After bumbling through Istanbul for several days on our own, my two compatriots and I were ready to be watched over for a day – to not follow maps that were patently, woefully inaccurate, to not sweat through the day’s clothing by 10 AM, to actually learn something about the beautiful city in which we found ourselves.
With almost presciently perfect timing on our part, our reservation with The Other Tour was to be our final day in Istanbul before our travels took us elsewhere.
We had all agreed that we hoped others were on the tour – but not too many others, and not too weird, and not too boring – and at 9AM when we all met, we were ecstatic to find that we were joined by two easy new friends to spend the day with.
Granted, The Other Tour could not have predicated or planned for how well our personalities would jive, so I can’t grant you boys credit for that, but it does attract a certain type.
I am not going to say much about the actual experience, because it is best entered into with no expectations. That is not because such expectations would be disappointed; no, far, far from that. I say this because life generally is best met with no expectations – when you pretend to know what you’ll find, you miss the beauty and subtleties that surround the edges.
That is what this experience does – and yes it is an experience, not a tour. With deft, often surprising, often provocative hands is how you are guided through the day with The Other Tour – perfectly coordinated, through no apparent coordination, equal parts challenging, educational, consciously indulgent and sensitively attuned to the misperceptions we, as outsiders, have about this place.
It is, make no mistake, a day of contradictions, and they have done a beautiful job of weaving together those contradictions that are inherent in any city with such a long, violent, culturally important history.
By the end, it will have been a day like no other – to quote our guide, it will be like
“we are cousins and I teach you human stuff”
You’ll have that weird, novel closeness that comes from perfect strangers experiencing something unknown together, and you’ll be better for it.