Our tour of Turkey was an incredible experience. Ertunga’s passion and encyclopedic knowledge of the remarkable sites and ancient ruins kept us in awe much of the time. He and our superb driver Mustafa are obviously a very experienced and savvy team. Ertunga was attentive to details, enthusiastic and positive, perceptive and sensitive to our needs. In addition he was creative and imaginative in adding sites and experiences that were not on our itinerary, all of which greatly enhanced our experience. Ertunga and Mustafa introduced to us a number of small, local Turkish restaurants with wonderful food, but where there was little English spoken and no one not Turkish in sight. These meals were a delight.
Ertunga perceptively realized that we were open to new experiences. One of us asked about a site, Magnesia. Ertunga said it was an obscure site despite its magnificence. We walked down a farm path about a ½ mile dodging cow pies and cows/sheep and rounded a corner and found another jaw dropping scene, a 35,000 seat capacity stadium. It was all that was visibly left of a large 2,500 year old Greek/Roman town. At another site, Labraunda, he asked if we minded if two nomads could ride in the bus down the mountain to catch a ride. So ‘Maw’ and ‘Paw’ Turkish nomad cheerfully rode with us the 8 miles or so back down the mountain. Later in the trip, we met one of Ertunga’s former colleagues from his Turkish Army service. The stories they shared about their service on the wartime Iraqi border were entertaining. These were treats far outside the normal guided tour experience. He always checked to see if these deviations from the itinerary were acceptable to us.
For 10 days, he, together with our trusty driver, Mustafa showed our family a trip of a lifetime. The family is composed of different personalities: elderly, teen, easy-going and the history nerd. So you can imagine the diverse dynamic that a tour guide must appease.
I could go on for days what an excellent tour guide he is but let me list down a couple of high notes:
Ertunga is highly intuitive. He can sense when he needs to extensively share his wealth of knowledge or stay mum.
My sister worked seamlessly with his wife, Maria to create an itinerary that brought us smoothly and safely from Izmir to Pamukkale to Antalya to Cappadocia and Istanbul, to name a few.
We only wanted to eat at local places, not the typical tourist stops or nothing fancy. Every restaurant he brought us to were excellent choices: comforting home made Turkish cuisine in Bergama or a resto with a breathtaking view by the sea in Dogan Bey.
Ertunga is very easy going. Some tourist guides will have you feeling rushed and give you a sense they just want to get it over with. Not him, he was very patient with every whim we wanted.
However, he is also fun!
I like to take videos and silly photos for social media and he was happy to join in the silliness like when he and I pretended to be gladiators fighting in a Roman coliseum in Miletos or when we shook hands like the politicians did in Regnum Hotel for the G20 Summit in Antalya, to name a few.
Ertunga knows when to turn on or off the tour guide button. When needed, he taught us about history and another minute he is chatting with us about the little things in life.
He never once took us to those tourist shops where tour guides get commission. He never pressured us to go to such places. He shared that even when he tours on his own to various places, he doesn’t like that. So he would never practice such things that he himself doesn’t like.
He is thoughtful. I has asked Ertunga to help me find dried figs at a local price. One time he had surprised me with a big bag without questions asked.
During dad’s birthday dinner at the Old Town in Antalya, he and Mustafa got the staff to sing happy birthday and even surprised us with a cake!
He is very helpful beyond his duties as a tour guide: from helping get a discount at tourist shops or making phone call arrangements for us in Turkish that we needed assistance with and even following up on his own.
Ertunga knew his boundaries. When you spend 10 days with someone, some boundaries can blur out. Yet he never made us feel that despite how close we became that he overstepped his bounds of comfort with our family.
We never felt taken advantage of. He was always very transparent with prices, negotiating and planning. What you see is what you get with Ertunga and that is rare to find in a tour guide, especially in a freelance business where one understandably tries to make the most of whatever opportunities come in.
He is very flexible. Despite a set itinerary, be it the change of weather, tourist attractions being suddenly closed, crowded or whatnot, he was very quick to adjusting to make sure the day was productive and enjoyable.
His team of tour guides scattered all throughout Turkey were no less than excellent as well. From Sibel in Cappadocia, to Ali and Akin in Istanbul, his recommendations made us feel that even if he was no longer our tour guide in the latter part of our trip, he was still very much present.
In fact, he still kept communicating with us daily to ask how our tour was doing.
He and Maria make a great team as they respond quickly to emails, texts and phone calls. Very efficient and easy to coordinate with.
It came to a point where, despite my family being quite reserved and private, we were all teasingly calling one other brother and sister and to my parents, mother and father.
Our nearly 3 weeks in Turkey left us bonded stronger and with more historical trivia to last quite awhile.
To end this, I told Ertunga, “what you have is a gift and can never learn in tour guide school. The way you connect with people is sincere. You are the benchmark of excellence for all future tour guides I will encounter! Now it will be so hard to top that, hahaha!!!””
Highly recommended is an understatement as he is more than just an excellent tour guide, he is a good man. We miss him and Mustafa and will forever consider them both, FAMILY.
PS: To be honest, this is the first review I’ve ever posted on Trip Advisor. Never once have I felt so moved to make one because Ertunga’s services are just that exemplary.