Published: June 3rd 2011May 30th 2011
I woke up at 4:30 to the sound of the morning prayers, which is quite soothing to me and was a wonderful way to wake up and start the day. Dad was still adjusting to the time change and was up shortly after as well. I was counting down the hours until I could eat the wonderful breakfast at the Apricot Hotel! Now that I had a chance to sample everything at the buffet I knew what I really wanted. I had received my birthday presents from my parents (I will be spending my birthday on the road with a tour, so Dad brought my presents with him)and I got a Netbook which I absolutely love (I thought I could do this trip without a computer but it proved to be very difficult) and a Bloggie. The Bloggie is a digital camera and video camera in one and it makes it really easy to upload pictures (to say . . a blog perhaps or facebook, etc) since it has a usb drive built into it and it too is wonderful! I also received a ring that my Mom had made for me in Turkey back when I was little and
the face of the ring is made up of my initials, so my parents thought it was very fitting to give it to me while I was here, it really came full circle! I wanted to start my blogs on my new computer but we had to figure out the power source converter dilemma in which at one point Dad got out his leatherman and was trying to carve extra holes into the converter. I told him that we were going to be on the 10:00 news for burning down our hotel, but in the end it all worked out as my computer cable does not need a transformer (all you have to do is read the labels! Duh!)
We went to breakfast and savored the foods on the buffet and for once I wished that I would not get full since I just wanted to keep on eating the delicious array of foods. Then it was off to the Covered Bazaar (also known as the Grand Bazaar) to meet a longtime friend of my Dad’s. The Grand Bazaar is considered the oldest shopping mall in the world with it dating back to 1461. As you walk into this place
you are shoulder to shoulder with the next person, it is crowded and noisy and there is so much going on, yet you are in awe at the fact that this has been going on for over 500 years. The place is like a maze and Dad and I just kept walking and walking and getting more and more lost, and there is so much to see your eyes don’t know where to look.
We finally made it into the very heart of the Bazaar which is where my Dad’s friend has his shop. Murat Bilir is a very well-spoken Armenian who has this shop in the Bazaar where he sells ancient artifacts from the Ottoman empire, he sells the kind of stuff that cannot leave the country and he has a special permit to do so. He also teaches English in the Turkish schools. He is such a warm fellow as well, the moment we walked in his shop (which fits about 5 people inside max) he was hugging us and making us feel welcome, and ordering tea and carrying on as if we saw him last week. Dad met him 30 years ago and has not seen him
for the last 17 years, but they were talking like it was yesterday. Dad had put a Princeton sticker at the top of Murat’s store door and since then others have followed suit with their American College and University stickers. Dad wanted to take Murat out for lunch so after visiting for a while Murat took us to the local workman’s eatery where I didn’t quite understand how to order, but after I was given a brief introduction on what was what under the glass case I then just pointed to what I wanted and they served it for me, no menu’s here!
We sat down and ate lunch and it is just amazing to hear Murat speak English because he speaks it better than me! I am always just fascinated and inspired when I meet people who speak multiple languages, and the flip side to that is that the Turkish people are so happy that an American has taken the time to speak Turkish and to understand their culture. We then ordered dessert and Dad later told me he thought that he had ordered something entirely different than what came out to the table, but I was happy because
what he ordered was Sutlatch – Rice Pudding! It is so good! Murat and Dad then got into a little squabble over who was going to pay, Dad wanted to pay since he had invited Murat out, but Murat wouldn’t let him pay and sent Dad out of the Restaurant with a slap on the back! Murat also told the restaurant owner that if he let Dad pay that he would never come back to eat there again (this is another thing I love about Turkish people, they have such emotion with their words and Murat really meant this). After lunch Dad told Murat that we had some gold to exchange and Murat told his son to take us to his good friend who was a jeweler in the Bazaar. It is so beneficial to know someone in the Bazaar because it might look like mayhem going on, but everyone in there is one big family and if you are a tourist then technically you are not part of the family since you are just there to buy something and then you will leave and they will probably never see you again. But if you know someone then you become
part of the family, so they send someone with you (since they have to run the shop, they have these little gopher boys who escort you) to tell their friend that you are part of the family and not to screw you over in the price. So Murat’s son took us over to the jeweler and on the way I saw these Burberry shirts that had my inner high maintenance Diva just screaming as a must have. But first things first – Gold. Gold is so prevalent in Turkey that it looks like it should be brass by the sheer amount of it.
