I visited Istanbul in October 2012 with three friends. We wanted to visit all of the "must-see" attractions without the stress of figuring out directions and getting our information from audio headsets, and we wanted to get a bit off the beaten path from other tourists. We found Salih here on TripAdvisor, and from the very first email we exchanged, Salih lived up to every expectation and review. We arranged a private full-day tour for our first day in Istanbul, that included the Secrets of Istanbul activities, as well as a few other attractions. At all of the historic attractions (Hagia Sofia, Blue Mosque, Hippodrome, Cisterns, etc.), Salih took us to the perfect locations for observation and pictures, and gave a very balanced "talk" about the significance of everything we saw. After we checked all of these must-sees off our list, we got to the best part - the "experience" of Istanbul... the book bazaar, some side shopping streets, the nargile bar (hookah lounge), tea in the spice market, pomegranate orange juice, and lunch at a small place with anchovy sandwiches (and none of us "liked" anchovies before this!). We wouldn't have ventured to any of these places on our own, and this was definitely some of the highlights of our trip! All along the way, Salih pointed out other places he suggested visiting and gave us advice about shopping and eating in the days to come. By the end of the tour, we felt more like we had spent a day with a new local friend than with a tour guide! He ended our tour at Fuego, a restaurant owned by his friend, and we enjoyed some drinks and dinner together. When we were ready to head back to the hotel, Salih offered to walk the few blocks back with us to make sure we arrived safely.
A few days later, we thought our time in Istanbul was ending, but when Hurricane Sandy hit the east coast of the US, the return flight home to NY for two of us was cancelled, and we found ourselves in Istanbul for an additional three days! After we accepted the fact we had 3 "bonus days" of vacation, we started brainstorming what to do, and the first thing we thought was to take another tour with Salih! We emailed him on Wednesday morning, and by Wednesday evening we were hanging out with Salih again for his Two Continents tour. We took the ferry to Asia, explored some markets, ate some very unique and delicious food at a well-known restaurant, spent some time in a game room learning how to play Okey (and tried some raki in the process), and then took the ferry back to Europe for the world's best baklava (and when they advertise it as such, it really is true!). We ended the evening again at the nargile bar with some tea. That "four hour tour" turned into more like 6 hours, and by the end of the evening, some of Salih's friends had joined us. Again, it felt like we had just spent an evening with an old friend. We shared several great conversations, many laughs, and learned so much about the culture and local experiences we never would have tried on our own. Salih even shared in some of our antics, like wearing big silly sunglasses for some pictures. During that second evening with Salih, we asked for a recommendation on doing a Turkish Bath the next day. He described a few options and gave us his opinion, and we agreed that we wanted to try it the following day. When I asked about how to make arrangements, Salih said not to worry, and he would call the next morning and make us appointments. Sure enough, while we were eating lunch the next day, we get a text from Salih with the details of our appointments that afternoon. It was greatly appreciated, and made for such a smooth and stress-free part of our vacation!
I can't describe enough how professional, friendly, knowledgeable, and trustworthy Salih is. I've traveled across Europe and South America, and Istanbul has become one of my favorite cities in the world, and I attribute a large portion of that to the experiences that Salih shared with us. I guarantee our trip wouldn't have included half of what we did without Salih's tours, and he helped open our eyes to an amazing culture. I want some of my friends to visit Istanbul, just so I can recommend Salih.... and if I ever find myself in or near Turkey again, Salih will be the first person I call.
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