Some Of My Favorite Tour Guides

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Some Of My Favorite Tour Guides

“To let life happen to you is irresponsible. To create your day is your divine right.”Ramtha

A great tour guide is one that creates an experience that you will remember. The best guides I’ve had have left me wanting to go back to the destination or have left me feeling like I’ve made a new friend. I have had many amazing tour guides but I picked ten in no particular order.

Ogus Kaya, Turkey

Ogus is such a warm, friendly and truly motivated guide. He is organized and punctual. We traveled for a few weeks in Turkey with him. He taught us a tremendous amount about the history and architecture. I was obsessed with the Mosque architecture of Sinan. We felt that he wanted us to love Turkey as much as he did and i think everyone did.

One of the highlights of the trip was the balloon ride over Cappodocia. I like my feet on the ground and was not going to do it. He finally said that he would go with me. He reminded me that he had two small children and one on the way. This balloon ride became one of my most cherished travel memories which I would never have done without him. ogus 51@yahoo.com

Petar Vlasik, Croatia

Petar was my first internet tour guide. After a land tour and small boat tour both cancelled, I decided to take my kids and plan a trip through Croatia by myself with Petar. This was the first time I had ever done anything like this without a husband. It was before Trip Advisor. He was recommended by Rick Steves  (so i knew he wasn’t a serial killer). Petar was smart, funny and so knowledgeable about his beautiful country.

We had a wonderful trip. Croatia is still one of my favorite countries for those who have not been there yet. I did not listen to him about hotels and I was sorry. I learned from Petar that a good tour guide always knows best and to trust my instincts about internet tour guides. http://www.dubrovnikrivieratours.com

Dvir Hollander, Jerusalem, Israel

Dvir’s knowledge, insight, humor, non judgmental world view and kindness made touring this amazing city with him a special experience. We met at lunchtime and we were hungry. When Dvir recognized that we were kindred spirits about food, he described himself as a “ friendly dictator” when it came to where we should eat.

If you are going to Jerusalem, I highly recommend hiring him – not just for the delicious food, but for how much you will learn and experience. He has the unique ability to figure out just what you want to do and then he casually adds in what he feels you are missing. The trip was perfect. Contact him at hollander2000@gmail.com.

Guide Gift Bangkok,Thailand

Gift was another guide that I found online before trip advisor. I read the reviews on her page and went with my gut. She is knowledgeable, kind, and fun to be with. I felt like I was seeing Bangkok and Ayuthetta with one of my friends.

She has her plan but is always ready to change if there is something you want to do. She also knows a very good place for Thai Massage. When you are in a part of the world that feels very different from yours, Gift can make it feel like home.
http://www.privatetourthailand.com)

  Do Sy Quy “Buffalo Joe”Hanoi, Viet Nam

My guide in Hanoi  was Mr. Do Sy Quy. He was my first guide in Viet Nam  and set the tone for an amazing experience. “Buffalo Joe” is kind, friendly, funny, intuitive and very knowledgeable about Hanoi and Viet Nam history.

I connected with him immediately and feel like I have a friend in Hanoi. i will always remember our drive to and from Ha Long Bay and everything we did –  especially the Thanh Chuong Viet Palace. http://www.incensetravel.com

Andres Miguel, Buenos Aires, Argentina

i have had a few great guides in Argentina but I had to pick Andres Miguel because he is a tango dancer.  Everything we did that day was related to tango  –  a boat on a river, good food, shopping, a milonga and always tango stories. He changed things around and went with what interested me.

The boat ride was an impromptu surprise as was eating at a family restaurant on Sunday for the best empanadas. He was the perfect tour guide for me and gave me a gift of the perfect Buenos Aires day.  tango@culturacercana.com.ar

Jose Villa, Cartagena,Colombia

The hot, sleepy city of Cartagena is such a special place and seeing it with Jose is the way to go. Being alone he let me tag along to teach English at their church and visit the music school his son Kevin attended..They were both knowledgeable and fun.

