streets are fairly narrow too, with lots of the restaurants and bars having tables and chairs along the paths, leaving us no choice but to walk in the road and having to dodge cars here there and everywhere! Thankfully, by Monday the atmosphere was a lot more relaxed with a lot less people and it was much more enjoyable, so I would stick to the advice one of my blog readers gave me and definitely avoid Akyaka on a Sunday! We also noticed the restaurants and shops were more expensive there, I think they rely a lot on organised tours and day trippers for their income, so raise the prices a bit to reflect that.
 
I definitely want to visit Akyaka again as we loved it, especially Berkay, he loved it so much he looked to see how much it would cost to buy land there, unfortunately for him it was in the millions of lira! It’s definitely worth a visit, especially for the beach and the boat trip down the river, I’ll share some photos of that in my next post.

If you’re looking to visit Akyaka yourself, it’s around 2 hours drive from Fethiye, or 30 minutes from Marmaris and the Mugla city centre.

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 ❤

 

 

 

Bozüyük – Güzelköy – a famous village?

 
Bozüyük is a small village in Muğla with a population of just a few hundred people.

We visited for a few hours on the way back from Denizli to Fethiye last September on a really hot day.

It’s a traditional village with old houses, farms, tractors, animals, little shops, a cafe and teahouses with men outside playing backgammon.

It’s also home to the beautiful Pınarbaşı restaurant, built in a natural park which has an 800 year old tree in it’s grounds, providing much needed shade for customers.
 
Over recent years, Bozüyük has become a bit of a hotspot for local tourists, thanks to a few popular Turkish tv series being filmed there such as ‘Baba Ocağı’ and ‘Düriye’nin Güğümleri’. One of the most well known TV series filmed there is called ‘Güzel Köylü. It’s popularity has had such an effect that after filming finished, the village actually renamed itself  ‘Güzelköy’, after the series, so it now has two names!
 
Although the village has changed a lot, it’s new-found fame has been welcomed by a lot of the locals, with a lot of it’s houses being restored and renovated, and local craftsmen finding new job opportunities. Apparently, thousands of local and foreign tourists have visited, there are even tours that run to the village, and people are able to pick up souvenirs from the little gift shops, fridge magnets displaying the name ‘Güzelköy’ seem to be popular!

All we came away with was a handmade, wooden pestle and mortar from one of the little shops, but it was interesting to see the village and even more interesting to see Berkay acting like a tourist, driving around the streets trying to find houses he recognised from the tv show, walking through the town centre telling me to take photos of the post office and other things he recognised,  and stopping the car halfway down the road so that he could take an excited selfie with the village signs!
 
 
If you’re passing it’s worth a visit. If you’ve never seen the TV series, like me, we might not appreciate the full glory of the place, but it’s an interesting place to visit and the Pınarbaşı restaurant is beautiful!
 

 

Village breakfast at Pınarbaşı restaurant – Bozüyük

On our way back from Denizli to Fethiye last year, Berkay said he really wanted to take a detour and visit the village of Güzelköy / Bozüyük – while there we stopped at a well known restaurant called ‘Pınarbaşı’ for some late brunch!
 
 
Apparently the restaurant has been featured in a few Turkish tv shows filmed in the local village, so it’s quite popular! Berkay wanted to try their lunch menu, but they hadn’t started serving it at the time we got there, so we had to settle for a traditional village breakfast instead, which was actually just what we needed after a couple of hours of driving.

The food was really good, a typical Turkish ‘köy kahvaltısı’ – cheese, olives, tomato & cucumber, peppers, walnuts, eggs and sucuk, jams and spreads, honey & kaymak, fresh bread and a big pot of çay. Really yummy! We could have sat there for ages just eating and enjoying the surroundings.
  
The best part for me wasn’t actually the food, it was the location. There were trees and gardens all around, along with natural streams of water. We chose a table that was actually sat in the water. They had normal tables and an inside restaurant area, and then little bridges and platforms over the streams leading to tables sat in it. It was mid-September and really warm so it was nice to sit in the shade of the trees with our feet in the cold water, although we were the only ones who chose to do that, I bet it’s really popular in the height of summer. I love the fact they had ducks swimming around the tables and your feet, they definitely benefited from some of our leftover food too! They were so cute.
   
There’s also an ancient 800 year old tree, which is really beautiful to look at! Apparently, in the absence of modern medicine, it used to be used for its healing powers, with ointments and antidotes made from it’s roots. It’s also thought to have granted wishes to those passing through! The tree started to rot and has been protected for the last 20 years with the hope of keeping it alive in it’s full glory. It’s really interesting how the shapes have formed, it’s gigantic!
 
From what I can remember, the breakfast was a bit more expensive than normal, but I would go back and visit again because it was a really relaxing place and Berkay still wants to try their main menu! It’s around 2 hours from Calis/Fethiye, past Mugla city centre towards Aydin, so an ideal stop-off point if you’re on a long journey along that road – definitely worth a visit!
 

 

A Boncuk update..

 
It’s hard to believe that we’re already in April, a quarter of the way through the year! It’s really bad that this is only my 5th blog post of the year, but I find myself really struggling with things to write, despite having hundreds of photos and things to share, I just struggle to find the motivation or the words! Something people always ask me about, is Boncuk. I haven’t really had an update on her for a while, partly because WW3 seems to have broken out between Berkay’s family, which has left us not even sure if we’ll be visiting them when we go out there in June… but the argument between Berkay’s brothers seems to have worked in my favour as they seem to be in competition with each other to send me photos of Boncuk and outdo each other! Last Sunday, one of them sent me some photos of her, I posted a few on Facebook and the next day the other brother sent me some, for the first time since Christmas… not a coincidence I think, but no complaints from me hehe!
 
