We went on this culinary tour during an 8 hour layover in Istanbul. We spent around 5 hours on the tour including transport time which had us back at the airport at just the right time before our flight. We were also able to keep our carryon baggage in the tour car so we didn’t have to carry it around all day.Our guide Osman Özmen brought us to a bunch of delicious local places in the Taksim area, and we got to sample what he promised was local food. It was all excellent! At our request, he even arranged for a Turkish ice cream vendor to play the classic turkish ice cream trick on me (look for videos online).
Osman catered the tour to our request: we’d been to Istanbul before and had seen the major sites, so he still showed us some cool stuff (like the spice market) but kept our short trip focused on new sights and food. He took us to a few local grocery stores and specialty shops to see fresh honey and local cheese, and he took us to a great Turkish Delight shop that also had a beautiful selection of teas and spices. This didn’t feel like a high pressure sales pitch, it was just another selection of foodstuffs to experience on our tour.
Overall it was a great way to spend our layover which we otherwise would’ve spent trying to figure out transportation or cooped up in the airport. We’d highly recommend it, just don’t eat beforehand!
Other than transportation between the airport and the city we spent the whole time walking (or sitting and eating). One of our party had a recent leg injury so our guide catered the walking pace to our needs, which was perfect.
On our tour, we ate:
Adana Kebab (common turkish meat wrap)
Ayran (salty yogurt drink)
Kokoreç (lamb intestines, kind of like a bruschetta)
Midye Dolma (stuffed mussel)
icli köfte (breaded meatball)
Kestane (roasted chestnuts)
Turkish ice cream
Dolma (stuffed vine leaves)
Patlican ezmesi (eggplant dip)
Deniz Börûlcesi (glasswort seaweed salad)
Zeytinyagli kuru domates (sundried tomatoes)
Kadinbudu köfte (meatballs)
Greek salad (spread made of cheese and some sort of green, like spinach)
Fistikli Baklava (typical sweet turkish desert)
Künefe (sweet grilled cheese with honey)
Tūrk kahvesi (coffee)
As a solo female traveler, I will admit I was a little nervous visiting Istanbul to attend a wedding. Ertunga quickly put my mind at ease. The people of Turkey were very kind and I felt very safe.
Ertunga was a wealth of information with regards to both history and culture. I greatly enjoyed my time with him and can’t recommend him more! I look forward to returning for touring more of the country with his guidance.
With only a limited amount of time in the morning before a 2pm flight, we wanted to have a taste of Istanbul before leaving. An Istanbul personalized tour to suit our time. Our guide was very knowledgeable and made extra efforts to tell us about the history we were seeing. His English was very good. Thank you for making our brief visit very memorable.
Visited July 2015http://www.tripadvisor.com/ShowUserReviews-g297972-d2646842-r293195735-Turkey_Tours-Kusadasi_Turkish_Aegean_Coast.html#
Visited June 2015http://www.tripadvisor.com/ShowUserReviews-g297972-d2646842-r282956741-Turkey_Tours-Kusadasi_Turkish_Aegean_Coast.html#
First Ephasus: Ozgur was prompt, met us at the port and took us to the house of Mary and guided us in Ephesus and the Terrace houses. Although it was hot (in the 90’s) he knew of every available shady area and that was where he would give us the information about what we would be seeing. Ozgur was friendly and very knowledgable about the history of each place. The van we traveled in was comfortable for the 7 of us, all of whom were 60+ (but active). Our driver was also very cautious on the windy roads which was much appreciated. Ozgur brought the history of both sites to life for us! Ephwsus is a huge area and took at least 2.5 hours to walk through! Wear comfortable shoes and check the temperature and dress accordingly- short sleeves or sleeveless blouses (white) – don’t wear black unless you like to attract the heat! by the way, although we were warned that the Terrace houses have over 100 steps, these steps are not 100 continuous steps. There are landings between groups of steps, from 9 – 20 steps at a time, then a landing or glass floor platform. It is very doable. Don’t let the 100 steps scare you into not going into the Terrace houses. It was a highlight of Ephesus! We had only 6 hours in port at Kusadasi but every minute was well spent. Kusadasi is a blare, modern port with great beaches. I only wish we had more time to explore the area! I would highly recommend Ozgur as a guide.
