Long time Istanbul resident, Monica Fritz, has carved a niche for herself by thinking outside of the tourism box. While most groups race through Sultanahmet chasing their guide’s umbrella, Monica’s walks flow with the natural pace of the group and never take the same route twice.
I have been on each of her walks myself, some more than once and I follow her Facebook group: Istanbul Photography Walks/Workshops for the next event. Each time I charge my camera, put on good walking shoes and follow her into abandon buildings with elegant histories in Galata, to houses of worship typically closed to the public dotted around Balat and Fener and up narrow stairs onto the rooftops of the Grand Bazaar where you feel the pulse of the city.
What tours do you offer?
Right now my most popular walk (I prefer to call them walks, since they’re far from classic tours), is the Grand Bazaar Rooftop walk where we climb onto two roofs and through the back streets and ancient caravansarays. I also offer a Galata/Karaköy walk, a Golden Horn walk and an Asian side one. However, I am developing more all the time.
What inspired you to start the walks?
I would say the person who inspired me to come to Istanbul was Prof. Paolo Giradelli who commissioned me to photograph Italian architecture here for his doctorate thesis. His great enthusiasm for this city and its architecture has stayed with me over the years. This was around 1993.
Another thing that has inspired me was the great light of Istanbul. There is so much of it and with the color of the Bosphorus and sky constantly changing; there are always new situations to photograph. This together with a curiosity to work in tourism was my inspiration.
How do you decide which neighborhoods to include and how do you research them?
I know the city well, have explored it over the years and know which areas interest me visually. Then there are the places that change at certain times of the year, like Fatih in Ramadan or Fener and Balat in Easter. I read, walk, talk to people who live in the areas, go into doors up stairs.
What is your favorite place to visit or photograph or time of day to photograph?
I don’t have a favorite place, but I love the early morning light. I am always taken by new moments and details, the light is more important for me, and the situation more than the place. The light before a storm or an autumn sky; a normal street or interior at a special moment with a good composition can make the picture poetic.
Are you thinking of looking into adding more neighborhoods?
Yes. I have explored Zeyrek and Fatih and plan on adding it on. I want to do a back streets and interiors of Beyoğlu. I also am working on an upper Asian Bosphorus walk, amongst others.
Is there any place you’d love to visit, but haven’t been able to get inside of yet?
There are many places I would like to get into. I did finally get into the Greek School in Fener. There is the old Italian consulate in Tarabya and more rooftops around the city worth exploring.
Any fun stories or experiences from the walks you’d like to share?
There is always an element of absurdity when you take people out of their daily lives and into new surroundings. Tourism is surreal by nature and that makes many simple situations become funny. I like to risk and take a group down a street I haven’t been down before or enter a building I haven’t entered before and then there is the excitement of looking out of a window and discovering an unexpected scene, etc. There are many surprises. Once I was out with about 30 women and we took a couple of fishermen boats at the last minute from Eyup to Balat. We were left off at the wrong point and had to climb over a fence. That was funny…later.
On my own trips, I’ve had lengthy conversations with Armenian silversmiths who have passed down their crafts from generation to generation, Sephardic synagogue caretakers who reminisce about days long ago when their numbers were larger, all rounded out with a hearty lunch prepared in small restaurants. For people visiting Istanbul, these walks afford them the chance to see a side of the city that most tourists don’t even know exist. And I believe even the most jaded of Istanbulites would enjoy a walk with Monica as their guide.
For more information and to book private walks, contact Monica at her email found on:
To join group walks and updates at:
Istanbul Photography Walks/Workshops
Groups are limited to 12 and is 40tl per person.