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Istanbul Grand Bazaar

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Uploaded on Feb 27, 2007

http://www.tourvideos.com/ This giant bazaar in the heart of the Old Town has 4,000 shops under one roof and a maze of 65 alleys connecting them all into a vast and disorienting conglomeration. There is no need to offer directions for walking through the Bazaar, as it is a giant puzzle of covered lanes lined with little shops in which you can get delightfully lost. It is a small city unto itself that got started 500 years ago as a smaller market shortly after the conquest of 1453 by Sultan Mehmet II and kept expanding into the adjacent neighborhoods. More and more streets were covered with roofs to form a single massive building that reached its present size in 1701. Once you get used to the layout, you realize there is some order to the madness, with the streets forming a grid and with small plazas at main intersections.

Shops of similar type tend to be clustered together inside the bazaar, so there are streets for carpets, jewelry, furniture, clothing and so on. Bargaining is mandatory here for no one expects to sell at the price first mentioned. You can even bargain in restaurants and everywhere money changes hand. However, before you get your hopes up too much, be advised it has become surprisingly upscale and glitzy, with fancy glass windows and too much gold jewelry. On the other hand, half the shops sell nothing but junk you wouldn't care about. The merchants are very friendly -- because they want your money! These salesmen are eager to catch your attention, so you will hear constant greetings as you walk along. Americans are seen as rich and gullible, unfamiliar with bargaining and true prices, so easy targets to fleece. Don't dress up when you go to the bazaar, because the merchant can determine your annual income with a glance at your clothes and jewelry, and will price his goods accordingly. Better prices can be found away from the main lanes.

There is a great domed hall in the center called the Old Bedesten, which is part of the original structure and specializes in antiques and expensive jewelry. Nearly one-third of all the shops sell carpets, a favorite trophy for the intrepid traveler to bring home. You can't get ripped off too badly if you select a very small rug. The bazaar can get very crowded inside, so watch out for pickpockets, just as you have to do in any large city. One advantage of being here first thing in the morning is that you can avoid the big crowds that show up later.

The bazaar, or "Covered Market," is a mandatory landmark and fun to see, but notice there are few locals shopping here because this is a tourist market. The surrounding streets actually offer a more authentic local experience. After you have had enough of the bazaar, be sure to take a walk through the streets nearby, which are also packed with shops and have a lively atmosphere. Book-lovers can stroll a block over from the bazaar's southwest corner to the book stalls along Sahaflar Carsisi. An intellectual atmosphere pervades this long courtyard, with jumbled displays of second-hand books spilling out of the little shops onto sidewalk tables, and with tiny cafes tucked away.

Istanbul University is just two blocks further, so you will undoubtedly see students milling about as well as many older characters. Notice the street vendors in front of the big Beyazidiye mosque at the end of this bibliophile alley, with cheap clothing strung over their arms -- especially denim pants for the students. You are in the middle of Beyazit Square, one of the liveliest places in the Old Town, with several nice sidewalk cafes and many people passing through.

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