Jun 13, 2013

Istanbul - A trip to the neighbors (Part 3)

Today the weather is gloomy again, but unlike yesterday the sun doesn't want to show. Rain-proofed, we head to the Sultanahmet Sq. with our favorite tram. On the square, where once the Constantinople hippodrome was situated, there are two obelisks erected (I always wonder if it is obelisk or Obelix, at least Asterix is always around to remind me which one is correct). The first of them, the Egyptian obelisk, built in 15th c. BC in Luxor, looks like its official opening ceremony was just yesterday and not 3,500 years ago. The second one, the obelisk/column of Constantine or the Walled obelisk, looks much older, but in fact is 200-300 years newer, it just haven't been using enough day lotion with Q10 for wrinkles/cracks. Between the two giants, there is a small metal column, the Serpent column, which has turned green with envy because of its low height.
Who is taller?
The Constantine obelisk and the Serpent column in the front

The three of us have put on long pants, because we want to see the Blue mosque and we accept that it is required to wear long pants in order to visit a mosque, but as we go in the court, there are some people with shorts.
For the religious ones
The blue mosque 1
Good night 1
I doubt that it is the most comfortable place to sleep.
The blue mosque 2
Attempt to get the overall picture.
Towards mommy …
… towards daddy
The rest zone
Good night 2
… as well as this place.

We head to Aya Sophia, but the waiting line discourages us and we find a bench, for which there is no waiting line and could be visited/used right away.
Smoking boiled corn …
… and roasted chestnuts
Religious peculiarities

We decide to visit the Egyptian or Spice market, the smaller of the two most famous covered bazaars in Istanbul. We slowly take upon the small streets, we are not in a hurry.
We pass near the entrance/exit of the construction site of the future metro line that will go underneath the Bosphorus and will reach the Asian part of the city. (more info here)
Elegant carriers
For some time, we thought that their carrying gear is some kind of chairs, because we saw them mostly left on the pavements in front of stores.
Red (kırmızı) motorcycle
Random entrance
It's unlocked

I am very pleased to find the Spice market exactly where I expected it to be. As we overstrained yesterday with our walk, we start to get tired faster today and decide that it is time for a new break, just an hour after the first one. We sit at café inside the market and order the first refreshing doze of Turkish tea/coffee plus something sweet for the day, only that the prices are a bit bitter, but we take extra sugar. This covered market offers every possible souvenir that a tourist market should offer. On the outside, however, the product offering is on a whole new level, there is everything else, literally. As if the aisles of Metro Cash and Carry, Tesco, Carrefour or Walmart are turned into small and narrow streets.
The Egyptian market 1
Coffee/tea time 1
Coffee/tea time 2
The Egyptian market 2
The horn of the souvenir plenty.

We decide to go out and sit at the square next to the bazaar. But before we get to the benches we pass by some shops, which can make your mouth water. The Turkish are real tradesmen, everybody gives you, more like pushes something into your hands to taste it – the olives are good, the yellow cheese is amazing, the fish is fresh, well, we didn't taste it, because we didn't feel like having sushi. We sit next to an ice-cream or dondurma stand, and of course I want to have some. I remember from some videos what their trick is, which we see right away when they hand the customers their ice-cream or more like how they tantalize them. Let the most patient client have some ice-cream. Depending on the ice-cream guy's mood and skills, he can play with you from 30 seconds to 2 minutes. I wait for the ice-cream guy in chief to have a break and get my dondurma in less than 30 seconds. The Turkish ice-cream is very specific one, it melts slowly and it could be described as slobbery or unctuous (not sure if this is the right word for what I mean). Despite the unpleasant associations those two words lead to, the dondurma is very delicious. Its key ingredients are the salep, which is flour made of grinded orchid bulbs and mastik, which is based on anise.
Fresh fish
Fresh olives
Cheeky rascal
Hard life
Black and white
Although it is not seen on the picture, the cat's balls were different colors – black and white.