Isn’t she still just the cutest thing? She’s always had those gorgeous puppy dog eyes, how can anyone resist that little face? She’s so expressive! She can look happy and sad and knows how to use her cuteness to get what she wants, even Berkay’s dad was persuaded into giving up his last biscuit to her as she sat there staring at him with those eyes, she didn’t even have to beg. Boncuk still lives at Berkay’s family’s house/farm in the village, although we did think we might have to move her depending on what happens within the family, but I hope not as I have no idea where else she could go. One of Berkay’s brothers has recently moved back to the village from Fethiye, and has fallen in love with Boncuk as well, he said she loves cuddles and as soon as he sits down she runs over to climb onto his lap, bless her.  She always enjoys getting a little fuss and chin tickle from them, and as you can see from the photos, she likes to reward them with kisses!

I’m so glad to see she’s still a happy little woofer!

 

Visiting a Tobacco farm in Kale, Denizli

Since meeting Berkay, I’ve had opportunity to experience a lot of different things in Turkey, things a normal tourist probably wouldn’t. Whilst this can sometimes be frustrating, when I just want to sit on a lounger by the pool and relax, these opportunities have allowed me to see more of the ‘real Turkey’.

One such opportunity presented itself back in September. On the way back from the village in Beyagac, Denilzi, we went through a rural area called Kale, near Tavas. Kale is
famous for growing tobacco, and the people we went to visit have their own tobacco farm.

The people who own the farm land are related to Berkay’s step mum. The family spend a few weeks planting the crops in spring and then around 3 months later they begin the mammoth task of harvesting, drying and curing the tobacco leaves. To do this, the whole family leaves their house in the city behind, and moves onto the farm land for ease, they stay living there for around 5 months of the year.
 
On the day we visited, it was absolutely boiling, around 36oc, so getting out of the car air conditioning and sitting in the middle of a hot, dusty field was the last thing I wanted to do, but, that’s exactly what we did!

I was pleasantly surprised just how cool it was inside their little makeshift home, and it was so clever and resourceful. They had old tree branches and pieces of wood as beams, keeping the roof up. The roof had layers of cardboard boxes and plastic sheets and plastic ‘walls’. The floor was covered in different rugs, there were even seats and cushions which were sturdy enough to hold a lot of weight! It had a separate area as a ‘kitchen’ with basic supplies of staple foods and oil etc, and they had made a little ‘oven’ from bricks and coals. They grow some of their own vegetables as well as the tobacco, and there were beautiful flowers growing around the tent area too. It really was impressive and so clever. They also had a small outside cubicle curtained area further along the farm which is used as a ‘toilet’, and another as a ‘shower’ – I wasn’t brave enough to investigate these further!
  
The family consists of two parents and 6 children, but the older two sons have jobs outside the farm, so only the parents, their two teenage daughters and their two youngest children stay here for the full 5 months. I assume they all sleep on the floor together, which isn’t unusual in Turkey anyway. Their youngest daughter is 3 years old and all I could think is how boring it must be for her to be there for months on end with little or no toys, it’s certainly a different life than we’re used to, but when that’s all she’s known I guess she is used to it.

They harvest the tobacco leaves and impale them on metal sticks and then leave them to dry under the sun, of which there is plenty of! They also grow peppers and string these together and dry them too – they double up as good decorations around the ‘house’!
 
Despite being in the middle of nowhere, they were still prepared for guests. As soon as we arrived one of the daughters went to prepare Turkish coffee, and the other brought out a table cloth for the floor, along with a tray and bowls full of nuts and biscuits, followed by some homegrown melon! If there’s one thing you can say about Turkish people, it’s that they are very hospitable!

The family make a lot of money from their tobacco crop, a few hundred thousand lira each year, but it is undeniably a lot of hard work and I certainly couldn’t live like they do, but it’s so interesting to visit and see a bit more of ‘real rural Turkey’ and appreciate just how resourceful they are, a simple life with the bare necessities, but always ready with a cup of tea or coffee and a biscuit for visitors!
 

30 DAYS, 30 DISHES – DAY 26: 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 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!

30 DAYS, 30 DISHES – DAY 23: CHIPS FOR BREAKFAST?


Ok, so not really a dish, but I thought it was interesting to write about. There’s an assumption that chips are only served with breakfast in holiday resorts in Turkey to please tourists, but that’s not true! Berkay’s family often serve up chips for breakfast, but usually cold, either leftovers from the night before, or freshly cooked. They even have them smothered in garlic yogurt with grilled peppers. Above is a photo of a breakfast we had in the village  – boiled eggs, tomatoes, grilled peppers, chips, olives, sucuk and aubergine!

30 DAYS, 30 DISHES – DAY 11: Sucuklu Yumurta


Sucuk & egg is one of my favourite weekend breakfasts.

Sucuk is a spicy Turkish sausage, made from beef or lamb. It is mixed with garlic, cumin and other spices/seasonings then left to dry for weeks before selling.
It is sliced then fried in oil for a few minutes, then eggs are cracked and mixed into the mixture, or left whole. It is quite spicy and has a strong flavour, so I always chop up some fresh tomatoes and drizzle them with olive oil and eat them along side it, with some fresh crusty bread of course!

It’s often served as part of a big Köy Kahvaltısı (village breakfast).

The only bad thing is how strong it smells – when Berkay cooks it I can smell it for hours afterwards! I love the fancy pans it’s sometimes presented in.