My fiancé and I arrived in Istanbul hoping to find a unique place where we can have an interesting but relaxing experience before heading to Romania to spend winter holidays with my family. I have to say that our expectations were pretty high from the very beginning as we never heard anything bad about the place from any of our friends who visited before. And I have to also say that Istanbul completely lived up to our expectations.
There were two important factors though that I have to mention as without them I am convinced our experience would have never been the same. First is my lovely Turkish friend Ozlem who introduced us to The House Hotel right on the Bosphorus. And secondly is the hotel staff who introduced us to Erk and Umit ( Locally Istanbul ) when we asked for a tour guide.
When you research about Istanbul travel you easily come across numerous websites with information regarding things to see and do but from the very first click they breath a very touristy flavor. We really wanted to avoid being part of a big group, walking around the town following a ultra-detailed guide with a flag and ending up stuck in the restaurants that only target foreigners. We wanted something more customized and personal. And this is exactly what we got with Locally Istanbul!
We liked Erk and Umit from the very beginning. They listened to what we wanted to do and what was important for us and they came up with a schedule that would match our preferences. They picked us up at the hotel every morning and dropped us off wherever we asked them to which is always very handy in a huge city like Istanbul where all the street signage is in Turkish only.
We opted to see the “must see” Hagia Sophia, Blue Mosque, Topkapi Palace, Grand Bazaar and Spice Market. And the information we got was very comprehensive but not at all locked up into millions and millions of details we would probably remember only for a few minutes.
We love Turkish food and we were very much looking forward to try this cuisine in Istanbul. Erk and Umit showed us some amazing placed where only the locals (and lucky foreigners like us) get to go. Places which have no name outside at the entrance. Places where you don`t even need a menu – you just need to say how hungry you are (and we were always hungry) and if there is anything you don`t eat or don`t like. And then enjoy. And we definitely enjoyed every single bite of it!
In a nutshell, let me just put it this way – we felt like visiting and experiencing Istanbul with two good friends! Thank you very much guys, you made our time an unforgettable one!
Ioana & Sam