Tuesday 5 May 2015

Teşekkür, Turkey

I wonder how many times now I’ve walked either up or down Istiklal Caddesi? It was the last time this morning, anyway, and it’s an achievement to have done it so many times and not to have tripped on the treacherous kerbing, fallen down the unexpected steps or been mown down by the old tram. I did see one young man with a broken nose, wandering along with his hands still in his pockets. Slow learner.

This morning’s focus was shopping, and with great determination we hit the Spice Market, the maze of streets behind, and then the Grand Bazaar. All sorts of things were bought from cheerful vendors – “Yes! Beautiful carpet? Just like you!” “Excuse me, yes? Bag? Carpet? Spice? Lamp? Jacket? Perfume?” “We have everything except customers…” “It’s all free!” but our main mission was to find again two particular stalls in the Grand Bazaar.
This was a challenge. The covered market covers 75 acres and comprises 3,000 stalls, most of them selling similar goods – and it’s not a grid system. It was more like an episode of The Amazing Race than anything else, with time ticking away and an amused audience of stall-holders beginning to recognise us. “Second time!” But, and you must recognise the achievement here, we found them both, and then, of course, were obliged by the effort involved, to buy. There was haggling, frowning, lip-biting, periods of silent consideration, sighing, much tapping of calculator keys but, in the end, they sold, we bought and all were satisfied.
As a reward for so much effort, we emerged at the top of the hill and went for an icecream. This is different in Turkey. Both the product itself, which is kind of chewy and needs constant working by the vendor presumably to prevent its turning into a solid mass, and the buying experience. It’s a thing, to make it an exercise in sleight-of-hand, and it’s real entertainment to watch the cone filled and then magicked out of the customer’s grasping hand over and over again. It’s very funny, though some of the little kids we watched didn’t much appreciate the joke, strangely.

And then that was it, for Turkey, for me. Tram, bus, plane, van, car and I was home again, and it was all over. Usually I’m pleased to get home but this time I was sorry. I had such a great time in Turkey. Gallipoli was so special, the Insight Vacations tour was so good, Barcin was a brilliant tour director, and Turkey itself was friendly, safe, interesting, historic, colourful and beautiful. And to have the Firstborn as my travel buddy for all of it was just the best.

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