Even if I was a shopper, I would have a difficult time stuffing a Turkish carpet inside my back pack. Same deal with Alabaster bowls, plates, or chess sets. Turkey is also famous for inlaid wood products, spices, “Turkish Delight” baklava and other sweets, gold and silver jewelry, leather goods, and cashmere. However, none of that stuff is going in my back pack either. Sheesh, with my luck, I would buy some “kekik” (Turkish Oregano) and the police would make me a cell mate with some old toothless dude that Billy Hayes bunked with back in the 1970s. Regardless, I wanted to check out the hype about something called the Grand Bazaar.
However, I first had to move out of the Residence Hotel, where I had spent the last 4 nights, near Taksim Square and move to my new digs at the Hotel Sarajevo, which was located in the Beyazit district. I like this area much better, albeit, it’s almost as “touristy.” Nevertheless, it is near quite a few shrines and monuments, which I liked since I am not much of a party animal anymore. Taksim Square and the nearby area is really a night time place. Which by the way, if you do come to Istanbul, Turkey and like to hit the night clubs, I would be very careful. There are more than a few which are owned or affiliated with organized crime and you can get yourself in a world of hurt; not only being separated from your money, but violence as well. Do your own due diligence.
The main reason I left the Residence Hotel is that the reception manager tried to extort more money from me, when he knew I was possibly interested in staying a few days more. I am not bragging here, but I could afford a room at the Hilton or Hyatt Regency, if I choose to do so. However, those places are lifeless and sterile. Yawn. The main reason I love staying at hostels is the fact I will meet other fellow travelers, who love to chat at breakfast and compare notes/adventures with other back packers. Equally important, I am not ostentatious or like throwing away money needlessly. I liked the Residence Hotel because it was near Taksim Square and the room rate was decent. It also had fairly good TripAdvisor reviews, which frankly, I ended up disagreeing with, but I wont get into the details here.
No, my problem was this reception manager assuming I had just fallen off the turnip truck and would willingly pay his new extortion room rate. LMAO! I din’t indicate that I was onto his scam (which by the way, WikiSherpa warns travelers about in their section on Istanbul hotels. Apparently, this happens at many Turkish hotels). In short, I told him, “No thank you” and that I would be leaving the next day. By the by, the Hotel Sarajevo is nearly 40 Euros less expensive and actually has better internet and larger rooms! I already like this place. If the breakfast is as good as the Residence Hotel was, then this is a tremendous value for anyone visiting Istanbul. I have only been here one day, but I really like this place – it’s run by an extended family and they are quite nice.
So after moving my stuff to my new place, I ventured out to the Grand Bazaar, which was only a couple of blocks away. You need to know a couple of rules when you enter the Grand Bazaar: 1. If you show any interest in a store or kiosk product, expect to be verbally assaulted with a high pressure sales pitch; 2. Most store owners or sales people hang out in front of their store – which means even window shopping is a signal to them that you want to spend hundreds of dollars; and, 3. If you are not there to spend money, I suggest you say this, “You must have me confused with a rich American . . . I am from the poor south and won this trip on a Jerry Springer show.” Forget the fact that they wont know who Springer is – they’ll be focused on what you said about being poor. Also, mention that you are back packing. This is more likely to work if you are browsing at rugs, since obviously a large rug wont easily fit inside a 45 liter back pack. Last, but not least, looking scruffy like I do or having a 2-3 day growth of facial hair is another advantage if you don’t want to be bothered while window shopping. 🙂
I actually did end up buying something. A very inexpensive leather bracelet, with a metal “ying and yang” medallion in the middle. Quite small and easily stashed in my back pack. One last thought before I sign off tonight . . . They had these “blue eyeball” charms called Nazar Bonjuk which means “evil eye” in Turkish. The Turkish people believe that there are people who can cast a spell on you, i.e., the “evil eye.” To counter this, Anatolian artisans have created these blue eye balls that look back at a spell caster that wishes to do you harm. I guarantee you’ll NEVER see a Turkish baby without one attached to their crib, sunsuit, or diaper. No self respecting Turkish parent would allow their baby to not have one.