I’m just going to go ahead and get my favorite bit of Istanbul out of the way now … and we’ll write all the other posts later. The bazaars and markets and shopping! I am by no means a shopper … in fact, I might be the most non-materialistic person you know. I believe in experiences rather than things. But I may have met my match in the bazaars of Istanbul.
This is a pic of me standing outside the main entrance the Grand Bazaar, known in Turkish as the Kapalıçarşı, is the world’s oldest covered market. It spans more than 60 streets, and has more than 3,000 shops. That might sound intimidating, but when you realize there are only about 10-15 types of shops selling the exact same merchandise, it can get a bit repetitive. Unless you’re really interested in finding the exact shade of cashmere scarf, or the perfect Turkish tea set, then you’ll probably get bored (a la my husband). On the other hand, I was in heaven. We got there at around 11am on Christmas Eve, and it was pretty empty (compared to the packed throngs we had been warned about).
The thing that you have to know about the Grand Bazaar is that the shop owners and employees are really aggressive. I mean REALLY AGGRESSIVE. But in the nicest possible way!! They are so super friendly and chatty and talkative, until you realize that they are just trying to create a relationship with you so that you’ll buy their stuff instead of the stuff down the street. And Americans are particularly susceptible to this because we’re a sucker for a “Hiya! How you doin?” kind of question. Or “Where are you from?” Or “You look like you could spend all his money in my shop” … all of which we heard in the Grand Bazaar. Some of the more interesting ones really grab your attention – and it almost takes all your energy to just keep your head down and walk, without getting distracted or pulled somewhere you don’t want to go.
Of course, that creates a problem when you want to window shop! I want to look at the goods before I begin bargaining, but there is no opportunity for that in the Grand Bazaar. You almost have to decide what you want to buy, and who you want to buy it from, before ever looking at any merchandise. We didn’t buy anything in the end, because it was so stressful.
But we did find some other bazaars that were just as lively, but far less pushy. The Spice Bazaar (also known as the Egyptian Bazaar) was Alex’s favorite … but he denies that it had to do with the piles of Turkish Delight everywhere. The sellers were still pushy, but I didn’t feel as overwhelmed as I did earlier.
My favorite bazaar we only discovered on the last day. It’s the Arasta Bazaar, and it’s located behind the Blue Mosque. It’s really only two small streets (not covered), with proper shops, but the salesmen leave you alone, and the prices seemed more reasonable than elsewhere. That’s the other thing about the Grand Bazaar – prices are marked up as much as 400-500%! All the articles we read before we got there said that you should come in with a ridiculously low offer when bargaining, because they might accept it anyway, just to get the sale.
I purchased a beautiful puzzle jewelry box. It’s dark walnut wood, with brass and mother of pearl inlay. The guy claimed it was handmade in Anatolia, but I have no way of knowing for sure. But the neat thing is that it’s a puzzle to try and open it! Secret drawers and hidden keys … I love it. I also bought 3 cashmere scarves. I didn’t go for the super expensive silk ones, because I intend to use them daily. And back at the Spice Bazaar I finally found the perfect little tea set. It’s made of glass with a silver scroll design around the top. I only got a set of 2, because I don’t think we’ll be entertaining much, but I love it.
Posted on 04/01/2013, in travel, Travel to Asia, Travel to Europe and tagged Arasta Bazaar, Grand Bazaar, Grand Bazaar Istanbul, Istanbul, shopping, Turkish Delight. Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.