Dear Steemit friends :
Every time I visit a city, I like to find the places which capture the heart and soul of the city. It doesn't have to be the most recognisable landmarks (although they happen to be a lot of the time). They can be places which intertwine with the local people, through tradition, or habitual way of life. Some of the most interesting places I've visited all over the world are places the locals go to on a day to day basis, because it is a part of their life, their routine.
The Grand Bazaar is one of the places that fit my criteria. Labelled as one of the first shopping malls in the world, The Grand Bazaar is home to over 5000 shops and 61 covered streets. To this day, it is one of the largest covered markets in the world covering an area of over 54,000 square meters and will attract several hundred thousand visitors each and everyday. This magnitude of foot traffic has earned the Grand Bazaar a label as the most visited tourist attraction in the world. Is the Grand Bazaar the most awesome, amazing, fascinating, bargain filled market in the world such that it attracts the visitation of nearly all tourists who pass by Turkey?
Well, let's look around and find out!
The first thing you'll realise is that the Grand Bazaar has many entrances, 18 to be exact. You can enter from nearly all sides depending on where you're setting out from. Some of the entrances have archway style gates whilst others are just door like cut outs.
Once inside, I was very quickly overwhelmed by large it really is. The covered "streets" seem to extend with no end, with shops filling up both sides of every street.
The items in the shops vary quite a bit. At the beginning, I thought it was a jewellery market because the street I walked through first was famous for it's jewellery (Kalpakcilarbasi Street).
Walking further in towards the centre of the market, I realised they sell quite a lot more than that. In-fact, there are lots of locally made Turkish goods to browse through.
As I mentioned earlier, the entire market is covered. Walking around inside feels like navigating around a very large maze. It was however very pleasant looking up, and seeing the Turkish style designs on the ceiling. It's not meant to be a luxury brand market, so the wear and tear is more than forgivable.
One thing you'll quickly realise, is that the Grand Bazaar has become some what a tourist trap these days. Most of the visitors are tourists and so most of the products on sale are also geared towards tourists. Not only are they expensive, many of the stalls sell irrelevant goods that have nothing to do with Istanbul or Turkey.
Up until the middle of the 19th Century, the Grand Bazaar was unrivalled for the quality of it's goods. By the late 19th century, commercial successes of western products forced many of the minority shop keepers out of the Bazaar to open shops more frequented by the Europeans.
Here, you can see one of the many shops selling Turkish ceramics, Turkish Teapots and glasses. Interestingly, the shop to it's side is selling counterfeit goods. It's strange that the authorities seem not to care.
I noticed this stall selling golden oil lamps and instantly thought of Genie lamps!
So many different kinds of Tea sets to choose from. Some of them are made with glass, others made with porcelain. All of them together look like loot from treasure chest don't you think?
These "chandeliers" are quite popular here. They can come in a variety of shapes, sizes and colour. Probably the more popular ones would be the mosaic ones.
Although there is a Spice Bazaar specialising in Turkish spices, there are also stalls selling spices here too. They will happily let you you taste, or try them but you'll find it hard to leave. It's a very mercantile environment!
These are the mosaic chandelier globes I mentioned before. Lovely patterns, and vibrant colours make them stand out amongst the opaque coloured ones.
How could I forget the Nargile Pipes also known as Shisha.
It's not just copper ware, and ceramics, you'll also find some stalls selling textiles.
This is one selling table runners. They are hand made with lots of intricate patterns and embroidery.
One of the many carpet and rugs stalls. This is probably the most popular type of good I've seen inside the Bazaar and indeed in stalls all over Istanbul and many other parts of Turkey.
For the sugar fiends, there is a large stall of all the Turkish delights you could imagine.
You could spend an entire day or more at the Grand Bazaar, exploring deeper into the maze like market but you'll quickly realise that most of the products are the same from stall to stall. There isn't too much variety at the end of the day and there comes a point where pushing and shoving to move around, whilst fending off eager hustling shop keepers becomes tiring. A few hours is more than enough to satisfy your fascination and curiosity of the place, not to mention there are absolutely zero toilet facilities inside.
