Surrounded by piles of vivid Turkish delights and sticky baklava, I was giddy to be in a city that I’d never even thought about visiting. A city with a visible history, like battle scars worn badly apparent on most streets.
Istanbul, what was a quick stopover on my way to New York, won my heart in that moment while I was standing in the Grand Bazaar. This well-known marketplace was one of the most exciting places I’ve ever been. The glee of being in this extremely colourful place, smells of sweets trickling through your senses and being catcalled at by big, burly Turkish men was almost too much to bear.
“Hey, Spice Girls!” One of the traders yelled after us as we strutted past big piles of loose tea, shoveled into shape with cup-shaped scoops. Even though we secretly knew that they’d use this nickname for any group of girls that came past, it still made us giggle like teenagers.
As we snaked further and further into the maze that is the Grand Bazaar, I felt like we were seeing the real Istanbul, rather than just browsing through the stands on the outside of the market. The alleys got narrower, the air become warmer and the traders seemed friendlier, not just trying to badger us into buying something.
Spending time debating over teas, spices, baklava and silver rings took up most of our afternoon in Istanbul and I still don’t feel like I even saw a quarter of what the Grand Bazaar had to offer. Wedged in between the spice stalls, and jewelry stores are some incredible little spots offering the loveliest crafts and Turkish art. We even stumbled into a small store that also happened to be a small café. In the cold, we reveled in our little wizard’s cave as we named it. Eating hot mozzarella toasties and lentil soup and gulping down the delicious apple tea native to Turkey with my best friends is an experience that scrapbooks were made for.
When it was time to leave, we got caught up in the crowds leaving as the calls for afternoon mosque blared on speakers above us. It was a little scary to be honest, men all around us disappearing in and out of small doorways and feeling like we were getting carried along in the surge of the crowd.
I wouldn’t recommend going alone as a girl just because the men can seem a little intimidating, their flirting bordering on being a little too strong, but otherwise this really is a great spot to spend an entire day if you have one spare in Istanbul.
Remember to keep track of the twists and turns; it can get a little confusing. Public toilets are also a little hard to locate, but they do exist and you’ll have to pay an entry. Bargaining is ok here too which can be fun, but be reasonable, traders won’t go as low as some other countries with similar markets and are easily offended.