Second, Istanbul: We had Istanbul private tour scheduled by Ertunga in Istanbul with another one of his guides, Metin. Metin met us at the port but due to heavy traffic, the van was a little delayed in picking us up. The van was comfortable, air-conditioned and had enough room for the 7 of us. We arrived at Istanbul on Monday and the site of Haghia Sophia was closed which was very disappointing. Our guide had very strong opinions about each site and thought this was the better of the two places, between Haghia Sophia and the Blue Mosque. Too bad it was closed! Although we walked to the Blue Mosque, near the Hippodrome, to go inside, the guide thought the line was too long there and said we could go back in the afternoon. We then went to the Hippodrome (no fee) which was very interesting, and then returned for outside pictures of Haghia Sophia and the Blue Mosque. Metin took us to the Underground Sistern, (small fee) and we were able to go to the front of the line, which was great. This is a very cool attraction that you might not hear about but is well worth seeing. It took about 30 minutes to walk through. Next we walked to the Topkapi Palace (small fee). Lots of people in line here- Metin told us what he thought were the best parts of the palace to see and helped us find a way to see the highlights of the palace without standing in line too long. We had lunch at a local spot that Metin recommended. The food was local and okay. The “WC” at this restaurant was one of the best in all of the cities we toured! Beautiful tiles and a fresh lemon aroma! Speaking of “WC’s”, if possible, try to avoid the public one in Istanbul. It is a pay toilet and literally a “hole in the ground!” We then were given a pitch by Metin about attending the rug demonstration and he “strongly” encouraged us to go there. Although the initial part of the demo was interesting, some in our group felt pressured by the slick sales people. Because we went to the rug demo it was then too late to go to the Blue Mosque. This was extremely disappointing to those in our group who wanted to see at least one of these famous sites. We saw neither. We then went to the Grand Bazaar. This is like a huge shopping mall and for our travel interests, really wasn’t worth spending 45 minutes going to over the Blue Mosque. We did get the opportunity to go into a nearby mosque during call to prayer which was a very educational experience. Ladies, bring an ample scarf for a head cover and cover or over-blouse of some kind to cover your shoulders. We then had to walk a distance to meet the van to return to the ship because the van couldn’t navigate quickly enough, through rush hour traffic. In retrospect, we would not have gone to the rug demo. Advice: Be firm with your guide about this, unless you are in the market to buy a rug costing anywhere from minimum, $1500 – 5000 US dollars! The guide gave us a pitch about the dying art of rug making etc, etc, but we very much would have preferred seeing the interior of the Blue Mosque. This left a bad taste in our mouthes as we wondered if the guide received a commission on the rugs that were purchased by one of our group members. Bottom line, if your guide asks you at the beginning of your tour, what would you like to see, have a firm agenda and be clear on what you want to accomplish in your time there. All in all, we enjoyed Turkey very much but because of a few glitches mentioned, I give a rating of 4 stars, not 5. I’d use Ertunga again if I returned to Turkey! By the way, Istanbul is a most beautiful city by sunset with the minturns in silhouette!
Visited September 2014
In Istanbul took 2 day trip that Ertunga had arranged. Ugur (spelling?) was our guide for both the days. We did visit the usual places such as Blue Mosque, Hagiya sofiya, Sulemaniye mosque, Grant Bazaar, Spice Bazaar. I wanted to try some baklawas and Ugur took us to one of the local restaurants to taste them.
overall did not enjoy Istanbul much compared to Efes but then again after returning from the trip- i realized that I never asked the guide( not sure the guide did mention( I don’t remember if it was mentioned)) why Istanbul was so strategically important- well there has to be some reason why it was the capital of Bezantine empire for ~1000 years and of ottoman empire for ~600 years and if you can link the trip and places explaining this importance it would make much more interesting experience- just my 2 cents.
Definitely will recommend Ertunga for trips in Turkey. Ertunga also arranged for our airport transfers as well.
Visited June 2014
Visited May 2014