Our last day in Istanbul is cool and rainy. Billy and I have a leisurely breakfast at home and take our time getting ready. Noting that our snack inventory is low (!), we visit the shop around the corner. The entire place is packed with large, wooden barrels filled with delicious nuts and dried fruits. The shopkeeper remembers us from yesterday and is happy to see us – it’s fun! We’ve only been in Istanbul a few days and we already have friends.
After replenishing our supply of almonds and dried apricots, we stroll (downhill) past music shops, art galleries, and nice storefronts. İstiklâl Caddesi in Beyoğlu is definitely the “hip” part of town. We take the tram over the Golden Horn to Sultanahmet yet again and make our way to the Grand Bazaar. After all, rainy days are good reasons to shop!
How Bazaar, How Bazaar….
The Grand Bazaar is one of Istanbul’s most popular attractions. It is one of the oldest and largest covered markets in the world boasting over 4,000 shops and 65 streets. Billy and I are drawn into a shop near the entrance that sells spices, loose teas, and traditional pastries. While Billy negotiates a price for tea, I notice the man behind the pastry case. He surreptitiously scans the store and, when he is sure no one is looking, pops a small piece of baklava into his mouth. He sneaks two more pieces before we leave.
Billy and I treat ourselves to all kinds of things including a beautiful lamp and a gorgeous Turkish rug. Perhaps worried about my haters, Billy insists I get a traditional evil eye trinket. Don’t worry, I jest. I’m not one of those deluded people who believe they have haters. But just in case I do, I have a nifty little talisman to offer me protection now.
As you can imagine, the vendors in the Bazaar are… proactive. And creative. In order to showcase the durability of a glass tea set, one seller proceeded to stand on a tea cup while performing Mr. Miyagi-style single leg lifts. We’ll probably never need to do that during tea time, but it’s always nice to have options.
Speaking of options…
Each time Billy wanders even just a few steps away from me, I find myself in the awkward position of getting marriage proposals from random men. My polite refusals only seem to encourage hard sells from my would-be suitors. I refuse one man and gesture to Billy (hellooo, I’m taken). The man smirks and gestures to himself in a way that I can only assume translates to: “But you could get with this!” I laugh and shake my head. He shrugs and walks away. Billy comes back, oblivious to it all.
Or at least, he was oblivious to it all until one gentleman asks him “how much?” in reference to me. The man seems to be joking (we can only hope), and Billy kindly informs him that I am not for sale but he is for free. The man isn’t interested in this counteroffer. My poor William, he can’t even give it away.
I want to note, dear Reader, that several ladies shared their preconceived notions with me about Turkish men being gruff, bearded chauvinists. Aside from the silliness in the Bazaar, I did not find this to be true at all. Most of the men we met were incredibly polite, cultured, and well put together.
I Lose My Man
Billy and I leave the Grand Bazaar heavy with loot. It’s still raining as we hurry through the turnstile to catch the tram back home. I barely make it onto the tram when I realize the guy I was struggling to keep up with, the guy I thought was my betrothed, is actually a total stranger. I glance back to the turnstiles as the doors close. Through the window I see Billy’s smile fade to bewilderment: where did she go? He looks all around him but I am nowhere to be found. The tram pulls away. It is the saddest little thing.
Luckily, he is savvy enough to find me at the next stop and we continue home to drop off our newly acquired goods. We choose a charming restaurant just off of İstiklâl Caddesi for dinner. There are a few other couples present and the atmosphere is relaxed and inviting. A cat is napping in a chair nearby. There are cats everywhere in Istanbul – in the streets, the parks, the cafes – and most look like well-cared-for housecats. It’s been fun having them around and, though I can’t say exactly what, these little spirits add something special to our time in Istanbul.
Our flight leaves in the morning so, while there is much more to see in Istanbul, dear Reader, we will have to see it on our next visit.