Could you tell us about yourself?
My name is Şerif Yenen. I am a Turkish travel specialist, travel writer, lecturer, tourist guide and filmmaker. My guidebooks are Turkish Odyssey and Quick Guide Series. My film is Istanbul Unveiled, an award-winning travel documentary with eight international awards.
I give lectures in the US and Turkey about travel in Turkey, Turkish history and culture. I am an active licensed tour guide. It is extremely important to me that my guests return with experiences to remember.
Get out of the comfort zone and mix with locals.
As a tour guide from İstanbul, who has been active in the field for more than 25 years, I wish to share some information that will enhance your visit, and I prepared a few tips to fulfill this wish.
As you will agree, İstanbul is one of the most unique cities in the world, where one can observe the diverse daily life in a setting of ancient history and natural beauty. The people of İstanbul make up a cultural mosaic of different national, ethnic, cultural and religious origins.
Due to this diversity, you can observe the riches of both Turkey and the world in İstanbul. International cultural, artistic and sporting events, distinguished hotels and restaurants, nightclubs, conference centers, concerts, theaters and cinemas can suit every visitor’s taste from any walk of life.
İstanbul is now ready to welcome a greater number of guests than ever before. I would recommend that you stay for a period of time that would enable you to experience its vast natural, cultural and historical world heritage.
My first suggestion will be about your travel style. I would recommend that you visit Istanbul like a traveler rather than a tourist.
What is the difference between a traveler and a tourist?
A tourist goes to the first stop and a traveler goes to many more. The first stop in Istanbul is the Sultanahmet stop in the Old City. You have to go there, and this is essential as almost all of the highlights are there. However you should not be content with this, and continue many more stops.
Tourists go to a destination to see the highlights, eat in the same restaurants like many other tourists, and generally don’t have the chance to mix with locals.
All travelers are tourists but not all tourists can be travelers. To be a traveler you need to go beyond the regular, mix with locals and immerse into the local culture.
A traveler is an active participant, he is involved in the local culture whereas a tourist is just a watcher from outside.
If a tourist metamorphoses into a traveler mixing with locals and immersing into the local culture, he then appreciates the other culture by realizing the difference, and becomes an agent for a more peaceful global community.
In order to venture into the off-the-beaten paths and explore new places in your own way, I will suggest that you reach the following places by public transportation and go to the back streets to the extent of losing your way. I am sure you will have the hotel address and contact info with you anyway.
The neighborhoods of Eminönü, Balat, Galata, Üsküdar, Çengelköy, Kuzguncuk, Beylerbeyi, Kadıköy, and Beşiktaş will be wonderful areas to explore. You can stroll through the residential areas as well as markets.
While wandering around these places, you should try mixing with locals by saying a few greeting words to them in Turkish. This will create many spontaneous opportunities to interact with them. You should actually get out of the comfort zone to mix with locals. By venturing into the off-the-beaten paths and exploring new places, travelers always get something new and different as opposed to the regular.
You can also try some home-hosted meals, travel with companies where the bottom line is measured by how much goes back into local communities. Make the world your classroom by attending workshops, lectures and presentations without ignoring discoveries and “authentic” experiences.
By visiting other cultures as a traveler, you learn more about them and their way of life. You interact with them. You obtain the chance to get first-hand information and share experiences. It is our role, as interpretive guides to immerse our guests into the culture that they are visiting.