The Grand Bazaar is not so grand. Although supposedly the largest in the world, it seemed to lack the variety we have seen in so many other markets. There were endless stalls of the “evil eye,” pottery, hookahs, tea sets, and carpets- it was all the same junk. The vendors were tough to bargain with and often the last price they shouted as you walked away from their stand was way too high (we knew this because we could find the same stuff for cheaper in the grocery stores). Some were dramatic, like the guy Matt bought a tea set from, who quipped at the end, “You’re lucky that I’m feeling sick today and haven’t made any money yet.” Another guy was pretty grumpy and lectured Joylani and Jackie that they should ask “how much?” before offering a price. He was embarrassed when they informed him his buddy had already tried to sell them the same stuff at a cheaper price. We heard more than enough “Yes, please’s” and “Where from’s” today, although Alex was pretty entertained by the creativity of some of the salespeople’s lines. In response to the vendors’ guesses of “Spain?” “Kurdish?” etc., Alex would just say, “Yes.” Getting into a conversation they would ask him where in the particular country he was from. Alex would proceed to draw a circle resembling his “country” and point to a spot saying, “Here. I’m from here.” The rest of us would stand about 20 feet away and just laugh. Once Alex told a carpet salesman he was from Turkey, to which the salesman responded, “You’re from Turkey? I’m from Korea!” Matt thinks the high prices are a result of Istanbul’s Grand Bazaar being internationally known and being a main site in the city. Consequently, the stall owners can get away with higher prices with all the westerners and cruise-ship shoppers. We didn’t buy that much- partly because we’re not going home, partly because it was expensive, and nothing was very unique.
Turkey may be my favorite country on this trip so far. It’s definitely the most different from what we’ve seen and from home. The food is the best and it’s the most adventurous place as well. It is more expensive than I had anticipated, although its much cheaper than the other countries we’ve visited. Also, much of our cost was due to above-average amounts of transportation (long-distance buses, ferries, etc.). But it’s been fun. Selcuk and Ephesus were super chill and Istanbul is beautiful. The skyline is perhaps the best I’ve ever laid eyes on- all the mosques, minarets, and bridges illuminated against the night sky and the Bosphorus. The hilly peninsulas of the city reminded me of San Francisco. People are friendlier here in general, than the rest of Europe. The combination of looking like a local (ie Turkish or central Asian), retailers/restaurateurs speaking English, and the friendliness of the people makes Turkey a very comfortable place. These things combined with my love of Greco-Roman history have definitely earmarked Turkey as place I’d like to revisit.