FunkTravels Eski Foca

EXPAT: Read our interview with ExpatArrivals

Our 1 year mark is quickly approaching! We are somewhat surprised at how quickly it flew by. While my main goals are connecting with our neighbours and community and language learning, I have loved getting to know other expats as well.  Part of our move over here was researching information about expat life via several expat website, one of them being ExpatArrivals.

Websites like ExpatArrivals help others gain knowledge about the community, cost of living, and even neighbourhoods. Some of the best advice is from first hand experience.

Being an expat in another country means you have a unique perspective. As we have transitioned to Izmir, I have enjoyed hearing other expat stories and how they moved from their native countries. Everyone has a story and no two are the same. You, too, have asked us questions about our expat lives, and in our FunkTravels Podcast Episode032 and Episode033 we answered most of them!

Recently, I shared via an interview at ExpatArrivals website to help others potential expats moving to Turkey in the future. The interview covers questions from hospitals, schooling, trailing spouses, and kids. If you have wondered about anything of these, then continue reading about here…



expatarrivals Interview FunkTravels


What question did you like? Did you learn anything new?


CULTURE: Our first Turkish wedding part 2 ‘Gelin Alma’ or Fetching of the Bride

People in America think weddings are a lot of work, and probably that their way is the best way to get married. Yes, yes, I will agree that there is a lot of planning for the American wedding, but it’s only one event!  But here in Turkey the weddings have way more too them.  I mean, I am writing a 3 part series about our first Turkish wedding!

I wrote about how the Turkish wedding starts with the Kına Gecesi or Henna night. But now I will move on the the actual day of the wedding. The morning of the wedding day, we met the groom for a Turkish wedding tradition that I had not heard about before, the Gelin Alma or Fetching of the Bride.

The morning of the wedding the groom goes to receive his bride from her family so that they can start preparing for the wedding. This is mostly for family and close friends. We were honored to be invited. For this particular ‘Gelin Alma,’ the groom’s family hired a drummer and, along with his band, he played music outside the groom’s house. After a while, we all packed up in the car and caravanned over to the bride’s house, honking horns and having our emergency lights on. Upon arriving, the dancing  started up again to let her family know we have arrived (because the car horns didn’t do enough…).

Eventually, the groom and his immediate family (mom, dad, and sister) went to get his bride. It tends to be a very emotional moment for the bride’s family, and it was, of course, true for this bride and her family as well. For many Turkish women, they do not move out of their family home until they are married.  To make the moment lighter, the brother of the bride will joke with the groom about why he is here and pretend to not let him into the house! But eventually the groom gets his bride. The bride’s brother also places a red ribbon around his sister waist as a symbol of the ‘Maidenhood belt’ and bride.


Everyone cheered as the groom exited the building with his bride (still crying!) and the dancing started up again (yes, on the street in the middle of a neighborhood). The bride’s tears were ones of sadness but also happiness! It made me tear up as well! I remember how excited I was to marry Jason, but also knowing it could be difficult too!

After sufficient celebration, no more tears are seen and only happiness is left. Everyone is ready for the wedding celebration! The groom gathers his bride’s items for the day and their honeymoon and are now ready to prepare for the wedding.

I LOVED this tradition. It was such a beautiful way to start off the day of celebration! It allows for a time of grieving, of leaving your childhood home and family, and a time to start the celebration and excitement of marrying your groom! In America, there is a tradition (not always followed now) that the bride and groom will not see each other until they are fully ‘wedding’ ready. Everyone thinks that first sight is the most important. But I loved when the groom goes to take his bride to prepare for their wedding together.

Don’t forget to read Part 1 of the wedding series! For a sneak peek into the rest of the wedding, listen to Episode034: When you dance the night away!

For Turkish readers:

Have you attended this event before?

Did you have a ‘Gelin Alma’ at your wedding?

Non-Turkish readers:

What do you think about this tradition?

What traditions have you observed at a wedding of another culture?



CULTURE: Our first Turkish wedding part 1 ‘Kına Gecesi’ or Henna Night

Have you seen the movie My Big Fat Greek Wedding? The family is slightly crazy and everyone has an opinion about how and what should be done for a wedding. Turks and Greeks are very different, I know, but here in Izmir, they share some of the same history. So naturally, I thought there could be some characteristics matching the quirkiness of that movie!

