While the Mediterranean resort town of Marmaris is an ideal holiday destination for English tourists due to the city’s combination of entertainment, accommodation and sea, all intertwined in the city, it is also home to many foreigners. Jenny Orhan, who now describes herself as Turkish, is just one of them.
With its five-star accommodation facilities and natural beauty, the province of Türkiye in southwest Muğla has welcomed millions of foreign visitors every year, especially from the UK, over the past 10 years and more. While some have become year-round regulars, others have chosen to settle in the tourist districts of Muğla in Bodrum, Marmaris, Fethiye, Datça and Dalaman.
It was 25 years ago, Orhan, 62, and his friend, Janet, decided to travel to Marmaris after coming across a holiday ad in a newspaper with “a picture of a boat and a blue sea saying, ‘Come and vacation in Turkey and be on a boat.'”
“None of us were sailors, but it was one of those schooners and so we came and spent a week on it. I think it was from Fethiye to Bodrum, or somewhere and we spent a very good time. We didn’t know the other eight people on the boat or anyone here, but we had a very nice time,” she told Anadolu Agency (AA).
With the heavenly sea and sun in mind, Jenny and Janet decided to return to Marmaris two years later in 1997 for a two week vacation, visiting 10 villages in Marmaris.
After spending 24 hours in the then-small Selimiye, Orhan said no other village had “captured” them like he did.
Compared to today, Orhan said Selimiye was then much smaller in size and had fewer inhabitants.
“But, as we walked around, we said, ‘Oh, let’s ditch London and come live here. And you know, who knew then 25 to 30 years later, that’s exactly where I would be,” Orhan said with a laugh.
It was not just the sunshine and nature of Selimiye that captured Orhan, but also “fate” or “kader” in Turkish, she said.
“I met my husband here. He was a friend of my girlfriend’s husband, Hakan. He was a carpenter at the time,” Orhan said.
After Janet and Hakan got married and left for London, Jenny was left alone in Selimiye for two years.
“The village was much smaller then and I was very friendly. I mean I’m still very friendly, with everyone all the time. That’s when Metin (her husband) and I slowly became more than just friends,” she added. .
“He had a boat, so we used to go out on the boat and it was so romantic,” she said with a laugh as she recounted the memories.
With his heart and mind on Selimiye, Orhan began visiting the small town in March and staying until November or early December.
“I think I’m very lucky in that my Turkish family took me in and they were really happy that Metin and I were getting married,” Jenny said, adding that the couple are having a son in the coming years. .
As the villagers took Orhan “under their wing”, she said they “all helped and supported me and were happy that I was here”.
Orhan is known as “Jenny Yenge” – meaning “Aunt Jenny” – around the village.
“I think at that time the pace of life was much slower and things were a little different,” she said, acknowledging she would have had to adjust to the village if she had come from London today.
Orhan said that despite the language barrier, she adapted to the way of life, living and cooking in Selimiye. His cakes are now famous among the villagers.
“When I came here, I was making cakes – the ones we didn’t have like the ‘yaş pasta’ you have for birthdays and all that. If someone was going to Marmaris, maybe they would have one but there was little and far a way.
“So I was making my chocolate cake with chocolate sauce on it. And it was a treat for everyone,” she said. “A little food makes everyone happy,” she added.
Although she retains her British roots, Orhan said: “I consider myself to be Turkish, in a funny way.”
“I didn’t convert to Islam and I’m still a Christian…but I think one day I will because I want to be buried here, I don’t want to be buried in England. It’s a awful thing to be I speak but I don’t want to go to Marmaris cemetery where all the expats are, you know? I want to stay here,” she explained.
She encouraged foreign tourists not to “hesitate” to come to Turkey, saying: “Come and see, it’s a beautiful country with beautiful people who are kind and welcoming”.
Praising the hospitality of the local residents, Orhan said “they are so interested in understanding you and (getting to) know you. The memories are so good. You go to a shop in Marmaris and two years later you are back and he will remember it and he cannot joke and make it up.”
“The memory is amazing,” she said, adding that Selmiye had “a nice atmosphere” with “kind and friendly” people.
Orhan had a different life in England, where she served the late British Princess Diana of Wales.
“My last job was running the Orangery at Kensington Palace. So I saw Princess Diana and made a supper for Prince Michael of Kent to surprise him (on his 50th birthday) “, she said.
Orhan said she had “worked very closely with his wife, Princess Michael, who is a very wonderful woman. A week later I bought a copy of Hello (magazine) and there was a picture of us in Hello carrying his (Prince Michael of Kent) birthday cake.”
Jenny, who saw Princess Diana often at the time, said that before she was married to Prince Charles of Wales and still living in Kensington, the late princess exercised and went for runs in the park.
“And she was wearing a baseball cap and stuff and so you didn’t really know who she was. But…we did know who she was.”
“It was probably before she divorced (Prince) Charles. We did a function for her for the Royal Ballet. She was patroness of the Royal Ballet, and they came and had a reception at the Orangerie and I met her there. A very tall lady, beautiful but very tall, nice clothes and very polite and she was just lovely,” added Orhan.
If she would ever consider returning to London with her family, Orhan said: “No!” before adding: “How could I manage the weather?”
“You know, it’s good to be warm and sunny all day.”