Taksim square is another place with very high foot traffic. It's name comes from the fact that it used to be the place where water from the north of Istanbul is collected and then routed to other parts of the city. Thus, the definition of the word "Taksim" - "distribution", makes natural sense.
At the centre of the square is The Monument of the Republic. An important monument which was erected to commemorate the formation of the Turkish republic in 1923.
The statues of the people standing inside the monument are the founders of the republic. One of the most important figures is Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, who is seen on two sides of the monument at different periods of his life. He was also the person who commissioned work on the monument.
Located in the Beyoğlu district, İstiklal Avenue leads to Taksim square, so walking to this street from the square is very easy. One of the most visited streets in all of Istanbul. It reportedly has up to 3 million visitors on the weekends along this 1.4km long street.
Just at the entrance there is this long row of Kebab shops with an equally long and neat row of Turkish flags.
People visit İstiklal Avenue for a variety of reasons. You'll find clothes stores, cafes, clubs, restaurants, cinemas, theatres and much more.
These roasted nut stalls are spread out along the pedestrian area. They remind me a lot of the kind of stalls you'll see in night-markets in Taiwan.
At night time the pretty hanging lights above the street are turned on. Suddenly it feels like it's Christmas. It feels like more people come out at night time than during the day. It could be because of the cooler temperatures.
This cafe had a man pouring honey on their Baklava. From the outside, we could see the honey trickling down before it is scooped up and poured on top again. It was attractive that I immediately went inside to see what else was on offer.
I wasn't disappointed, after a long day of walking around, I was ready to get some sugar replenishment.
Here you can see all the different cakes and desserts sold here. A common theme across all of them is the green Pistachio. Pistachio's are big Turkish produce and is frequently used in a lot of their cakes and desserts.
After the dessert, we decided to walk all the way back to our hotel at Sultanahmet. Walking through the streets of Istanbul suddenly made me feel less touristy, no doubt many of the things the locals take for granted, I find dazzling and very interesting.
One thing I discovered was that the narrow streets of Istanbul seemed to have surprises at every turn. Whilst larger streets draw most of the attention, there are actually hidden bars, cafes and stalls in almost every little street I walked through.
The roads were also exceptionally busy around this time. Many people are only just coming in to the Taksim area for it's buzzing nightlife.
Surprisingly, there are people standing outside of bars drinking. I thought this practice only occurs in places like London.
Night time view across the strait to Sultanahmet
Every few hundred meters or so, you'll come across a Mosque. Most of the people are Islamic, and so the Mosques are an important part of their every day life.
It was interesting seeing these aqueduct ruins preserved underneath the modern bridges.
To reach Sultanahmet from the Pera district, cross a bridge is necessary, unless you are happy to walk tens of kilometers around the strait.
Using only the Hagia Sophia and Blue Mosque as guiding landmarks, we found a suspension bridge that looked safe to cross.
The bridge is actually for the subway station Haliç. Beside the main rail line, there is a pedestrian path across the bridge. No cars can cross over on this one.
As we get closer to the old city, the Mosques come clearer in view. They are illuminated very brightly and are simply beautiful.
Check out the video walking tour! (Surprise ensemble at the end!)
Thank you for joining me on this walking tour of two of the most popular attractions in Istanbul. The Grand Bazaar has over 500 years of history, and fascinates all who visit Istanbul looking for traces of it's trading hub history. It is without a doubt a huge contributor to Istanbul's economy, employing over 26,000 people and constantly being visited by tourists. It is however considered nowadays somewhat a tourist trap. Prices are expensive, the shop keepers are all hustlers, and the products are bland without variety. Definitely at a low from it's hey day from centuries ago.
On the other hand, İstiklal Avenue remains one of the most popular streets in the whole city. It is brimming with nightlife, and constantly full of energy. It is definitely the district for young people who want some excitement. Even if clubs, bars are not your scene. You can always visit the dessert cafes, or restaurants and taste some of those delicious Turkish delights!
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