One of the greatest pastimes in Istanbul is shopping. Pastime is not the right word. Experiencing the grand Bazaar it is one part contact sport, one part human psychology 101 and one part exhilaration. Shopping in Istanbul is truly a timeless art form. Yes there are the chinsy tourist items, the fake Rolexes, carpets made in China. But it also has some of the best handcrafts and jewelry we have ever seen. The Grand Bazaar has it all.
How to do the Bazaar
We don’t have an answer for this. It is funny to watch other couples enter and say to one another…”I will meet you over by the one carpet dealer. See you in an hour.” Good luck with that! LOST! The size of the bazaar is so difficult to describe. Where does the Bazaar end and the city begin? Is the Bazaar just one story? Is there better shops in one are over another? We don’t have an answer. The Bazaar is best enjoyed with a lot of time and money.
The Art of the Deal
I have seen some incredible salesman in our travels. None rival the talent on display in the Grand Bazaar. Some of the hawkers in the bazaar are three, four and we even found one five generation salesman! These men, we didn’t come across a saleswoman, so yes they are almost all men, are tuned and trained to evaluate you and devise a plan to separate you from your cash. It is almost a science for them. Language barrier? Not in the bazaar. Everyone speaks the language of sales. I was able to chat up a young salesman that let his guard down a little. Our conversation went something like this:
Me: “When did you start selling?”
Him: “Sold my first thing when I was only 5”
Me: “Whats your secret to making sales?”
Him: “Reading customers. And keep them talking to you.”
Me: “How do read a person?”
Him: “Shoes and eyes.” (Enter big smile aka end of sales training)
Him: “Would you like to see some of my best stuff? I keep it back here…come my friend” (Enter sales pitch)
Put this to the test. Walk past the best salesmen in the bazaar. They will check your shoes in as you approach and then they will focus on your eyes. Eyes tell everything. They point to the things you find most precious. They reveal your love for an object. Very telling.
Heart of Darkness
Go get lost in the Bazaar. Go deep. The bazaar cannot be “done” in an hour. We are not sure that it can be “done” in a day. Enjoy the experience for what it is, you are a part of history. Breathe in the experience. Take in the mosaics at every turn. Drink some tea with some salesmen. Play with the shop owners kids. Most importantly, buy stuff in the Bazaar! Don’t let the salesmen intimidate you. You will never forgive yourself if you don’t buy that silver bracelet you found. First off, you will never find it again in the melee of the bazaar. Candidly, we found our best deals when we were completely lost in dark alleys deep in the beast of the bazaar. Find your own path.
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The Carpet Fight
Add the Grand Bazaar to the list of 1000 places to fight before you die. Mike wanted to buy a rug. Of course we agreed to a price ceiling before we even set foot in the market. Of course Mike paid no heed to that agreement. He boldly walked into carpet shops and looked at stuff we couldn’t afford. (Don’t do this.) We ended up meeting the George Clooney of carpet sales. Mike the great white salesman himself had met his match. We went round and round on the price. In the end, we paid way too much. With that said it was a great experience. Today, the rug welcomes everyone that comes into our home.
The Grand Bazaar is not to be missed. Turkey and Istanbul especially is a wonderful couple travel destination. It offer so much. Experience the bazaar. Spend some money!