“A personal experience rather than just a tour”

“I went on this tour on a drizzly day in March 2013 with my Dad. I read up a lot about the tour first and knew it would be something we would both enjoy and get a lot out of.

The best thing about the tour and the worst thing about the tour were one and the same for me; it is a very personal and unpolished experience. Luckily the good things about this trump the negatives. By way of explanation, the tour is not slickly carried out by a traditional tour guide, but is navigated partly according to the whims of how the organizers feel that day although I think most groups experience most of the same elements overall. I loved the fact that very open and frank conversations were actively encouraged and learnt a lot about Istanbul and Turkey as a result. We visited parts of Istanbul that are well off the traditional tourist path and sampled various local snacks along the way. Where the approach fell down a little bit was that our guides would occasionally visibly lose any sense of purpose or their lack of self-censorship would veer from entertaining confidence to arrogance. However, the fact that they were prepared to be themselves so completely is, in itself, endearing and goes to show how much they put into these tours.

Food and hospitality were highlights of the day; from yoghurt and honey on the bank of the Bosphorus to a beautiful lunch at the tour guide’s Mum’s home to dinner and drinks at the guides’ own flat.

As others have said in reviews before mine, I wouldn’t recommend this tour to those that are easily shocked or offended. For instance, there is very frank discussion and prolific swearing. I also wouldn’t recommend the tour to anyone that has difficulty with walking. Although the tour includes transportation by minibus, there are numerous occasions where walking on very uneven surfaces and up steep hills is part of the experience. One lady on our tour had to sit parts of it out due to mobility issues.

It is also a long day but in the best possible way as you don’t feel rushed and it makes the experience even more personal – by the evening you are deep in conversation with everyone on the tour. We did not go back to our hotel until about 11 at night. Some people carried on afterwards.

I would recommend this tour to anyone who wants a personal experience in a fascinating city. Experience is probably a much better word than tour – you have a number of experiences throughout the day rather than touring sights. For my Dad and I it was ideal, an experience we talk about frequently, hugely enjoyable and with plenty of food for thought.”