An Afternoon with Nermin Bezmen and Tolga Savaci has come and gone, but for those of us in attendance, the memorable experience will live on.
This past weekend, fans of Kurt Seyt & Shura gathered to celebrate the novel’s recently-released English edition and to personally meet its internationally acclaimed author Nermin Bezmen and her husband, actor Tolga Savaci who portrayed Yahyah in the film adaptation. The fun spanned two days in events organized by KTNA admin Nathalie Yachouh and myself. Here’s a recap of the activities that made for a great weekend for fans of Nermin’s beloved story.
The Sheraton Lincoln Harbor Hotel located at the foot of the Hudson River in Weehawken, NJ, served as our home base. From the hotel, the cold but clear weather afforded beautiful views of the New York City skyline by day, and a spectacular light show by night. Our attendees hailed from the tri-state area of New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut, and from places as far away as Mexico, California, Colorado, Florida, Massachusetts, Maryland, North Carolina, Virginia, and Texas, and more!
Saturday March 17th
A Saturday night dinner at Turkuaz Turkish Restaurant in NYC’s Theatre District opened the event. Groups of twos and threes gathered in the Sheraton lobby while awaiting our pre-arranged transportation to Mid-town Manhattan. Meeting new people can be daunting, especially for those traveling solo or those on the shy side, but the intrepid KTNA admin Nathalie introduced herself to each guest, and with her effervescent personality and humor put everyone at ease. As we loaded into two vans, friendships were formed and any sense of feeling like strangers melted away.
The restaurant was ready for us with a table near the windows, looking out onto a busy night in NYC. While some of our group settled themselves at the table, the rest of us took a quick jaunt to Times Square before returning for an authentic Turkish dinner. And what a dinner it was! After a country-style salad, we were served platters of spreads and dips, including hummus and babaganoush, lots of warm pita bread, and Sigar Borek, crispy pastry rolls filled with cheese. Next came light-as-a-feather fried calamari served with a delicious yogurt sauce. The main course arrived, with super-tender lamb and chicken kebabs and seasoned wheat pilaf. While enjoying the spread and growing friendships, some of us ventured to try Turkey’s Efes beer, Raki (that cloudy anisette drink) and other new spirits. Crisp and sweet baklava and strong hot coffee finished things up before we rolled into the van for the return trip to the Sheraton.
Upon our return to the hotel, breakfast plans were made amongst guests, and then Nathalie and I headed over to our reserved event space to add the final touches to the decorations for Sunday’s main event.
Sunday March 18th
At 12:45 pm the guests eagerly awaited entry into our private event room at the Sheraton for the weekend’s highlight, “An Afternoon with Nermin Bezmen.” While happily congregating in the bar, in walked Nermin, her lovely daughter Pamira, and Tolga. Our guests of honor were immediately surrounded with warm greetings and hugs, stopping briefly for photo ops and selfies. Minutes later we escorted the special guests into the event room, replete with the soundtrack of Kurt Seyt & Shura playing in the background, soft glowing candles, flowers, and more. Each table included a framed scroll, named for favorite Kurt Seyt characters.
The attendees signed in and were each given a lovely Hamsa bracelet, complete with a Turkish “evil eye,” before finding their seats. Meanwhile, Pamira arranged dozens of framed and loose photos of the real Seyt and Shura, Murka, other family members, including Nermin and Tolga, as well as images taken on the film set. As guests mingled and nurtured friendships that were developed just the night before, Nermin and Tolga generously gave their time and attention to the delight of all.
Over the next four hours (which quickly extended to five), each attendee had an opportunity to write in a guestbook for Nermin, receive a signed copy of Nermin’s book, pose with the extremely photogenic Nermin and Tolga for a professional personal photo, and browse Nermin’s family pictures.
Midway through the afternoon, we enjoyed a luncheon that included a green salad with fresh rolls and butter followed by a choice of NY strip steak or roasted chicken with all the trimmings. The portions were large and the doggie bags plentiful. My favorite part of the meal, as usual, was the cake, which was decorated with the photo image of the book –good enough to eat!
While it wasn’t a Turkish meal this time, it was delicious and nicely presented. Throughout the event, Nermin visited each table, personally signing each attendee’s book, and answering questions with laughter and often tears. Tolga and Pamira were equally engaging, freely mingling throughout the event.
After our meal, Nermin asked to address the group and did so with eloquence and heartfelt emotion, clearly overwhelmed by the affection and deep interest that our group holds for Kurt Seyt’s story. She explained her approach to writing her fictionalized account, including her research and travels, and how she developed characters through the words and events as told by others, combined with her own artistic instincts. Nathalie presented Nermin with a beautiful bouquet of flowers, which included Shura’s favorite—blue irises.
A detailed question and answer session came next in the form of a “fireside chat,” followed by the cake-cutting ceremony. Much sooner than anyone expected, it was time for the event to conclude.
Our group was a diverse one in age, country of origin, race, and background, and we were thrilled to have three males grace our presence who were remarkably well-versed in Seyt’s story. All came together in the spirit of oneness, united by our love for the Kurt Seyt story and the brilliant actor Kivanc Tatlitug who portrayed him on the screen.
Throughout the afternoon, Nermin’s presence and stories brought the characters of Kurt Seyt and Shura to life again as real people who were part of her family history, sharing them with generosity, insight, and love.
Nermin, our deepest gratitude for all you’ve given us.
Scroll down to check out the full gallery of pictures from the event.
Bio: Teddie Potter is a long-time Outlander book reader and show fan who discovered Kurt Seyit and Turkish TV while waiting for the release of season 3 of Outlander to roll around. A staff writer for Outlandercast.com, Teddie is also a Registered Nurse for one of the top rehabilitation hospitals in the US and speaks locally and nationally on rehabilitation after traumatic brain injury. Raised in Brooklyn, New York, Teddie lives with her family in the suburbs of New Jersey.