Bazaar day in Istanbul

(written by Dave)

Today we visited the Grand Bazaar and the Spice Market, plus a bunch of stuff in between.  First up was the Grand Bazaar.  The Grand Bazaar has been trading in the same location for several centuries.  If the walls could talk…  We had been warned to be ready for a real rugby scrum and to keep an eye out for touts flogging everything from carpets to virgin silk.  To our surprise, none of this really happened.  The bazaar was downright civilized.  Having been in Turkey for a couple months now, it is possible that we are better at saying “hello, no thank you” and subsequently get left alone – either that or it is time to get our clothes washed (we wear the same thing almost every day!).

That is not to say that the bazaar was without excitement.  There was a lot of smoke wafting about and we soon learned why when the Galatasaray football club supporters came through our aisle.  There were two rows of young male fans singing and carrying a giant long banner between them.  And they had a highway flare thrown in to complete the mood.  It was all pretty good natured but we couldn’t help but think of the riots that we heard of from a couple nights ago when Galatasaray won their league.  Long after the fans had moved on, smoke and their song remained – with many stall owners also being fans, humming and/or singing repeats.

The bazaar itself was full of everything we’ve been seeing as we’ve travelled throughout Turkey, just more of it and all in one place.  Given our lack of space, we were not overly inspired to buy much but it was fun to have a look.  We lasted long enough to reach the tea shops at the far end where we had our traditional morning tea.  There was yet another mother cat with kittens here, youngest that we’ve seen.  Spring is in the air – too bad most of these cats and their kittens live outside and have to scrounge for their living.

We headed off towards the Spice Market but were inspired by the large grouping of common shops, such as button shops, fabric shops, zippers shops and gun/camo shops to ask a local where we might find a tarp or tent shop.  We need a new camping tarp and thought that this might be easy.  In the end, the tarp was easy, but finding the tarp shops took a bit of wandering and we had to ask a few more folks.  The first guys wrote the shop name down and it worked the treat in helping us get re-directed.

We never found the shop we were looking for but found a street that had many tarp/umbrella/outdoor fabric shops.  We stopped in one where a couple guys were fabricating some big sail-like things and asked them if they could help.  Within minutes, they put aside what they were doing, cut off a piece of fabric for us and were sewing the ends and eyelets into our new tarp.  We got to pick the weight of the fabric, the colour, the number of eyelets and it was all completed in about 15 minutes, right before our eyes.  And it was a complete bargain at only 20 lira – we probably overpaid but it was so much fun getting it done, you have to value the experience at something.  And our last two tarps have fallen apart at the seams, as they always seem to put crappy seams on the gypo outdoor store versions (note to mom Ertel: we still have our nice tent tarp, this new tarp is for under the ten).

Tarp detour completed, we headed off in search of the Spice Market.  But first we needed lunch.  Somehow we found ourselves in more groupings of shops and a very local area.  Here we had hand tool shops, power tool shops and finally cleaning tool/product shops.  At the hand tool shops, we managed to find a new roll of duct-tape.  We’ve used all of ours and been searching for a replacement for months.  Once we found our first roll, suddenly 5 shops in a row had it as well.  Every now and again, probably at “product boundary lines”, there was a restaurant so for lunch, local food it was.  We asked for our favourite lahmacun but were instead served konya.  The shape of the konya was different and it may have had a slightly different crust but it tasted pretty much the same as lahmacun.  Our Turkish skills prevented us from being able to learn the real difference, though the restaurant owner was very definite that they were different.

After lunch we finally reached the Spice Market.  This market opened for trading in 1660 so here again, there must be some real stories hidden in the cracks of those walls.  As you might have guessed, the market was crammed with spices.  But there was also lots of tea, dried fruits and stacks of Turkish delights.  We didn’t really need any spices but the Turkish delight is always a good afternoon snack.  The smells in the bazaar are quite strong and of course, the colours vivid, you could spend hours there just taking photos and sampling Turkish delight.   There were a few Turkish style delis as well, so we picked up more treats for another rooftop dinner tonight.

Last stop of the day was the bike shops (again, we went there on Saturday also).  We were trying to find de-greaser to help clean our chains.  This proved pretty difficult.  The shops either sold WD-40 for this purpose or admitted that they just use diesel gas.  One shop actually stated that they don’t clean chains.  This could be a translation error but you never know.  Eventually, we found a motorcycle shop with some de-greaser that is probably nothing more than diesel but Nancy was getting tired and I was running out of shops, so I just bought it.  Like all of our shopping today, there was a cluster of bike and motor cycle shops all together, which is great for product and price comparison.  Plus it saves you walking/driving all over town.

Tomorrow we are being “un-tourists”.  In the morning we have our dentist appointment s, we’ll probably clean our bikes and plan in the afternoon, then finally we’ll be catching up with my cousin (Bruce) for dinner in the evening.  It’s probably been 35 years since Bruce and I have seen each other so that should be fun.  He’s lived in Istanbul for quite a number of years so we’ll take his guidance on dinner choices and probably be able to finally decipher some of the big mysteries of the trip – like the difference between lahmacun and konya.  It should be a fun day, once the bikes and teeth are cleaned.

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4 responses to “Bazaar day in Istanbul

  1. Did you try the peppers that were on top of your Konya? It would be fun to try out a few of the spices! I bought a small amount of Saffron, it was amazingly expensive.

    • Peppers on the konya were great – just off the grill – not too spicy. I tried a few of the spices but it is they are all a bit overpowering when taken raw. The fish spice and curries were good. I’ll see if I can’t get you a price quote on thesaffron, if the price is low enough, perhaps it is another reason for you to visit Turkey 🙂


  2. We’re pretty sure it was the cloths.

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