The Grand Bazaar, Istanbul. Wowzers. What a place. Fifty-eight streets and over 4000 shops. It’s like Anthropologie on steroids, dipped in ikat, bathed in Chai and hung to dry on a cobble-stoned street in Naples. This place is grand, and it is bizarre. Grand because it is so easy to get caught in the labyrinth of covered shops all packed to the brim with Kilim, Suzani, Ikat, beads, teapots, fake designers bags and perfumes, lanterns, antiques, musical instruments, Turkish towels, slippers, pillows…the list is about as endless as the shops themselves. Bizarre because you get sucked into the thrill of bargaining, accepting Chai tea that magically transforms into a $200 Suzani blanket that you had no intention of buying in the first place.
The first day I went on a research mission only. No shopping. The arches and tiles ceilings made my mind whirl like Dervishes. I cannot tell you how many times I thought I was on an unfamiliar street only to realize I was going in circles. To this day I am unsure if I saw the whole market despite my attempts to weave through the isles methodologically, like I do at a supermarket, or at the Rosebowl Market for that matter. By my third visit I understood the general prices (about 75% of what you can find the same things here for, I’d say.) I also discovered which shops were selling the Turkish goods– (as many people were selling Afghan and Indian pieces). I sought out the ‘old stuff’ because most of the shops were selling new items–once I had narrowed my search down to the older stuff– the Market was much less overwhelming.
Some things that surprised me about the market was that not all the vendors spoke English (or German, French, Italian or Spanish for that matter). It was fun to bargain by writing numbers down on paper– very different–and in these kinds of circumstances, body language and personability make all the difference. I had a blast hearing all the stories the vendors that did speak English had to say. I learned a lot about different types of dyes, weaves and materials (although you never know how much of what they say is bull).
Ultimately, I did most of my Istanbul shopping outside the Bazaar at thrift and antique shops– but the Bazaar was amazing for the experience of it– almost more like going to a museum or watching a movie even, than going to a flea market.
I have so much more to share with you including the goodies I did find, the Spice Market, the photos from my thrifting adventures and more…so, I hope you don’t get sick of me going on and on about my beloved Istanbul…