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Sunday, March 30, 2014

Bizarre Bazaars

Sultanahmet or old Istanbul is a medieval city centre, a mixture of Asia and Europe. And it is full of shops. The best place for shopping: the Grand Bazaar which is more than than just little shops. The enormous, ancient bazaar is all indoors - covered by arched ceilings. Its little alley ways crisscross into a labyrinth where you can get lost for hours. Vendors sip tea from tiny glasses in their doorways. Their displays include sparkling silver, hand painted china, woven rugs, cheap t-shirts, dangling blue eyes made of glass that are supposed to bring good luck. There are water pipes for sale and for rent. You can eat fresh bread or drink fruit juice, Turkish coffee or Turkish delight. The market's stone floors have been worn smooth over the ages, stone steps even hollow out by the millions of feet that have shuffled here.

The vendors drink tea all day.
Across town, past the many mosques, minarets and domed roofs of palaces, is the Spice Market. In this similar labyrinth of alleys, all covered, you can find baskets and mountains of cinnamon, curry, peppers of all color, dried rosebuds and sage. There are many different kinds of tea, cumin and rosemary. You can buy, and smell, dried apricots, dried octopus and
dates. After a while: sensory overload. Add to this the fact that the vendors yell and praise their wares. They invited you to come in, try this, buy that! And you have to barter. It's exhausting... 
We liked the colored mosaic, glass lamps you can buy here.

We strolled back to our hotel along the Bosporus and the Sea of Marmara. A long walk along ancient city walls, ferry terminals and one of the busiest waterways in the world. We watched little tug boats plowing alongside huge freighters.

Formerly known as Byzantium, then as Constantinople, and now as Istanbul, the city lies half in Asia and half in Europe. And it shows. With its roasted chestnut stalls and coffeeshops, Istanbul sometimes feels like Paris. Its narrow streets with patios and trams feel like Amsterdam. While its forest of minarets, shoarma stands and water pipes give it a distinct Middle Eastern feel. Women wear burkas or tight pants, hiking boots or high heels. You can buy roasted corn or a Starbucks. Istanbul is a meeting place of east and west.

I'm sure you can spend an infinite amount of time in this city, but to us three days were good. We walked all over the cold city, got a good sense of it and visited its icons: the Blue Mosque, the Topkapi Palace and the bazaars. We walked and walked and walked, but also lounged on patios. 

1 comment:

  1. I would love to go there! Thanks for the virtual trip!

    ReplyDelete