We saw the old city, beaches, markets, took a private boat to the islands, visited a fishing village, paddled a canoe through the mangrove tunnels and strolled the streets of Gabriel Garcia Marquez. I stayed an extra few days because I loved this city and felt so safe and taken care of. http://cartagenadestiny.com

Carolina Velasquez Obreque, Santiago, Chile

Carolina was our tour guide in Santiago and Valparaiso. She was funny, knowledgeable and organized. She came to us through Vaya Adventures. We spent a beautiful day with her exploring the Casablanca wine region between Valpo and Santiago.

The trip was seamless – except when I lost that paper that they give you at customs when you land. Apparently it’s very important in Chile. She went with me to get a new one before driving to Valpo which is why I am home and able to write this. I highly recommend spending some time in Chile with her. https://www.vayaadventures.com

Michai Bojanowski , Wroclaw, Poland

Michai is a wonderful guide who loves his country. With knowledge and humor, we spent a long day in Wroclaw exploring the beauty of the city. He incorporates the darkness of the past as we explore the Jewish quarter. He has such passion for passing on the truth.

Before lunch I saw a street art drawing of man looking out the window. I ask about it. He tells me it is Poland’s most famous poet and playwright Tadeusz Różewicz.

After lunch, he has brought copies of a beautiful poem that he thought would go with what he was speaking about.He made sure we learned a little extra. I love that.  michal.bojanowski@chidusz.com

Wayne Thomas, Aukland, New Zealand

I usually don’t write  about a half day group tour of a city but I learned and retained more information with Wayne Thomas of Bush and Beach Tours http://www.bushandbeach.co.nz/, then any day tour I have ever been on.

He has a way of passing on knowledge that is sometimes funny and sometimes personal  that makes you remember it.  This is a wonderful welcome tour of New Zealand. I highly recommend him.

Fly safe,
JAZ

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My Top Ten Favorite Things In Turkey

“And above all, watch with glittering eyes the whole world around you because the greatest secrets are always hidden in the most unlikely places. Those who don’t believe in magic will never find it.” 
—Roald Dahl 

My Top Ten  Favorite Things In Turkey

. 1.Cappadocia could be among my favorite places in the world.  The dramatic landscape is the result of volcanic eruptions that happened millions  years ago. Wind and water eroded the land leaving these odd surreal land formations, fairy chimneys, and caves and underground cities.

Goreme Open Air Museum is a group of cave churches and monasteries from the 11th-13thcentury.  The most famous and most restored one is Karanlik Killse (Dark Church) which is filled with elaborate Byzantine frescoes. Early Christians escaping from Roman persecution found shelter in Cappadocia.

Yunak Evleri Hotel is an amazing  Cave Hotel carved into a mountain in the ancient city of Urgup. (.yunak.com/en/index.html)

Ziggys  is not the restaurant you would expect to find in an  ancient cave city.  It is cool with interesting decor and great music . It is owned by Selim and Nuray Yuksel. Nuray is an artist and also runs a beautifully displayed  gallery filled with crafts and jewelry from local Turkish artists  downstairs.   The food is so good that we ate there both nights. ( ziggycafe.com )

Hiking through the Mushroom  Valley, Love Valley,  Goreme Valley, walking all around Urgup early in the morning

Hot Air Balloon at dawn over Goreme valley.

2.Any restaurant or menu chosen by Oguz Kaya.  I  have never eaten Turkish food before.  I had no idea it was my favorite food.  Every meal was “the best one”. We ate in expensive restaurants,   gas stations,  hotels, outdoor seaside restaurants, an organic garden , a mosque,  –even the food in Ankara airport was good. (Uzun Ev Restaurant in Behramkale, Daruzziyafe,  Ottoman restaurant in Suleymaniye Mosque by Sinan in Istanbul, Orient restaurant in Cappadocia)

3.Any mosque by architect Sinan especially Selimiye Mosque in Edirne I loved the Selimiye Mosque and it turns out that it is Sinan’s favorite mosque as well. He wanted it to be greater than the Hagia Sophia.  His genius was in his  use of form, simplicity, light and balance. It all worked when you walked in. He is also considered to be  one of the first earthquake-proof engineers. ( Selimiye mosque,1575, notice the recycled columns)

