Monday, November 18, 2013

Istanbul Bazaars

Grand Bazaar

After spending the morning at Sultanahmet Square (previous post) and lunch, Zach and I ventured into the famous Spice Bazaar and Grand Bazaar. The spice bazaar was a series of tiny streets flanked with stall openings overflowing with… stuff. Spices (of course) but also clothes, knick knacks, pottery, shoes, electronics, scarves… the works! It was chaotic, but so fun. We also went to the Grand Bazaar, which is kind of like a mall. It was a labyrinth of aisles with tiny shops on either side for what felt like miles. You could seriously get lost. Thousands of booths!

And gradually over the course of the day, we grew accustomed to Turkish culture. Everyone calls out to you from their stalls. You glance at their wares and they engage in conversation with you and will haggle if you start walking away. The shopkeepers were so friendly and at times it was overwhelming, but we got used to it. And also got some great deals. :-)

Spice Bazaar

Spice Bazaar

Grand Bazaar

Incredible lights at the Grand Bazaar



One-of-a-kind sword
Zach and I had several things we wanted to purchase in Istanbul. We aren't usually the souvenir type, other than magnets and ornaments, but we were so taken with the unique things available that we bought a lot. We had hoped for a rug for our house (I'd been looking online for months to find rugs for our home) so we did a little looking at the Grand Bazaar.

A shop keeper invited us into his store and showed us his "credentials" that apparently attract tourists--an impressive story about him and his store in National Geographic. I have to admit, that's pretty high accolades, so we decided to go in. He sat us down surrounded by rolls and rolls of rugs and served us Turkish tea. This was a first for us. Everywhere you look in the afternoon, we saw Turkish men sipping tiny tulip shaped glasses of tea either on their stoops or engaged in conversations, but we had yet to try it. I was pleasantly surprised--I'm not usually a hot tea kind of person, but this was like magic in a glass with little sugar cubes!

Our first cup of Turkish tea
 Next, we visited about our tastes and our home and the shop owner started bringing us rug after rug that he thought might work for our budget and home. The ones we *really* liked were of course, silk and out of our price range---even with him trying to make a deal. But we found one that was wool and beautiful, and I knew it was a good price because I'd been researching rugs online. We were thrilled to bits with our rug!! Below is the rug hung in our home.

Our Istanbul rug on the wall
Later, we walked around the Old City near our hotel and were stopped by a restaurant owner to check out the menu. This happened all the time in that area--but instead of being a bit scared, we decided to go back to his restaurant. We watched the owner hustle for customers outside in the cold while we enjoyed a really good dinner and great service and realized that being approached by shop owners wasn't a negative all the time. Probably we wouldn't have ate at that place if he hadn't stopped us. When you stay in a touristy area, you get approached as a tourist. All in all, we really enjoyed our day and enjoyed chatting with our waiter and the owner. The owner even treated us to our first cups of Turkish coffee. hoo boy!

Delicious hummus

Some kind of yummy chicken meal
Turkish coffee has the texture of hot chocolate, but with coffee grounds. I had mine very sweet, and it was good, but it was very strong. It's interesting to me that they only drink it after dinner--not at breakfast.

Turkish coffee
Later, we found ourselves working on our laptops at the hotel till 2 am (I was still writing stories for magazines back home, even on our trip) and realized that this coffee REALLY keeps you up. We had a hard time falling asleep every time we had it. Oh well. :-) We had a great day!

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