After buying a few things in the bazaar, you try to find an exit. The bazaar is indoors, but it feels outdoors. No air-conditioning, for example, and no doors, so there’s a strong natural flow of air. When you find an exit, you then must wind your way through narrow streets lined with slightly larger shops, and slightly less aggressive sellers. You weave your way around men transporting merchandise on handcarts, and tea-delivery guys who carry these specialized trays with cups of tea. The Grand Bazaar is at the top of Istanbul’s main hill, so any street that goes down will eventually take you to the river, which was our destination.
Along the way, you pop into whatever cafe hits your fancy. As with the shops in the bazaar, the cafes have a narrow range of themes: Sultan’s Kebab Cafe; Akmet’s House of Cheese; Sultan Akmet’s House of Kebab & Cheese; and so on. I wasn’t blown away by the food. We went to a place called House of Kebab but the shish-kebab was run-of-the-mill. For my lira, the best of Istanbul cuisine is their Turkish baklava, which differs from Greek baklava in that they don’t use honey, only sugar, and they have a double-whammy pistachio baklava which was awesome.
If you ever travel to Istanbul, here’s a useful tip:
Never accept any help from any man on any of Istanbul’s streets. Why? Because you will end up in his leather jacket store drinking warm apple juice as he explains all the reasons why you need to be buying one of his leather coats even as you sit there bundled in your own leather coat.
But the jacket store is only a warm up. The leather salesman — the guy you originally asked directions from on the street — will somehow bring up the topic of carpets. When you ignore it, he takes this as a sign of great interest on your part, and insists on leading you across town to his friend’s carpet store. Here, as you politely gulp down more little cups of warmish apple juice, you will learn the sum total of human knowledge on the topic of Turkish rugs. Such interesting facts as why a mere 450 knots per square inch makes for a terrible rug, and how Turkish double-looped knots are superior to any other form of knot. You will be able to write a doctoral thesis on tassle quality, the benefits of mixed cotton versus pure wool carpets, and the meaning of each abstract symbol woven into the rugs.
I repeat: Do not accept help from any man at any time in Istanbul. Believe me, he wants you to buy something.
quick update… not related to Turkey, but the far east… This is a quick heads up. I may be starting a learn Russian site in Japanese language, for Japanese people who want to learn Russian. Will be putting it here ロシア語