We continue our tour of Istanbul with a visit to the Kapalı栲şı (Covered) or Grand Bazaar and find out a great tip to avoid ‘hassle’.
Kapalı栲şı (Covered) or Grand Bazaar is also on everyone’s list of places to visit in Istanbul. It is essentially a covered market first established by Mehmet the Conqueror to revitalize trade following his conquest of Constantinople in 1453. A survey carried out in 1976 revealed the Bazaar contains more than 3000 shops of various kinds, along with innumerable storehouses and workshops, many of them housed in old Ottoman hans, as well as several places selling simple food, a teahouse, an excellent restaurant, banks and a post office.
These days it is impossible to get lost in the Bazaar as there are clear signs at each junction naming the streets and pointing to nearest exits. Fethiye Times remembers it from almost forty years ago when getting lost was a favourite practice (there are six gates into the Bazaar and one is always fairly near at hand so getting lost inside was never a serious problem). And on one memorable occasion she was in the Old Bedesten (the central core of the Bazaar which now houses antique and jewellers’ shops) on a winter day in early evening when the electricity failed. All the shopkeepers lit oil lamps and candles, and the walk through the narrow streets without the brightness of electric light was magic. A chance to experience the Bazaar as it must have looked right up to the early twentieth century.
You will be hassled in the Bazaar and the best way to deal with this (unless your Turkish is very good) is to try and ignore it. If you react to a “Hello” the tout will think he has got your attention and follow you trying to get you inside his shop. As Britons raised to be polite, it is hard to ignore such greetings, but you respond to them at your peril. If you do want to buy anything bargain hard. Although, coming from expensive Fethiye, you may find initial prices seem low anyway.
Look for Zincirli Han, one of the Ottoman Hans inside the Bazaar – an oasis of calm after the chaos of the streets – with its ground floor occupied by carpet and jewellery shops and workshops upstairs on the first floor. And if you are visiting in the winter don’t forget that the Bazaar is a great place to while away the afternoon when it’s raining.