English

The Fragrances of Istanbul

Many years ago I did a short course on travel writing. As with many other things, that was a flavor of what was to come, which I did not recognize at the time. Over the years I have had the privilege of visiting over 25 countries. I have thousands of photos but never got round to writing about my experiences. I have now decided to make a point of documenting some of the lovely things that have happened to me, and some of the

experiences that I would rather like to forget.

In most instances I have travelled on my own.  As a result you will not see me giving details of the night life in my destinations.  I am quite happy to spend the day absorbing everything, and evenings with a good book.

Istanbul was my second visit to Turkey.  The city did not disappoint me in my expectations - on the contrary.

My first impression on the day I arrived was of the Grand Bazaar where I went to exchange money.  It is massive.  It is colourful. It is heaving with people and fragrances.  I went in at the entrance closest to the tram station and walked to the furthest end.  I confirmed that I had my bearings.  Then I decided to explore the side alleys - still heading back in the general direction of the entrance near the tram station.

Two hours later I emerged, two tram stations further.   I had read that there are about 4 000 shops under one roof, and trust me, it is quite possible.  There are spices, pottery, pashmina wraps of every possible hue in cotton and silk - even bamboo - more variations of turkish delight than I could count, shoes, leather clothes, did I say people and more people?

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And you don't just buy - you are expected to haggle so that the merchants can show their "generosity" by giving you a massive "discount".  I saw a lovely pink pashmina wrap and asked about the price.  I was quoted 35 Turkish lira - about £9.  Obviously it was way above the asking price, and obviously I was not wearing a burka, therefore I was a tourist.  I just laughed and walked away.   The merchant ran after me and offered me the same item for 20 Turkish lira - about £4.  He had a sale.  I would have found a similar item on a street market for about 15 Turkish lira, but not that same shade which I loved.

I quickly discovered there is only one way to escape the relentless salesmen in the Grand Bazaar.  Normally my escape is to speak Afrikaans, but I gave up on that when two or three of these salesmen greeted me in Afrikaans.  I don't know whether they even understood what they said to me, but it gave them an opening to pursue a possibel sale.  My next move was to simply say nothing and make no eye contact.  Being a female and not wearing a burka advertised the fact that I was a tourist - and having green eyes was an even bigger give-away

The spice bazaar (also called the Egyptian bazaar) was very similar, except that there was more food and less clothing - and the same heaving mass of people, both locals and tourists.

Istanbul is a massive city.  To give you an idea, you can take a ferry and travel 33 kilometers down the Bosphorus river, and all the way there are occupied high-rise buildings on both river banks and up the hills.

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Istanbul is a city on two continents - half of it is in Europe, and the other half is in Asia, and the two sides are divided by the river.  When the concierge first suggested that I spend a day in Asia, I expected a long trip - not a ferry ride of about 15 minutes.

Here is a picture of me on the ferry, with Asia in the background:

More about the history and pitfalls later

 

Elsabe Smit

Elsabe Smit is a well-known author, clairvoyant, and public speaker.

Elsabe helps people to understand the mysteries of life and Love, so that they can regain control of their lives. What would you like to resolve?

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