The Grand Bazaar…

Today we made our first trip to Istanbul’s Grand Bazaar. It was so cool! I love what the Lonely Planet has to say about it:

With over 4000 shops and several kilometres of lanes, as well as mosques, banks, police stations, restaurants and workshops, the bazaar is a covered world.

So true. It was amazing, and overwhelming, but in a good way. We wandered and wandered and we still probably only saw a fraction of the place. You can buy every sort of touristy souvenier type thing, as well as leather jackets, handbags, wallets and belts. Then there’s scarves, scarves, scarves; pashmina, cashmere, every colour, pattern, design you could imagine. Certainly something to match every single item of clothing you possess, or will ever possess. And tapestries with beautiful, bright oranges, reds, yellows, blues, greens and gold. Embroidered pillow and cushion covers. Nargile (water pipes) in all sizes, wooden chess and backgammon boards both small and large. Entire covered streets selling jewelry; gold, silver, stone pendants of all varieties, anything you could want or imagine. You can buy clothes, Istanbul T-shirts, hats, shoes and boots, paintings of the city or whirling dervishes. And of course, exquisite Turkish rugs and carpets. I think the appropriate question is: What can you not find in the Grand Bazaar?

We didn’t really go with a plan to buy anything, but just to see what it was like and take a stroll around. Outside and inside every little shop there are two or three men working, waiting for you to look their way, saying ‘Yes please’ and ‘Hello lady, would you like a (insert item name here)?’ or ‘Hos geldiniz (welcome)!’, trying to draw you in. It is difficult to resist their charms. They sure know a thing or two about luring in the unwitting shopper.

We happened to walk down this tiny lane, easily over looked, where we found a cool little shop selling some of the more interesting and unique trinkets we saw in the Bazaar. If you show any interest in anything in a shop, someone will come to make sure you don’t get away empty handed. The shopkeeper showed us everything he had for sale, pointing out the particular charms of each item. There were some lovely pieces there, but we hadn’t really brought much money with us. He told us the price that he was looking for for the items we pointed out, but we just honestly told him we hadn’t brought that much with us. We talked and he showed us the high quality of his products over the cheaper imitations. He dropped the price, and dropped it again. We said we liked what we saw but didn’t have enough with us, but promised to come back at a later time. After taking a bit to talk it over, we managed to put together the money from what we both had in our pockets and went back to get the goods. After sealing the deal, our new friend Selehattin, ordered us some tea. While we waited for the tea man to deliver it, Selehattin gave us a ‘tour’ of his little shop and explained his plans for expanding his business. He also told stories about nice American people he met, and he explained that when you worked in the Bazaar every day gave you an education in life. He was so kind. I really enjoyed the whole experience. I asked if I could take his picture, and he gave me his email address so I can send it to him.

We headed out of the Bazaar with our purchase and made our way back toward Galata Bridge. I absolutely love being by the water and I always enjoy the views from Galata Bridge so much. I’d never been down to the lower level of the bridge, so we went downstairs and decided to have a cup of tea overlooking the water, sort of where the Bosphorus and Halic meet. The sun was setting and we watched the boats and ferries come and go. We could see tons of seagulls flying above us and the lines of the fishermen’s poles from the upper level of the bridge being reeled in and cast out, occasionally dragging up a few small sardines. While we sat there, the call to prayer rang out from what seemed like every mosque in the city. With all the noise of the boats and the lapping of the water, the call to prayer first just sounded like a strange hum, but then a mosque close to the bridge joined in with much more volume and clarity. I can’t imagine I’ll ever get tired of hearing that sound. It always reminds me I’m somewhere amazing.

PS- Pictures are on the way. The internet is not my friend today.

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