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Sugar & Spice and Everything Nice – Istanbul

A Bazaar Experience:

I am finally getting my posts up from my trip from Istanbul. Looking at the photos, I feel the energy and vibrancy of the market. The Grand Bazaar was one of the places I had been looking forward to since my arrival in Istanbul. I was told its was there that I would see the best of the best of Turkish rugs, lamps, dishware, desserts and spices. This is the place we were told we would have difficulty not spending money. We also knew it would be incredibly crowded with people, so we pampered ourselves beforehand with a relaxing trip to a traditional Turkish bath.

Turkish Bath

The Turkish bath was located off a crowded street just a couple blocks from the Bazaar. The moment we walked inside the street noise seemed to melt away. We changed and we were led into a large white room with 30ft curved cathedral ceilings. Natural light streamed through about 20 small round skylights in the ceiling. Giving the whole space an ethereal and peaceful feeling. I started in the sauna. Then a smiling stocky motherly Turkish woman led me back into the main room with a few others. In the center of the room was a round marble slab. Here I was instructed to lay down, while she scrubbed us from head to toe. A little awkward at first, but the experience made me feel like I was taken back to Roman times. The place was ancient and authentic. By the end my friend and I were both relaxed and rejuvenated, which was a good mindset before heading to the Grand Bazaar.

Grand Bazaar

The Grand Bazaar was packed with people. Not too many tourists, but just very packed. There were lots knick knacks, housewares, and clothing. There were indeed lots of carpets, but none were my taste. I prefer graphic and modern carpets, rather than traditional. At first among the crowded stalls, nothing really stood out, but as we walked through my design eye caught some beautiful lamps and Turkish tea dishware. There were definitely beautifully designed items to be found, but I didn’t really have the urge to buy anything until I arrived in the spice market.

Turkish Tea

After walking around aimlessly, we were in need of a coffee/tea break. In between the stalls we found a little café where stopped to relax and have Turkish tea. Turkish tea is a served everywhere, no matter how hot it is outside. It is a black tea with a very bitter and strong flavor that is offset by spoonfuls of sugar. It is not served with milk. Turkish tea is grown on the eastern part of Turkey near the Black Sea coast. The tea is typically prepared using two stacked kettles designed for tea preparation. Then served in specific shaped glasses on a small plate as seen in the photo. After finishing our tea we headed in search of the spice market.

Sugar & Spice and Everything Nice

When I entered the spice market, I was overwhelmed by the vast number of vendors. It was a visual smorgasbord. Everywhere I looked my eyes were dazzled with colorful dried fruit, vibrant spices, fragrant teas and nuts of every variety. So different to shop in a market like this, no package design, no logo, but it by no means not designed. The presentation of the fresh, vibrant food was the design. The colors, the way it was stacked, the shapes, the items that were placed next to each other. It was by no means accidentally created like this, it was designed. There were mountains of Turkish desserts; Turkish delight, baklava, desserts we’d never seen before. All neatly stacked and organized into beautiful alluring shops. As tourists we were offered to try everything and see everything. It was there that I couldn’t resist the temptation.

The Honest Salesman

Then a funny thing happened. I finally settled on a vendor that lots of Turkish people were buying from. I thought this was a good sign and the prices seemed to be good as well. Each person was designated a salesperson. When it was finally my turn, I got a patient salesman. He was also an honest salesman. He didn’t think I should buy more than a small box of desserts for fear of my figure. That was so funny. This honest salesman must be the only one in the whole market! Knowing that his honesty was not malicious in any way, I only saw the humor in it. Little did he know, I found those desserts so hard to resist that I ate all of them in only a few days. I suppose he knew they were hard to resist.

At the end of the day walking around the bazaars, I felt a mix of exhaustion mixed with intrigue about Istanbul. My mind was filled as we walked slowly back to our hotel. A multi-layered city with so many facets to explore and understand.

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