4. Hearing the call to prayer early in the morning at the Hotel Manici Kasri in Yesilkurt.  In a tiny village of stone houses at the foot of Mt Ida is this charming hotel. Yesilkurt (which I still can not pronounce – it is harder than it looks.) has the second highest concentration of oxygen in the air  in the world. It is a small hotel  with pomegranate trees and great food.  It was very quiet in those mountains and early in the morning I awoke to the call to prayer – the only sound in this village. I could have been in any mountain village but the call to prayer in Turkey always reminds me to take a minute and be in the present. (www.manicikasri.com )

5 Hammam.   I like a good hammam. I didn’t know  that until I got to Istanbul and found out what it was. You’re taken to a warm, humid room with a raised stone platform (goebektas) in the center, surrounded by bathing alcoves. The light, diffused through glass in the ceiling is soft and relaxing. You lay  on the platform (usually with other people), and you’re scrubbed cleaner than you have ever  been. They use  a coarse mitt to remove layers of dead skin and then comes the soap. A lacy cloth is used , like an icing bag, and  they blow through it to create bubbles so you’re covered from head to toe with white frothy bubbles. It is followed by a massage.

6 Hagia Sophia   I studied this masterpiece of Byzantine architecture in  school and always wanted to see it.   It was built in the fourth century as a church and converted to a mosque in the sixteenth century. It was the world’s largest cathedral for 1000 years and contains remnants of all the renovations.    It is now a museum and very crowded but I was able to block out the noise and feel the history and remember the architectural elements. I had so many questions but I  was overwhelmed and couldn’t  speak.  It was real. I was finally in Istanbul at the Hagia Sophia.

7.Drinking fresh pomegranate juice on the street and picking one from a tree and eating it.

8. “The Turtle Trainer” by Osman Hamdi Bey.  This painting is in the Pera Museum in Istanbul.  It shows a man ( self-portrait of the artist) in what looks like a religious red robe, holding a sufi flute trying to train turtles. But the turtles have no ears and a thick shell  so they probably don’t hear him.   The lesson is that change is difficult and requires patience.  Osman  Hamdi  Bey was an important artist and intellectual in the Ottoman Empire. He established the first School for the Arts in Istanbul. Who can say why a painting touches you?  But I will always remember this painting.

9. Shopping for leather, carpets,  scarves, bracelets and pottery .    Shopping again .  And again.

10. Stopping at  an empty caravanserai on the silk road from China to Europe  and hearing the call to prayer.  This time, I pictured the caravan drivers hearing the same thing.   The caravanserais were built like forts. They were a safe places for caravans.  Once within the caravanserai a weary caravan could look forward to warm food, a bath and a safe shelter for the night for both men and animals. They provided food and lodging reportedly at no charge for 3 nights and free repair to footwear. They were conveniently spaced a day’s camel ride apart. (camels can ride from sunrise to sunset. The riders worked like truckers and had their routes.)  Built to promote trade, they brought prosperity to the communities hosting them. Nobility and their entourages used them too. So did the military. (Hoca Mesut Caravanserai 1231-1239)

“Think, in this batter’d Caravanserai, Who portals are alternate night and day, How Sultan after Sultan with his Pomp, Abode his destined hour, and        went his way.”             Omar Khayyam

There are countries I visit that I love and then there are countries where I leave a part of myself so I will come back. Turkey  is  a place I will return to.

For more info on  Turkey read Things I Have Learned In Istanbul https://havefunflysafe.wordpress.com/2012/11/29/things-i-have-learned-in-istanbul/

Top Ten Meals In Turkey

https://havefunflysafe.wordpress.com/2012/12/11/top-ten-meals-in-turkey/

Things I’ve Learned In Ephesus

https://havefunflysafe.wordpress.com/2013/01/16/all-roads-lead-to-ephesus/

In Ruina

Iyi  Uguslar,

JAZ