My wife and I had the good fortune to find Nihan online prior to our recent trip to Istanbul. We have traveled a bit and have hired private guides before, but our experience with Nihan was on another level compared to our other guiding experiences.
This positive experience was mainly due to the warmth, enthusiasm and professionalism of Nihan. We exchanged numerous emails prior to our visit ironing out the details of our tours. Nihan made numerous suggestions and custom tailored our time with her to coordinate with our interests and schedule. Perhaps one of the most valuable suggestions to me personally, was her recommendation to read Orhan Pamuk’s book “Istanbul: Memories and the City” prior to our arrival. The “melancholy of ruins” translates well from his prose and creates a frame through which to view the city and sense the depth of feelings that the city imposes on its residents.
Our relaxed walks through the Karaköy/Galata and Nişantaşı neighborhoods were a delight as we talked together on the significance of everything from architecture and history to the cultural and political changes that were transforming the city even now. Our tiny glimpse into the past and present lives of Istanbulites left us with a sincere desire to return again and reunite with Nihan for more adventures together.
Out of so many powerful feelings and memories, it is hard to convey with words the experience we shared. A few moments stand out in my mind as I write I would like to mention: Sitting on the carpeted floor in the quiet and cool mosques and whispered discussion with Nihan about the significant features and rituals of the mosques and the worshipers. Having lunch together in a Kurdish neighborhood with it’s incredible sights and tastes, then visiting the tea shop next door to purchase the special blend of teas that the restaurant served. Standing in the doorway for photos with Nihan at the entrance to the apartment that Orhan Pamuk had grown up in and wrote so much about.
We only had 3 days in Istanbul and wanted to maximize our experience there and not just see the typical sights and leave with a lot of photos and no deeper feeling or understanding of this incredible city. We believe that we accomplished this as much as is possible with such a short time to visit, and left with a strong feeling that our lives had been touched by the sights, sounds, tastes, and smells of one of the most beautiful, unusual and fascinating places we’ve ever visited.