This month we went to our first Turkish wedding.  While the huge family part was there, I didn’t experience any of the craziness I thought our first wedding would entail. All the details were, for the most part, well planned and went off without a hitch (except forgetting the bride’s going away dress I think)….

It was sweet and beautiful, and everyone had a great time!

There are 3 major parts to the Turkish wedding, 5 parts if you want to count the marriage agreement and the engagement ceremony. Our friends were already engaged when we met them. Therefore, we will start our wedding series with the Kına Gecesi or as I say in English, the Henna Night.

Traditionally, this event takes place the night before the wedding and was only for the ladies, a bachelorette party per say… but with your whole family (not American style). This ceremony is a time to celebrate the bride and saying goodbye to her family. During this time she is the center of her family, and she moves on to be the wife of her groom and becomes the center of her groom’s family. The groom attends for a short time in the middle when the henna is placed on her hands (hence the henna night).

However, modern times call for modern changes. Our friends’ Kına Gecesi had a mixed crowd (guys and gals, young and old). I’m sure there are different reasons for each family as to how they perform the ceremony and what everything means.

Shortly after we arrived to the hotel where the party was taking place, the bride and groom were announced together and the dancing started! It was a lively, joyful scene that continued for an hour or so. Guests came and went from the dance floor, and so did we.

About halfway through the evening, the bride changed from her modern red dress into a traditional Ottoman style red dress for the ceremony. The bride and her ladies (all adorned with a scarf or head piece and candles) come out and danced for the groom. The henna is brought by a lady in the groom’s family (one whose parents have not been separated) and presented in a silver dish surrounded by candles. The lady will place the henna on the both the bride’s hand along with a coin, fold her hands closed, and wrap them in red decorative bags. It is known as the blessing of happiness or “basi bütün” (not a literal translation). Are you curious about why henna was used in the ceremony?  Henna’s red color symbolizes sacrifice and a readiness to give your life and blood for God (or one another in this instant).  Other guests can place henna on their hands as well if they want, which I was told is a way for others to remember to pray for the couple’s marriage. The bride will then dance with her groom and others will follow suit.


The party went well into the night which is very typical of any Turkish gathering. Dancing, singing, and chatting are 3 great pastimes in Turkey and a part of any good party. It was a great party and a fun way to start off the wedding festivities!

For a sneak peek into the rest of the wedding, listen in to Episode034: When you dance the night away!

For Turkish readers:

Have you attended this event before?

Did you have a ‘Kına Gecesi’ at your wedding?

Non-Turkish readers:

What do you think about this tradition?

What traditions have you observed at a wedding of another culture?


TURKEY: Alaçatı, beauty through a crowded view

Our trip to the Urla was a perfect day outing. The summer season and crowds are starting to flow into the more coastal areas. So, knowing this, we headed to the Urla Artichoke Festival super early to beat the crowds. After a few hours of exploring all the festival had to offer and still time left in the day, we decided to pop over to popular, colorful little town of Alaçatı.

Funny enough, Alaçatı use to be just a passerby town for foreigners as they made their way to the more attractive Çesme beaches. Over time, this quiet little town with its’ crystal clear beaches has come to grow in popularity – with boths foreigners and Turks alike. Ironically enough, most people don’t come here for the beautiful beaches, but they spend most of their time getting lost in the town center a couple of kilometers inland. As well, every spring the town host the Alaçatı Herb Festival, and tour buses of people are brought in (even from Istanbul!) to experience this.

Once a Greek town, the Aegean city of Alaçatı is situated on the western coast of Turkey south of Izmir. Before the Balkan wars, vineyards use to be the popular income, but after the “Greece/Turkey exchange agreement” in 1923 when the Greeks and Turks move back to their ‘homelands’, tobacco and livestock took its turn. Over time the tobacco industry died out in the area just in time for windsurfing to start becoming popular in the 1990s.

The town is know as the ‘home of wind god’ and is a perfect location for windmills and its windsurfing. The town itself showcases unique architecture made of the local Alaçatı stone and colorfully painted, flowering shops and restaurants are the major appeal for tourist and photographers alike. The historic old town is full of narrow winding streets which are mostly pedestrians only, even though a few cars and mopeds tend make their way through.

