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Istanbul: Great Shopping, Nice People

Author: PenelopeCorelli (More Trip Reviews by PenelopeCorelli)
Date of Trip: July 2009

Got up late as Jim's legs were aching, & I awoke with some muscle pain. Taking it easy today.

At 11:15am we left out of the "special exit" -- when I asked a crew member outside if there was an exit to the left, by the Museum of Modern Art, and yes, there was! It's an exit that has a couple of grocery shops and an Internet cafe. It was a LOT shorter than walking all the way down to the port entrance and then a couple of blocks to the tram. There is also a tram stop close to the other entrance. We paid 12L for several tram tickets & got off the tram to walk to Topkapi Palace.

We walked through a beautiful park; a Turkish family indicated that Topkapi was ahead -- but they were just being "polite" as we discovered when we came to a dead end. We met a couple of Cruise Critic members there (who we had met at dinner one evening).

Outside the park area, we were directed to the road next to it, where we walked until we came to the outer wall/gate. Took photos of it -- nice shots, but decided we didn't want to spend 40-80L on it. Back outside the Palace gate we bought 3 sets of Istanbul postcards for 5L.

Somewhere along the way we lost our Rick Steves' Istanbul book, but since it's our last day here, we don't really need it. Hope whoever found it enjoyed it. The ship map we got is poor, and the tourist map we got here has listings in Turkish, so it's useless, also.

As I took more pictures, some with the Family Dolls, a couple of Muslim women were very interested. When I showed them to the women, and explained that they were my family, they wanted their photo taken with them. So they took a picture with their camera & I took one of them with my camera. Very sweet ladies. They blessed us, & we blessed us back.

Then we walked outside the grounds and raced for a tram. As it left without us, there was 5 minutes before the next tram, so I shopped! Found some cute dishes at a store right there -- how convenient.

The smallest bowls were decorated in bright colors and designs. (The ship's store had a few for $6 each, and I saw them at a store outside the Palace for 12L = $8). There was a ship's tour meeting there; the store probably gets the ship's business.

I checked this store out. There was a large selection inside, although the place wasn't that big. The small bowls were only 5L! So I bought 4 of them -- 20L -- wanted to buy more, one of every color. I'd love a set of dishes & plates in every color -- but no place to store it -- oh, well, buy another hutch!

Got on the next tram to go to the Grand Bazaar. Walked down a couple of streets until Jim saw it. Very old gate entrance.

Inside there was a crazy guy -- really, just the sight of him was enough to warn you -- I guess every city has them. He was cursing and yelling -- at us -- very creepy. He left, and I assured the nice shopkeepers watching that I knew it was not representative of Istanbul! They were a little concerned, but felt better after I smiled at them & told them I understood.

At the grand Bazaar, many places were selling things at prices 2-3x normal. Bargaining is expected. I asked at one store about their inexpensive pashminas (some can be very pricey -- about $50-60) The seller said that all the pashminas were different prices -- not true at other places. He wouldn't list a price, but said he'd make a deal and sell the one I was looking at for a sale price -- 30L! Right. I just laughed and walked away, saying that I bought several like that yesterday for 10L each! As I was walking, he shouted out, "20!" Finally, "Okay, 10L!" I didn't want to bother at this point. I heard that the last price you are quoted as you walk away is usually the best price. There's a whole system to bargaining, but you have to be in the mood, and I wasn't.

We walked by places selling tea and coffee sets. Tea sets had 6 glasses and 6 saucers starting at 20-25L. Very pretty.

We decided to buy a coffee set to make Turkish/Greek coffee, and settled on a blue flowered one. The cups are copper bottom holders with handles, and ceramic insets. There are copper saucers to match. The pot is a long-handled copper bottom with a pouring spout. A copper tray holds the set. We stopped at La Tienda Gift Shop (Kazazlar Sokak No. 12-14) and Edip showed us a nice one that we got for 180L. We love it, but Jim thought we might have paid too much. It was marked at 200L, but I saw the little bowls I like, which were marked 5L each, which told me that this place was not overpriced. They also sell tea sets, wine glasses, & waterpipes. (No, different than the one Jim had in the 60's!). We paid at another place (like a mall office) and they recommended a nice restaurant for lunch, showing us exactly where it was. Havuzlu, a 50-year-old Ottoman Turkish Restaurant in the Grand Bazaar. First you pick out the food in the front area, then they prepare & serve it.

We shared a stuffed chicken breast and a small salad -- cucumber, tomato, parsley, & sweet chilies. They brought bottled water and a basket of bread slices. Everyone in Istanbul eats a LOT of bread. We paid 31L for lunch.

A few minutes later, a couple was seated near us at the end of the long table. The woman's father is Turkish, so they spend a lot of vacations here with family. I asked how to pronounce Kusadasi (heard several ways -- Koosh-u-da'-s?, and how to drink Turkish coffee -- wait until the grounds settle and drink the 2 sips. No swirling, leave the mud at the bottom (Rick was wrong, on both counts.)

We left Havuzlu Restaurant and took the tram to the Spice Market/Egyptian Bazaar. In the underground station by the Spice Market were crowded stalls with really cheap clothing. The place for it. No bargaining here.

In the Market, Jim bought a lemon granita (3L) & I picket out a pillow cover (12L). The stalls were filled with all kinds of spices and teas. A sign said 25L -- for a kilogram! Everything from apple tea to saffron. They'd scoop up the teas and let you smell them: spice, cinnamon, apple, etc. Bought a set of spices, already packed -- just for fun -- for a few Lire, don't remember how much, as this was the only thing we forgot to write down.

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