We got to the shop and both shop keepers spoke English as they had not learned it in school but in the Grand Bazaar where it turns out that they all help each other to learn the language because it is so instrumental in selling their product and moving up in the world.
We traded in gold that when Dad bought it is was $83 an ounce now it’s about $1300 an ounce – Dad says that he should have bought more gold and less carpets! After having traded in gold, buying earrings that still had to
be made, and buying a gold chain the shop owner still owed us money, and we left without exchanging a since dollar, lira, or euro. The only thing that was exchanged was a handshake because that is the way it is done. Basically the shop owner (really nice guy who had the best smile) wrote on the back of one of his business cards how much he owed us and how much we owed him then signed the back of it, so you better not lose that card because when you get back to his shop he wants to see it and then he knows what has to happen, whether he owes you money or you owe him. When we bought the gold chain he even threw in a little evil eye charm with it. We left then went back to Murat’s shop to tell him thank you (and on the way we passed those shirts again – I was drooling) and we told him we would see him later in the week when we came back to pick up the jewelry.
We then went over to Dad’s other friend, Nick, shop – he used to make beautiful pipes made
out of meerschaum (a soft white stone only mined in Eskisehir Turkey) and he showed us a huge pipe that he had made of The Lord of the Rings. He tried to get George Lucas to buy it because it was labeled “Star Wars” but Gorge Lucas politely declined to buy in a letter he wrote back to him. We chatted for a while and then Dad asked where he could buy a nice Backgammon set, and of course Nick knew and old friend who sold just that. So Nick called in his little gopher boy and told the boy to tell his backgammon buddy that Dad was an old friend, that he speaks Turkish, and to give Dad the best price. So we follow the little gopher boy (since we have no clue where anything is in this maze of shops and people) and the backgammon guy gives us an incredibly cheap price on this beautifully crafted backgammon set. Dad kept asking the guy if he was sure that he heard the price correctly, it just amazing what you can do when you know the right people.
Once we had done our business with everyone in the Bazaar it
The Medusa Heads in the Cister
It is thought that they are turned since it takes Medusa's power away, or that it was the flattest surface in which to build the column
was time to find those beautiful Burberry shirts! So Dad and I started walking, and we walked, and we walked, and we walked. At one point we were asking each other where to go (it was really the blind leading the blind here with our sense of directions). We finally found a place that sold them for about $20 a piece! What a deal! So I started trying them on over my current shirt, and the first one I put on was waaaaay too tight, but the guy selling them was telling me oh yeah it fits, how about not! Then the guy started buttoning up the shirt for me and I could tell that Dad was not such a fan of this, so I told him that it really did not fit and he got me a bigger size and it fit well. I ended up getting 3 of them for far cheaper than I would have paid in the US for one shirt.
Another thing that is great about the Turkish people in the Bazaar is that when you go into their shops it is kind of expected for you to come in, sit down, have cay, and
stay a while. The way it works is the shop owner picks up the phone after getting your order then they call it in and a special place in the Bazaar sends another guy to bring you the tea, they have an internal system of how they pay for it because you never pay, its considered good hospitality to offer someone cay or coffee whenever you are in their home or shop.
After our big day of shopping we stopped at the Cistern, it was fairly hot outside and when we got down to the Cistern it was so cool. The Cistern is no longer in use, but it is beautifully lit with an art gallery around the walking path. The main attractions are the Medusa heads that are at the bottom of two of the columns. Basically, since it was a lot of trouble to get the marble stones in the right shape, they reused a lot of stones from other buildings, so these Medusa heads were big blocks that fit perfectly into making the column the right height. As you looked down into the water at the bottom of the Cistern there were heaps of fish! Just swimming around all different sizes and shapes, and it just made me wonder how they are getting oxygen out of the seemingly stagnant water, and what they are eating. But they seem to be doing fine. There was a wishing spot at the end of one of the walk ways so I threw Australian cents and Turkish Lira into water and made a wish!
I was excited since I was still awake and I would get to experience my first Turkish dinner since I had slept through it the night before. We went to a restaurant with rooftop seating so that we could see the Aya Sofia as well as the Bosphorous as we ate our dinner. It was a very full day, and this trend seemed to continue with each day I have been in Istanbul as there is so much you can do here! No wonder they have guidebooks dedicated to just Istanbul.
Till next time