Friday, January 7, 2011

Crazier than a .....

In the Topkapi Palace library....quiet and lovely.

All evening the phrase "Turkish bazaar" has been running though my head. Having spent the afternoon wandering around Istanbul's Grand Bazaar, it's no wonder. Trying to navigate the place is an a challenge to one's sense of direction that ends up being an exercise in futility. It is a labyrinth of merchandise and merchants and cafes and restaurants.

After spending a leisurely morning walking around the Topkapi Palace looking at the museum collection of jewels, swords, textiles, thrones, and exquisite architecture; James, Katherine, and I jumped from the sublime to the ridiculous with the next stop - the Grand Bazaar. The juxtaposition of the two places could not be more drastic. At Topkapi I could have made myself very comfortable on the cushions underneath a window in the library and read all day long - it was so peaceful and quiet.....then the bazaar -- well, it lived up to its reputation.

No more quiet, cozy spots. People, noise, color, scents, food, jostling, dodging, looking, declining, texture, light, narrow, cramped, chaotic..... my senses were overwhelmed. I call those moments "sensory overload." And that's exactly what the Grand Bazaar was....a sensory overload. There was so much packed into such tiny spaces, it was difficult to look at it all. Trying to walk at the same time made looking that much harder. Over and over again I had to stop and just look around me. I couldn't take it all in -- like my eyes wouldn't work if my feet were. I could only do one or the other: look or walk, but not both!

A very small glimpse of the chaos
that is the Grand Bazaar
The Grand Bazaar has over 4,000 vendors in residence. I don't know how much area the bazaar covers, but it's big. We only saw a tiny corner of it, yet we were there for over an hour. I could not have taken much more than that -- it was exhausting! And we weren't even shopping. I bought one scarf (a real weakness of mine) for 3 liras - that was it! I can't imagine how exhausting it would be to do any amount of shopping....especially since it's a market where haggling for a lower price is the modus operandi. Shopping that way annoys me - I am not into bargaining with the merchant. It's a game I don't enjoy playing. Just tell me how much the real price is and I'll decide if I want to pay it or not!

It was a real playground for my viewfinder and camera lens, though! I took photos of scarves, carpets, ceramics, lamps, nargile, jewelry, perfume, as well as the space itself -- narrow passages and crowded hallways that wind around in textbook disorganization.

So the Turkish bazaar does live up to its reputation. It's crazy. It's chaotic. It's unforgettable. It's a cultural experience. And I know that if any of the three of us had actually bargained for a carpet, we would have spent hours over cups of tea in the proprietor's shop while he unfolded and refolded and unfolded and refolded and threw out carpet after carpet after carpet after carpet until he found that one that was just irresistible.....

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