I was born to shop, even when I don’t buy a thing! The thrill is in the hunt, the journey, the adventure. And no place is more fun than the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul. There are over 4000 shops in this the world’s oldest covered market. Mehmet the Conqueror built it in the late 1400’s, originally of wood it is now all stone and brick. Fires were a problem in the past!
It’s huge, its chaotic, it’s crazy. Vendors do whatever they can to lure you into their stalls. Get lost on purpose in the maze of more than 60 streets. Admire, explore and shop. You can find anything… gas masks, caviar, belly dancing outfits or rubber boots. Some great things, much of it junk. But if you want something, be prepared to bargain and bargain hard. These salespeople are pros. They do this all day long and are good at their jobs. They are also wonderful people trying to make a living.
Here are some tips for when you find the perfect leather jacket or the copper pots that will turn your kitchen from ho hum to wow.
First and foremost, be prepared to walk away. NEVER let on that you really want this particular treasure (and really, do you?). Make them offer a starting price, feign shock, plead poverty.
This process will take time. Consider it entertainment. They will not sell it to you if they do not make a profit; so just ignore tales of taking food from their children’s mouths. It’s ok to accept tea. It’s delicious. It’s not an obligation. Do not get angry. It will not help. At all. Smile always; be friendly. If you agree on a price…terrific. Who knows, you might just find yourself pleading with the airline to let you carry on a giant Iznik vase. I grin every time I look at mine.
Stay: Four Seasons at Sultanahmet
See: The Hagia Sophia