Wednesday, May 18, 2011

final words on Istanbul

There hasn't been a whole lot of excitement in my life since leaving Istanbul, so I keep finding my thoughts drifting to the markets and the mosques and wishing I had some Turkish Delight or chai to satisfy my taste buds.

But, alas, all I have now are memories, and so I'd like to share one with you. 

One thing I learned during our visit to Istanbul was how to haggle down a price. We were warned that most of the prices seen in the markets are marked up and the sellers expect you to offer around 50% less than what you see. We also learned that most everywhere in Istanbul accepts Lira, Euros, and good old American dollars. If you carry dollars, though, be ware of the insane amount of solicitation you will receive. Everyone wants to help you spend your money and they can be rather convincing at times. You have to be careful to even stop and look at something, because if you look longer than one second, they assume you want to buy it and start shoving it in your face until you feel completely rude saying, "No thanks" for the thousandth time.

One guy even helped us get into the Blue Mosque (which we easily could have achieved without his help, but still) and then waited for us (I have no idea how he even found us again, because there were hundreds of people there) to take us to his carpet shop. There, we were served tea, Graham was given a balloon, and we were told to make ourselves at home. The next thing we knew, we were considering spending our life savings on a handmade rug. I'm not sure how we managed to make it out of there without spending a dime.

Must have had something to do with the fact that I have anxiety over spending 10 dollars, let alone 10,000...

After a day in the Grand Bizarre getting hassled and asked to pour all our money out of our pockets, I was spent. We excited the Bizarre and there was a 12-year-old boy selling a really neat spinning top toy. Graham and I were both enamored, so, of course the boy begged us to buy it.

I asked, "How much?"

He replied, "Ten Lira."

I exclaimed, "Ten Lira! No way! That is too much!"

He replied, "Eight Lira."

I exclaimed, "I only have two Euro. Will you take two Euro?"

He replied, "No."

But, he didn't walk away and kept begging me to pay. I remembered reading somewhere in my Istanbul travel research that if you really want something you literally have to put the amount of money you'd like to pay into the person's hand, grab the item, and quickly walk away. To me, this sounded a lot like stealing, but I really wanted this toy, because a good toy can keep Graham entertained for hours while we walk through museums and whatnot. I was a desperate mother who did not want to disappoint her only son. Just then, I realized I was already holding the spinning top because the boy had given it to me to try, so I put the coin in his hand, told Tony to grab the stroller and RUN. We ran for several minutes, my heart skipping a beat the whole time, before I dared look back.

"I think he's gone," I gasped.

"Fwhew," Tony gasped. 

I felt like a thief in the night. Every time I heard a jingle that sounded like a spinning top, I would run for cover. I'm pretty sure I'd still run if I heard someone approaching with one today.

I'm so guilty!

And that is how I handled my very first (and only) bargaining experience in a foreign country, and how I came to buy this wooden, spinning top that has now broken off its string, which managed to unravel.

Graham did get a few good hours in with the toy, but I'm sure glad I didn't pay 10 Lira for the thing.

Once again, thank you for listening and have a great day and goodbye.


  1. And how would you hide if he had followed you? You have the most popular child in all of Turkey! What a great story!

  2. You're considerations of buying the rug reminds me of another near miss... concerning pots. But heart-healthy pots!