I finally can find time to wrap up the Istanbul adventure! Today we shop!
So…shopping in Istanbul was a challenge for me because more than anything, I hate bargaining. HATE IT. And in most of the world, bargaining is a national pastime. This was painful for me – my first instinct is always to look for prices and walk away when I don’t see any. Here’s the advice I always get about bargaining: it’s a deal if you think it’s a deal. If you are happy with the price you paid, that’s what matters. I call bullshit. If I buy something and then I see the same things being sold for less in the next aisle, I am pissed and my purchase suddenly feels wasteful. So this was hard. I had to keep telling myself that my travel money was for spending and I didn’t have the storage space to carry a ton of stuff home anyway, so not to take shopping too seriously. Realistically, I needed nothing anyway as photos are my real souvenirs.
I’ve already mentioned elsewhere that everyone I bought from hates making change with a passion, so small bills are a must. Especially in the markets but I found even in brick and mortar stores, cash registers were rarely used and change is made from what was in a guy’s pockets, if change was made at all. I spent a lot of my days saying “yok, yok, teshekkür” (no, no thank you) as I walked by stores, tables, restaurants, market stalls…the restaurant guys are especially obnoxious. The Grand Bazaar and Spice Bazaar were equally crowded and exhausting, although the Spice Bazaar is much easier to navigate. The Grand Bazaar is like a rat maze and very disorienting; goes from very organized, upscale jewelry stores to twisting, smoke filled tunnels of jeans and knockoff purses. You get lost and when you eventually practically fall outside into sunshine, there’s no telling where you are.
I read a lot about Istikal Street and how it’s the place to see and be seen. It’s in what people call the “new” Istanbul. Eh. Not impressed. Just any other big shopping street in any city, nothing special. The cool part of Istikal is actually the little side streets and alleys running off it. In one, I stumbled upon tables and tables lining the walkway with cotton shirts for 5tl. Yeah, that’s like 3 bucks. You know your favorite cotton shirt that is so soft and awesome? Probably made in Turkey. I controlled myself and only bought two shirts but for such a good deal I admit I had a hard time finding some without too much bling. Europeans seem to really like their shiny crap. Sequins and rhinestones on everything. I found a cute one with a minimum of bling:
The picture of the Koska storefront in the beginning is because I loved that store. Koska has great Turkish Delight (boxed and fresh) and fantastic prices, and lots of other Turkish specialty items and you don’t have to bargain with any damn one. Free samples of goodies too. I tasted a lot in there, I bought a lot in there. One word of shopping caution though: don’t buy meat as you probably won’t get it past customs in the USA. :(. Okay two words of caution: it is illegal to buy counterfeit bags as well, so…don’t buy a shit ton for all your friends back home. That said, if you have just one little red patent leather fake LV wallet you got on the street for 20tl and you love it and you are actually using like a wallet, you should be fine. I didn’t say that though. I’m just supposing.
What I was looking for before the trip I never found: a clue as to how much I would be paying for things, and what I should expect to pay. Because of that, I really had more money with me than I needed. So I bring to you a list of what I bought and what I paid. Can’t tell you if they are the best deals, but I feel pretty okay about them. Maybe they will help give you and idea if you are traveling there. All prices are in Turkish Lira (tl).
Dinner: 7-25tl average
Glass evil eyes: 1tl each
Metal earrings: 1-2tl (sold on a board outside almost every shop)
Gemstone & gold plate earrings: 10tl
“Pashmina” scarves: 5-20tl (I paid 35tl for two soft ones off Istikal, other places in the bazaars are cheaper but I got the patterns I loved.)
Dondurma ice cream: 3tl
Bracelets: 1-15tl for a variety of styles and materials, you can get cheap 1tl ones everywhere with glass beads.
4 brass dancing cymbals (2 for each hand): 15tl
Ceramic Iznik tiles: 3tl for 2 is the cheapest I found, along the rail line by the exit to the Cistern. Real Iznik tiles are made with ground quartz and will run you @50tl at the market near the Blue Mosque but I’m fine with ceramic since I’m using them for coasters.
Wool Socks (hand knitted): 20tl, I didn’t try to bargain here, I respected the woman sitting there on the sidewalk knitting them too much to do that. They are big and chunky and great for running around the house in.
Watercolor print (copy) of the Blue Mosque: 5tl.
Copper ring: 50tl, handmade by the guy I bought it from. It has a big red stone and I have no idea what it is. It’s not a ruby and I assume its dyed chalcedony but when I asked him he looked confused and said they call it “lulu” stone. Any thoughts on this would be appreciated as I bought a pair of earrings for my mom with the same stones.