As you all know, I'm not much of a shopper. As this trip progresses, I may have to start redefining myself. However, for now, I'll just say that Istanbul (or maybe Turkey in general) has a lot of stuff that is worth buying. Debbie, pay attention!
We spent our first few days in Istanbul taking in the sights. Since we'd arrived late on Saturday, we couldn't really do much in the way of shopping anyway, since most of the shops, including the Grand Bazaar, are closed on Sunday. However, we'd designated our last day in town, Tuesday, as our "shopping day".
I really didn't want to go and we got kind of a late start. There was a beautiful ceramic shop next door to our hotel which was very expensive, as expected. However, we wanted to get a quick idea about prices before we did any damage. We walked over to the Galata Bridge to grab a fresh grilled fish sandwich (please do this as well if you're in Istanbul) as fortification. Then it was off to the Grand Bazaar!
First of all, it was completely overwhelming! I think I read there were about 4,000 shops in the entire area. We quickly made our way over to the carpet area and steeled ourselves for some hard sales. We used the first shop as education. The owner showed us a variety of kilims (woven wool rugs), pile rugs, embroidered rugs, and the super-funky camel hair nomad combination rugs that Yann loved. He was really nice and told us point-blank that he was the man for kilims, but not for pile rugs. I told him point-blank that we didn't really know what we wanted or what we had room for. Would we like some tea? Nope--we got out of there before we lost another hour.
A beautiful red and blue knotted pile rug caught my attention and drew us into the next shop. We don't have any room for this rug *at all*, but I guess you don't need much of a reason to decide on your carpet shop. The owner asked us where we were from and, what a coincidence, he had spent a ton of time in Baltimore and Bethesda! Amazing how all of these guys are practically our best friends. After about ten to fifteen minutes of chatting, he had some apple tea brought in and we were off.
I think we looked at more than half of the rugs in this man's shop. We finally decided on one of the nomad-style rugs for our office and a cool earth-colored kilim for a gift. The owner told us he'd throw in a third mat as a "gift"--did we pay too much or does he really like the DC suburbs that much? I'm guessing the former! However, we loved them and felt like it was good value, so maybe everyone wins.
Next, we looked at ceramics. At this point, we were so shopped out and neither of us felt like looking at anything. However, we finally decided that the hand-painted ceramics of Turkey really are that unique that, if we could find something, we should try to stick it out.
After looking in *way* too many shops of *way* too many different levels of quality, we sat down for a beer and almost decided to abort mission again. In the end, though, we wound up back at a shop where Yann had found a platter painted with a ship and fish and I had found one of the traditional ones that I loved. We bargained the guy down about 40% (and by we, I mean Yann) and arranged to have them shipped home.
Now we were really exhausted and done. Time for dinner and a bottle of wine, which is our favorite kind of shopping!