You can’t go to Istanbul without visiting the Grand Bazaar or the Spice Bazaar. Its a participation in history and quite an experience if you can deal with the crowds and the hawkers. I LOVE textiles but just didn’t feel comfortable purchasing one in Istanbul. I went into a couple of shops just for the experience and it is an experience. You enter a stall/shop and there are no price tags on the rugs, it is mandatory that you sit down, drink tea, and have a vendor show you carpet by carpet for the style of your choice. I didn’t like it for two reasons, it is very time consuming process and I never felt as though I could trust the value of the carpet beyond whether I liked it or not. In one shop the carpet started out at $3000 and was less than $1500 as I was walking out the door. Nothing about the experience instilled confidence.
I loved the Spice Bazaar, it is part of the architecture of the New Mosque built in the 1600’s. It has grown to include more than spices over the years, but still a major center for spice trade and a prime destination for local shopping. So much energy!
I must say that globalization has ruined part of the travel experience to some degree as so many things are now available in our own backyard. Why carry home all of the spices I can now find at Whole Foods, or Central Market right here in Texas??
My favorite store (Denizler Kitabeva http://www.denizlerkitabevi.com, on Istiklal Caddessi 199a, Beyoglu, Istanbul) of the all that I saw on this visit was a beautiful, old fashioned storefront selling old books, maps, engravings and samples of local art.
Its the kind of place you could spend time in as there was so much to see. The lovely woman who helped us had once moved from Istanbul to Santa Fe, New Mexico, one of my favorite places, but can’t image that was easy for her! Just down the road is a Nike Store and even a Krispy Creme, how awful is that? So when I find local gems like this store it is fun to just linger! We purchased one of the pottery pieces of the Ottomon Kaftans similar to those worn by the Ottomon Sultans made by a local artist Seyda Aksu (http://seydaaksu.com/duvaraksesuar.html) as our anniversary gift for this year. These were just beautifully made and painted. We chose one that was covered in pomegranates (similar to the one fourth from left on the bottom shelf of the display below) as they are native to this part of the world. Such delicious memories! Thank you Istanbul!