Turfantastik for Turkey

This item appears on page 32 of the November 2011 issue.

I am so grateful to ITN subscriber Nancy Anderson (Feb. ’07, pg. 67), who told of her excellent experiences with Mehmet Ozbalci, owner of Turfantastik (Millet cad. Inan Is Hani No. 5/610, Aksaray, Istanbul, Turkey; phone [90] 212 589 33 25). I had kept her article, as I knew I wanted to visit Turkey.

When I Googled Mehmet’s name and saw that he was the tour operator retained by several well-known US, Canadian and Australian photo-tour companies, I was even more anxious to have him as our guide, as my husband, John, really enjoys photography. It ended up being one of the best trips of our lives.

We chose an itinerary that covered the highlights of western Turkey and Cappadocia. All arrangements were handled by e-mail, and Mehmet’s responses were prompt and thorough.

John and I were the only two passengers on this trip, March 27-April 9, 2011. Mehmet is an excellent, very safe driver, and he had a new and very comfortable Nissan SUV.

The land price for our trip was $3,100 per person. This included 12 nights’ accommodations; all breakfasts; all dinners except in Istanbul; all admission fees to historic sites and museums (and these were many); a boat ride on the Bosphorus; a Whirling Dervish performance; one domestic flight, and airport transfers. Considering the personalized and high-quality attention we received, we thought this was an outstanding value.

Mehmet has a very warm and friendly demeanor and understands the likes and needs of North American clientele very well. He speaks impeccable, idiomatic English and has a great sense of humor.

We made numerous unscheduled stops along the way. For example, we stopped to talk to a shepherd tending his sheep. Another time, we made a stop for tea being brewed over an outdoor wood stove in an off-the-beaten-path spot.

It was obvious that he was well known and well liked by the proprietors of the hotels and restaurants we used, and that pays off for his clients, who get the best rooms, special treatment at meals, etc.

We loved the hotels we stayed at. Most of them were small, charming, boutique-type hotels in great locations. Mehmet took us to nontouristy places to eat and told us what the regional specialties were. The food on this trip might have been the best we’ve ever had, both the meat and vegetable dishes.

Turkey is a beautiful, fascinating country, and after this extraordinary journey we are ready to tour the eastern part with Turfantastik. If anyone would like more information, you can contact me via e-mail c/o ITN.

Scarborough, ME