6. Istanbul: 4-hour Turkish Shopping Experience
From the ancient Grand Bazaar with over 3,000 shops selling everything from carpets to jewelry, to ceramics and leather goods; to the Spice Bazaar with its incredible smell from almost every spice imaginable, as well as dried fruits and nuts, sweets and the ubiquitous Turkish Delight; it is mind blowing to the first time visitor. This is not helped by the traders shouting out and tempting you in with various offers, many of which will be quickly forgotten should you venture inside.
This is a part of Turkish culture and trade, and very common in other countries where negotiating and barter is the norm. To the Westerner who is not used to this, it can be quite a daunting prospect and visitors sometimes fall prey to the more unscrupulous traders.
To prevent this and to ensure a pleasurable and happy shopping experience your guide will bring you to the right places to make your purchases. Many of these can only be found on the backs streets outside the two bazaars, in places you would likely never find or enter by yourself.
The whole Turkish culture and tradition of buying from recommended traders is still observed. You will be encouraged to:
· sit and drink huge quantities of tea
· talk about yourself
· ask questions
· look at a huge array of merchandise
· negotiate, as no trader is happy if you just accept their first price
This is part of the whole process, one where making friends is as important as the purchase itself.
The one secret to negotiating is not trying to drive the price down to the absolute lowest possible point, as you have no idea what that is. Each trader will assess each customer differently on any given day. Mood will play its part as will how much they like you and get on with you, hence the reason for going through the sociable elements before buying.
If you can’t agree on a price you are free to walk away but if you do you will leave with the comfort of knowing your purchase is genuine and not some back street fake.
What to Buy
The Turkish carpet/kilim has a long history dating back hundreds of years. An original Turkish carpet is handmade using only natural fibres and dyes from plant extract. The process is long and slow and obviously the time taken to make one depends on how big it is. Smaller carpets, with their bright colours are quite often used to hang on walls just as you would with a picture. There are many different characteristics to the Turkish carpet, depending on where the material is from and this also influences the design and price.
The carpet shops recommended by your guide will take time to explain everything to you and offer advice on what might be your best choice.
The production of Turkish ceramics dates back to the 15th Century and developed from the appreciation of Chinese porcelain by the Ottoman Sultans. Being unable to produce porcelain they manufactured fritware, which is a low-fired body comprised mainly of silica and glass.
These ceramics are more commonly referred to as Iznik Pottery after the region where they were first produced and the real collector’s items are hand painted. Consequently no two pieces are ever the same.
Your guide will only take you to the shops and markets selling authentic pieces.
With 500 years of Ottoman Rule and their desire for opulent jewelry, a whole industry is devoted to keeping the traditions alive with craftsmen passing their knowledge and skills on from one generation to another. The result is an abundance of unique pieces both for design and the gems which adorn them.
On your tour you can have confidence in the designers and craftsmen, who will work with you in finding or creating your own unique family heirloom.
Turkey has a thriving leather industry offering bags, jackets, coats and trousers, but you have to be very careful as there are so many fakes on the market. That said you can buy exceptional quality leather goods at prices which are usually way below what you would normally pay in your home country.
Your guide will only take you to the leather stores and factory outlets, which have a reputation for honest trading and no fakes.