While we rest, the other guy in the group gets hit by a pigeon, at least his head is shaved, so the cleaning is easy. We decide to leave before anybody else hits the pigeon's jackpot. We go into the outdoor hypermarket marveling at the great variety of goods. One of the shops is specialized into knives offering from the smallest pen-knife to the largest cleaver. Next to the popular Swiss army knives with the Swiss flag on them (white cross on red background), there are Turkish army knives with white crescent on a red background. These guys are resourceful, no question about it. We start climbing up a steep street, which should lead us to the Bazaar – Capali Carsi. The street itself is part of the outdoor hypermarket, with most of the stores highly specialized in some kind of products – whether it is only hats or door handles, fishing and hunting accessories or curtains.
The outdoor hypermarket is fan of Galatasaray football club
Ready for games in 3, 2, 1
Ready for unloading
They will be shining like new in a minute

Little by little the slope of the street decreases and the street gets seized by the Grand bazaar. Inside, there is everything we have already passed, but it is tidier and shinier. We release our lady to get crazy, while we, the male part of the group, find a place to sit and have a rest. We have positioned ourselves facing a shawls store and watch how the seller very competently takes care and enchants a middle aged female customer. He hands her a shawl after a shawl, orders some Turkish tea, his hands are staying more and more on her body. We don't wait to see the end of this game, because we leave, but I'm sure that he sold what he wanted and she got what she needed. And it was not only the shawl, but also his attention.
Capali Carsi 1
Capali Carsi 2
Shop till you drop.
Capali Carsi 3
Three nymphs shopping.

We decide that we want to buy ourselves nice hookahs and start looking – the initial prices, which are not the final ones start at 120-140 Turkish liras ($65-75, €50-55). They start lowering the price, when you show some interest.  One of the guys in a matter of a minute or two drops the price from 180 to 60-65 liras and I wonder why we didn't had a deal with him. We decide that we can find a better bargain at some of the stores outside of the Grand bazaar and move on. We head to the shops that we visited the first day, just outside the market, when we still thought that we are at the market. Having gone outside we discuss prices and bargaining tactics, when a random guy of Bulgarian origin starts talking to us and explains that he can take us to a friend of his, who has nice hookahs at good prices. Been quite worn out, without much thinking we follow him like lambs back to the Grand bazaar. He didn’t have any ulterior motives and takes us to his guy, but we didn't find anything interesting there. We decide to switch the direction and go down the steep street that led us earlier to the Capali Carsi. Contrary to our logic, the prices there are bit higher, and we can't find the hookahs we like. Probably it has something to do with the less competition, since there were just a couple of shops around offering hookahs, but still they should have lower costs than the guys at the Bazaar, I think. However, we refuse to climb back towards Capali Carsi and to try finding the particular store in that madness. We find a nice düner place and sit down to eat.
In search of the best bargains
On a crossroad
Although he had to move his cart constantly because of passing vehicles, he managed to sell at least a meter of the pastry, called tolumbichki, cut into small pieces for 30-40 minutes, mainly to the locals.

We go back to the Spice market, since my relatives want Turkish delight and dried fruits tea. I can't decide for some time whether I should buy some of the prepackaged ones, but when we reach at the other end of the market I finally stop at a store. I choose some dried apple and cinnamon tea and we go inside the store. Next, the seller brings out some big rolls of Turkish delight and with a large pair of scissors cuts some to sample it. I haven't tried more delicious Turkish delight. He explains that it is very fresh and is made with honey, not sugar. I wasn't a big fan of Turkish delight, but now I am, but only to this one. He weights the chosen pieces, I pay and he puts another piece, for free. Kudos.

When we go out, it is already dark and has started drizzling. In an attempt to get to our tram, we go around the Grand bazaar, since it is closed and cannot pass through it. Relying only on my spatial sense and led by the magnetic north, I successfully manage to find the tram street. While we wander in the small dark streets, we find an Asian tourist who is shooting the dark alleys. Next to him a drunk local asks where is he from. The guy answers that he is from South Korea, and the Turkish guy shows that he understands: "Aaah, China". The South Korean corrects him, but the drunkards hold his own – China. Before we go back to our hotel room, we sit at one of our favorite cafes to loiter away some time.
Toward our tram
Having a rest before resting
On the move 1
On the move 2
On the move 3
On the move 4

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