I'd love to share with you, if you'll indulge me, the experience of buying things, namely fabric and spices, at the markets in Istanbul (not Constantinople), a trip which followed closely on the heels on the previously blogged day trip to France. Sadly this post won't have a lot of photos of the markets themselves, because the experience was surprisingly consuming. I'll toss in some photographs from around the city for good measure, though.
Anyway, Istanbul. It's breathtakingly gorgeous, and ridiculously old, and there is so much fun stuff to do there. As with so many of the places I've been in the past few months, it's been merely a taste of someplace I already miss and want to return to.
If I had merely been browsing, perhaps I would have had a different experience in the makets, but I wanted to buy some ikat fabric and some spices for glühwein. Ever since Jenny Jo and I took a dyeing/weaving class at California College for the Arts, I've had a fascination with ikat fabrics. My hilarious attempt at making a vaguely circular shape in that class:
Nailed it! Anyway, ikat fabrics are not typical in Turkey, but they are in other parts of Central Asia, and that stuff makes its way to market along with the carpets and the saffron and whatnot.
Some things about shopping at the markets, namely the Grand Bazaar and the Spice Bazaar:
* It's like the biggest 600 year old mall ever. My biggest advice to anyone visiting Istanbul is WATCH YOUR STEP. The city is super hilly so there are stairs everywhere, and said stairs along with floors, sidewalks, doorways, streets, etc are old and uneven and not so friendly to the clumsier among us. But watching your step isn't the worst thing, because the floors can be fascinating, too.
* Shopping takes takes some time. The shopkeepers wanted to sit me down, yell at some guy out the door to fetch me tea, and show me EVERYTHING.
The husband and I got trapped in a carpet store for quite a while after pausing to look at a map of Turkey with corresponding carpet patterns outside the shop. We made it patently clear we would not be buying a carpet and he didn't seem to care much; he just wanted to show us the goods and challenge me to untie a knot from his superbly made carpets. It was pretty hilarious, and I suspect he offered us a really great price on a truly beautiful carpet we were sadly just not in the market for?
* If I said I was "just looking," I was often met with a snide comment. People wanted to know what I wanted, and once I said ikat, I was quickly whisked through the market by one guy to his buddy's shop. Buddies. When the guy at the hotel called his buddy to take us to the airport, he walked us outside, took some bottles of water from his other buddy at the convenience store without paying or even saying anything, and handed them to us. So many buddies!
* I'm glad I didn't buy anything at the first shop I went to. I actually really enjoy haggling but I wasn't meshing with the first guy and I later came to find out his prices were indeed quite outgrageous. I did the slow walk out the door and he made no appeal to me, so that was that.
* I enjoyed the next shop I found much more. The salesman was friendly and fun to talk to, the husband and I had some delicious tea, and then I did some damage. I didn't have to work too hard to get the guy down to a price I thought was reasonable for the absolutely stunning and gorgeous fabrics I came away with. These are all from Samarkand in Uzbekistan, and now I have to figure out what exactly to do with them.
* It is so much fun to taste everything that looks good, both inside the spice market, which also sells nuts, dried fruits, and sweets, and outside where there are people selling amazing fresh cheese.
In general, there is so much amazing food and drink to be had all over the city. Fresh squeezed pomegranate juice, where you been all my life?
* The husband, who is not a haggler by nature in the slightest, talked a street vendor down on a bottle of water on our last day there. This tickles me to no end.
I hope you're enjoying traveling with me. I've got less than a month left here in Germany, but hopefully more adventures to share before I go all Midwestern on you. A few more photos:
p.s. I must not be the only one who read The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe as a child and wondered what Turkish delight was?
p.p.s. One of the photos is a dead giveaway, but this blog post is also a Where's Waldo for the evil eye amulet.