Saturday, May 26, 2012

Turkish Travels No. 1

On Monday, May 25th, our third day in Istanbul, we went to the Spice Bazaar for a second time. It was mobbed to the point of anguish last time, but on Monday it was just fairly busy. After taking the tram to the Eminönü stop near the Galata Bridge that crosses the Golden Horn, we stumbled into the animal and pet quarter of the Spice Bazaar. Large tanks of leeches were scattered about the block. As far as I know, they are used for medicinal purposes.
The rest of the animal quarter seemed to be dedicated to pets. Cages of rabbits, dogs, chickens, peacocks and cats dominated our attention. Cats roam around everywhere in Istanbul. You can find them wiggling on every corner. But I guess buying one from the Spice Bazaar might be a way to avoid bringing fleas home. I also saw kiosks that had large quantities of what appeared to be nuts and legumes, but on closer inspection I realized it was pet food.
From there we explored the bazaar's endless kiosks of spices, nuts, teas, fruit (dried and not), pastries, sweets, lentils and other legumes, backgammon and chess sets, mavi boncuk amulets, along with plenty of other trinkets and tchotskies (though less of that than at the Grand Bazaar it seemed to me). Backgammon and something called 'Viagra Tea' are very popular in Turkey.
They are also practiced in the art of the hard sell. If you so much as glance at a restaurant or the wares of a particular kiosk, a Turk will start to pitch you very aggressively. Actually, once in the vicinity of a pitchman, you will be pitched. At one point, I assured one that I was just looking. "And I'm just selling!" he retorted wryly. I got so used to it that when I was outside the bazaars and the tourist ghettoes, I almost missed the attention heeded to me as part of the hard sell.

I got ripped off when I bought a couple of dürüm kebaps for lunch. Always ask for the price first. Always. Fortunately, all other purchases have gone much better. We bought candied strawberries, two varieties of Turkish Delight and other bric-à-brac. While we ate lunch, we met a Turkish doctor and his wife. The doctor asked us to take a photo of them. We obliged and then spoke to the doctor for a bit. He spoke English very well, having gone to medical school in Buffalo, NY. He told us about living in Istanbul and encouraged us to take a boat ride on the Bosphorus. After lunch, we took his advice and went to the shore looking for a boat to hire.

All photographs taken by Cecily Gardner. See more of her work here.

1 comment:

  1. Enjoyed the story and pictures