After high school, I enrolled in a vocational college for its guiding department. I was taught lessons about history, architecture, mythology and more. At the end of school, the students had to partake in a round trip of Turkey in order to practice what we learnt. After the second year of my subsequent study at the English Language Teaching department, I passed the proficiency exam and so, got my guiding license.
I first began guiding along with the coastal line of the Eastern Mediterranean region of Turkey. Later I extended farther east, to the south east of Turkey, and to farther west on the coast. As for Cappadocia, one day a friend of mine asked: “Won’t you guide trekking groups in Cappadocia and in the Taurus mountain ranges?” I said, “I do not know the routes to hike with the groups” and he answered “You can learn it, and for this what you need is to go with another guide.” He introduced me to a guide who knew all about the routes (now we are very close friends) and soon I found myself in the valleys of Cappadocia or the high summits of the Taurus Mountains. Cappadocia became a base for me and from there, I extended my services to every corner of Turkey.
How did you make the transition to becoming a tour guide?
My father was ever a model for me. He could speak several foreign languages and encouraged me to learn one. So, my early experiences in the countryside and the memories of my father made me take a step into modern times’ “semi-nomadism” – or travelling in tourism.
I prefer the tours not to be rushed through, because I believe saying “I have done this” is totally different than saying “I have enjoyed this”. Therefore, I care about comprehensive planning as well as being flexible.
What’s the most bizarre or craziest experience you’ve had on a guided tour?
It was I think five years ago, at the border gate in Kilis. I was waiting to meet a group of six at the exit gate on the Turkish side but I did not have their contact information. The driver and I waited there for maybe half an hour. Meanwhile I had the phone number of a man in Syria, given to me by the travel agency in Turkey. He spoke very poor English – I could only figure out that he had taken the travellers to the border.
After another half an hour there, two or three of the travellers found us and said the others had left for the town centre. I told the driver to take us to the central bus station in town. When we arrived, I talked to maybe a dozen people asking if they had seen such a group of people. Several agreed that about 20 minutes ago the travellers had gotten into a minibus aheading to the centre of the nearest province, Gaziantep. Thanks to them, I talked on the phone with the driver of this minibus who said “Okay. They are with me and sitting at the back.”
Because the driver could not speak English, I requested that he pass his mobile to them. Funny, I could tell that the mobile went to the back of the bus, passed from hand to hand by the Turkish passengers, finally reaching one of the guys that I was looking for. I told him that I would ask the driver to take them to the last stop and that they had to wait for us there. When we got to the bus stop, they were there and eating kebap.
Turkey hosted many civilisations and beliefs throughout history. For this reason, it fits the description that it is a ‘cradle of civilisation’ very well. One cannot easily find the details of this in a guide book or a college level history book. My Masters taught me how to be humble and how to use well organised information effectively.
Ever had any odd requests from clients?
Yes, I did, in the ancient ruins of Olympos, in Antalya. A lady asked me with great insistence to show her the Topkapı Palace there. Despite the fact that it is in Istanbul, she interrupted my explanations now and then, asking the same question. No matter what I said, she was not convinced. Probably she had just seen a leaflet with information about Topkapı that day and this caused her to think that it was located somewhere here.
What one sight in Cappadocia should first time travellers see and why? What one Turkish dish should first time travellers taste and why?
Paşabağı. It is an exquisite sight indeed. Though Cappadocia offers a divine panorama in many points, Paşabağı is like a natural studio background for photographers and easy to access. Even I took some of my wedding pictures there.
Kebap in a clay pot is a good option for first time visitors. It tastes like casserole but it only consists of onion, pepper, garlic, tomato and meat. The ingredients are put in clay pot which is covered with a piece of dough to prevent air getting in. The pot is kept in an oven for several hours and when serving, it is broken below the dough by a machete.
One thing which I do not like are the situations that make me feel as if I am speaking like a tape recorder the whole trip. Of course, we cannot expect everybody to be an extrovert, but when as a guide you feel that you are speaking to yourself, that is a bit frustrating.
As an experienced guide yourself, can you explain to our readers what the benefits of hiring a guide are?
The guide is, in short, an assistant. The traveller won’t have to work on planning their time during the trip. Secondly, the traveller does not have to spend most of her or his time dealing with ‘what if’ questions.
In your view, what makes a good tour guide?
I think a good guide is one who is enthusiastic to meet people and is someone who communicates well. In most cases, people forget that communication is a spontaneous two-way process. A good guide is a good reader of people, situations, books, etc. A good reading will thus bring a good understanding of the emotions and the will behind the messages conveyed to him. Of course, this will all need an engaged listener. And listening means that you care that they are there.