Our experience of Alçatı was enchanting as well but the crowds made the city seem less magical (it always does that to a place, right?). After meandering the local handicraft shops and boutique, we found ourselves at a little shaded patio of the Julio’s cafe where we enjoy a basket of fries and 2 turkish coffee. In Turkey, there is no pressure to move on from a restaurant after you finish your order. So we enjoyed the time to just rest and chat about the area. Just across from the cafe is an old church converted into a mosque. While it doesn’t seem like much from the outside, behind the large curtained wall is a pristine, beautifully ornate Greek Orthodox altar complete with intact pictures of holy saints. It is VERY rare that mosque keep pieces of old churches like this! Definitely check it out if you go.

On our way out of town, we drove through the area of town near the water. Finding a quick, perfect parking spot, we hopped out to enjoy a peek of the sea at Küçük Plaj or small beach. We had heard the water was beautiful, but we truly could not get over how transparent the crystal blue waters were. Even though it the water was a little chilly, the hot day was a great balance for those enjoying an afternoon sunbathing by the sea. For us, it was a perfect sight to finish our outing for the day!

If you would like to travel here, I have a few tips for you:

  • Rent a car for a day or weekend: There are buses that go out to this area, but if you are like us and live on the north side of Izmir, it is worth your time to travel by car!
  • If you are living locally, come during the off-season: Izmir is such a sunny state. Even though the weather will be chilly, the sun still gives you the beauty of the city like it looks in the summer.
  • Stay a night or two in one of the many cozy hotels:You can only eat so much in a day. We didn’t even try any of the restaurants in our short time there. Come and enjoy a few local dining options.
  • During the summer, come during the week if possible: If you only come for the day, start early!  Spending a couple of nights during the week will give you a more enjoyable time exploring everything this town has to offer.
  • Enjoy the beach: Our time was just too short, but if we had come earlier in the day, we would have enjoyed a quick dip in the sea like everyone else there!

Hope you also travel to Alaçatı in the future! Iyi yolculuklar! Good travels!

For Turkey readers:

Have you traveled to Alaçatı before? What did you enjoy about the area? What suggestions do you have for our next trip out there?

For non-Turkey readers:

What do you think of this cute little town? Is it what you thought Turkey to look like? Does it reminds you  another place you have visited before?



EVENTS: Urla Artichoke ‘Enginar’ Festival

In the states, chips and dip are a BIG deal… Chips and ANY type of dip are a big deal. Salsa, guacamole, cheese dip, french onion dip, veggie dips (both sweet and savory)…  Needless to say, we love our dips.

One of my favorite dips was artichoke and spinach dip and ironically enough, for a long time I couldn’t tell you what an artichoke even looked like. But if you mix veggies with the right amount of sour cream and cheese (and bake it) and you have me sold!  Outside of that dip and occasionally buying the cans artichokes for my salad toppings, I have never purchased an actual real uncut artichoke. And here in Turkey, they prepare and cook artichoke much differently.

Starting in April in Izmir, artichoke (enginar in Turkish) season is in full swing and starts to dwindle around the end of May. The markets and streets have vendors selling mountains of them. You can buy/sell them whole or ‘cleaned’, some with just the bottom part of the veggie and others with both bottom and the leaves.

A small nearby city, Urla, held its 3rd Artichoke Festival and yearly the masses come out for the 3 day event. So if you want to go, go early in the day because by 1 pm it is crowded. This quaint little town center is completely transformed into a sea of tents. The main area near the stage is mostly food while other nearby parking lots are taken over by local small businesses selling handmade goods.

If you aren’t sure about artichokes, this is the perfect place to go. Every vendor has found some new way to prepare them… savory, sweet, sushi (ok, i’m not actually sure they put it in the sushi), sandwiches, stuffed, casserole style, quesadilla style, dessert, and even a smoothie. You also have the option to buy other byproducts of artichokes like hand creams as well! While you wander around trying to decide what to eat and buy, you can watch vendors cleaning and selling artichokes behind their stands.

If you get tired of walking, stop and just enjoy the general cheerful ambience of the day. The festival has a list of programs throughout the 3 days such as cooking competition, classes, and children’s activities. They all can be enjoyed from the center of town, usually from the public stage. Everyone is in high spirits, locals sharing their hometown, and foreigners trying something new. And since the weather was perfect the day we went, everyone was even more joyful than usually.

Questions for our readers:

Do you like artichoke? How do you prepare it?

Would you go to an artichoke festival? What would you like to see at a festival like this?