A Turkish couple finds tranquility in Montenegro
Many Turks have been moving to Montenegro seeking citizenship of a country that eyes EU membership, but a Turkish couple has moved to the tiny Balkan country for another reason: Tranquility. The couple shared the details of their journey to Montenegro with the Hürriyet Daily News.
Montenegro gained its independence in 2006, becoming one of the youngest countries in the world. It is roughly the size of Turkey’s southern province of Adana and with a population as big as the eastern province of Sivas.
In 2008, the country applied for membership to the EU. While the negotiations are still ongoing, Montenegro allows visa-free travel to Turks. More and more Turks have been visiting the country, and some, dreaming of a life in Europe, have been making investments there as plan B.
According to the Turkish embassy in Podgorica, there has been a significant increase in the number of Turkish people coming to Montenegro for work or residency in the past two years. The embassy said that from the textile to the food industry, Turks have been starting all sorts of businesses across the country, increasing the Turkish population there to 2,000.
İpek Kutbay Göde and Celil Göde are among those who settled down in Montenegro. But what attracted the newlyweds was neither Montenegrin nor EU citizenships.
“We knew Montenegro didn’t give citizenship, and barely anyone would get a long-term residence permit. The EU membership has been talked about, and it still is, but we came mostly for tranquility,” said İpek Göde.
İpek and Celil met in March 2010 and got married just within six months. İpek has a philosophy degree from Boğaziçi University. In Istanbul, she not only worked as an event organizer but also taught children.
“I had to work hard, but, on the other hand, I had a business life that I could plan myself. We lived as tenants in a house in Istanbul’s Beşiktaş district’s Çırağan neighborhood, which we loved so much. We were traveling overseas a lot. Overall, I was happy with our life,” said İpek.
Her husband, Celil, on the other hand, graduated from Istanbul University’s political science. For 15 years, he had done stage and light decor, went from one festival to another both in Turkey and abroad. “I, of course, had a very busy life, working day and night, spending one-third of the year abroad and the rest on the stage,” Celil said, explaining how İpek accompanied him on most of his work trips.
“After each trip abroad, Istanbul started to feel more overwhelming. And one day, İpek also came to the point that if not now, when are we going to experience living abroad?” said Celil, adding that due to the traffic and the crowd, they haven’t been leaving home unless they were going to work. While they began thinking about moving, a vacation to Montenegro changed the course of their life.
A new place to call home
İpek fell in love with Kotor at first sight.
The next day, the couple found themselves at the Turkish Consulate, telling them they want to move to Montenegro. But the vacation came to an end and they returned to Istanbul. “I fell in love with Kotor. I went back to Istanbul, but my mind never returned,” said İpek, speaking of how much she loved the people and the nature there.
“I was a city girl, far from nature and animals. Montenegro gave me the chance to be five minutes away from nature while still living in a city. It gave me so much peace after living in a big city,” said İpek, whose family has been living in Istanbul for generations. “I couldn’t live when my mind was in one place and my body was in another, so we moved,” she added.
Looking for a place to stay
As soon as the couple decided to move, they started house-hunting in Montenegro. They could neither find a real estate agent nor a consultant on the internet, so İpek started sending e-mails to those who rented out their houses during the summers. When someone responded and offered to help, they rented a house just by looking at its photos. Celil explained how that house brought along a sweet coincidence: “İpek fell in love with Kotor and stood at a spot where she said, ‘I wish we had a house here.’ She was so sincere in her wish that the first house we found was right by that spot.” But the couple was still unsure of moving there permanently. After staying for about a month, they wanted to get a second opinion on their decision to move.
It was at that time Zehra Kumbasar, the mother of their neighbors from Istanbul, joined the adventure. “Although she lived in [the Black Sea province of] Samsun, never travelled abroad and didn’t speak a word of a foreign language, she came with us,” said İpek, recalling how Kumbasar not only encouraged them to move there but also helped them find a new home. Kumbasar even bargained with the landlord for them. Feeling relieved, the couple returned to Turkey and started packing up. They also began showing their house to potential tenants. When a man, named Taner Ölmez, came to see the house, he not only rented the house but also wanted to keep some of their furniture. Despite meeting only recently, Ölmez made them a huge favor and allowed them to stay at the house until their very last day. “If we had emptied our house completely, I’m sure, emotionally, it would have been harder,” said İpek.
“For the first two months, life in Montenegro was very hard. We didn’t know anyone, we didn’t have jobs and we also didn’t know the language. In Istanbul, we no longer had a place or a job to go back to. We weren’t even sure whether or not we did the right thing,” said İpek, adding that “just the two of us, we tried to survive. I was giving private tutorials over the internet but I wasn’t satisfied. Celil was working designing websites but no one was interested in them.” With the offer of a transfer company, the couple changed plans and decided to become tour guides. Now, they are still in the tourism industry. “We don’t have a travel agency, we are private holiday consultants and organizers,” said İpek, whose company operates under the name “Celipe” — a combination of Celil and İpek’s names — in Montenegro. In addition to giving tours to large groups, Celipe also organizes honeymoons, birthday parties and boutique tours. When one of their clients almost got swindled while trying to move to Montenegro, Celipe decided to offer consultations to those wanting to live or do business there. When İpek joined a live Turkish radio show via telephone and described their life in Montenegro, the couple started to draw vast attention. After the show, people from Turkey began to come to Montenegro just to see them. They have even been receiving requests to be witnesses of Turkish people getting married in Montenegro. “In short, life is what happens to you while you make plans,” said Celil, adding: “We are doing completely different things than what we dreamt of before coming here but we’re happy. We have plenty of friends. Winter time which challenged us the most in our first year due to loneliness is pretty colorful now. Nowadays, Montenegro is pretty hot and busy during summers, and winters are mild and peaceful for us.”
Contributing to the country
The Gödes want to contribute to the place they live in. “Our dream is to create things that would add value to this country,” said İpek and explained that her husband was a former rower of Fenerbahçe sports club and that he wants to start a rowing team in Montenegro. İpek, on the other hand, mentioned she hopes to continue teaching as well as hold workshops on child development. The couple has many more dreams and aspirations, but they said they will bring them to life slowly.
Tips for those considering moving
“My recommendation to everyone is that they shouldn’t believe everything they read or hear. They should get in touch with the consulate and definitely visit the country and see it for themselves. Even if it’s their closest friend, they shouldn’t trust anyone blindly. It’s not easy at all to start a new life,” said İpek, while warning everyone about the companies which try to exploit Turks’ growing interest in Montenegro by selling services at really high prices.