Istanbul: The Grand Bazaar & The Bosphorus
Efficient porters deftly weave through the crowds, bearing trays of hot, caffeinated goodness. It’s always a good time for çay, Turkish tea, or Türk kahvesi, Turkish coffee. Shop after shop, stall after stall, vendors vie for your attention by asking you questions (Excuse me, where are you from?), by offering you tea, and by rapidly spouting out phrases in the languages they think you speak: Nín hǎo, formal Mandarin for “Hello.” Cómo estás? Informal Spanish for “How are you?” Mahal kita – Tagalog for “I love you.”
One voice is louder than the next, one tactic is more direct than the previous, and one salesman hastily asks you to marry him while another patiently pursues you down the hall hoping you’ll agree to a date. All the while, your eyes scan the jewels and metals and glass, and your stomach grumbles as a you pass a food stall beside a Turkish delight shop.
Kapalıçarşı, the Grand Bazaar of Istanbul, is a feast for the senses. Kapalıçarşı (try saying it as couple-li-CHAR-shuh) means “covered market” in the Turkish language. The colors! The lights! The smells and sights! And especially the sounds. Oh, the sounds…of flattery and curiosity (read more about that in this post). High, arched ceilings stretch over never-ending corridors as one alley diverges into three, and turning in any given direction introduces you to even more, innumerable, side-alleys.
Bracelets, lamps, leather, pottery, diamonds, gold, food, souvenirs, rugs…with over 4,000 shops and eateries, it’s very easy to while away your day (and spend your money) in this shopping labyrinth. The vendors are young and old, well-groomed and scruffy, slim and stocky, eager and nonchalant. The only thing more colorful than them is…well, color itself! One of my favorite things about this shopping haven is definitely the brilliant display of color. See for yourself.
After all the stimuli of the Grand Bazaar, shall we move on to something at a more relaxed pace? It’s time to set sail on the Bosphorus Strait, the Boğaziçi (think boa-AH-zee-chee). The drastic change of scenery opts for subdued colors over scintillating, but that doesn’t make the setting any less interesting. In fact, how many landmarks can you identify on the coastline?
The engine hums steadily as the boat slices through choppy waters, waves passing to and fro between the Sea of Marmara and the Black Sea. A brisk wind blows steadily about – the same wind that blows across both Europe and Asia in this intercontinental divide. I must insist: take in the view. Now that we’re seated, do you prefer apple tea or Turkish tea?