So after getting in pretty late last night from our two day tour down to Gallipoli and Troy, we had a pretty slow morning all tolled. After eventually getting up and going we had out sights set on one thing, and one thing only - the Grand Bazaar.
Weaving our way through the streets of Sultanahmet, we headed in the general direction of the Bazaar... It's almost as if the traders can sense your approach - must be the smell of fresh wallets in the air. The lead up to the Bazaar itself is surrounded but other smaller traders and stalls, a micro bazaar units own right.
Walking through the outside stalls and passing though the arched entry way into the Grand Bazaar you immediately sense the scale of the place, and mere meters inside you have been consumed by the labyrinth of alleys and narrow streets that run up and down - there is no escaping the seduction of the vendors within the Grand Bazaar now. You are on their turf and you will play by their rules, and doubtless to say - they will win you over, and "help you spend your money" (as one vendor quoted to us) in any which way you fancy.
Pausing to soak it all in is difficult. There Bazaar is typically awash with vendors, tourists, and everything in between. Today we have encountered what I am told is a slow day - even so the place is still buzzing - however I could imaging the place being easily twice as busy.
Finding a quieter place to the side of one of the alleys we did manage to pause and observe. The ceilings are painted with featuring frescos,the streets and alleys are lined with stalls and shops - each overflowing with the specific wares on offer, be it plates and ceramics, carpets, jewelry, trinkets, clothes (all knock off's), any type of leather product you would want, bags, spices, Turkish delights, or musical instruments.
Walking past each store, the vendors will offer to show you their goods or attempt to coax you into their store - "Come inside, I'll show you good price...", or "I have others, come in...". They are all typically very polite about it, which makes it even more difficult to ignore them or say no and keep walking. They are very attuned to our cultural style (or just bloody good guesses) and pick up immediately where we are from - "Your an Aussie... from Melbourne?". Not one got it wrong.
Again this is part of the buying process - this is their 'foot in the door' so to speak. They know once they can get you to respond - its on... Just like fishing, they keep casting out into the crowd their bait of words, hoping for a bite. Once they have this, it's their job to carefully reel you in and hopefully land the purchase - at an inflated price, but one that has come down considerably through the haggling process.
While they vendors can often have a poor reputation, and stories are told all too often about someone getting stuck in a carpet shop, being feed apple tea until the point of hallucination, and then waking up two days later to find they just spent $1,000 on a knock off carpet they didn't even like - and have no way to get home... To be honest our feeling was that they vendors were actually all fairly well mannered. Some would defiantly be more persistent than others, but this is their lively hood. At no point did we feel pressured into purchasing anything. You do need to be strong, and you do need to have an idea of what your prepared to spend. The vendors know their bottom price and won't let you push them below it. If this is still higher than your expectation, then continue to shop. If you keep getting the same answer, then you may need to reset your expectation, or keep looking. There is also a line between quality and cost. Often the vendors will see you pushing for a cheaper price, and will move to show you a different piece - "this one is the same, but cheaper" - now you have to ask why... Typically it will be of lower quality, and suddenly the bargaining you have just done on the better item has been rest without you knowing because you've been moved to a completely different product - a cheaper knock off version that no doubt has similar mark ups applied.
Doubtless to say, you need to go to the Grand Bazaar in the right frame of mind. Be prepared to look around for the price you think is fair. Be prepared to bargain. Be prepared to not get it your way. And most of all - be prepared to enjoy the experience. You shouldn't go to the Grand Bazaar expecting to get one over on the vendors. You need to set out your budget and if you come in under or around it then be happy for the experience. If you end up spending way too much money and feel you were ripped off - this is not the vendors fault. You were not prepared, and not strong enough to keep your cash in your wallet.
And one last piece of advise - its only a bargain if you actually need it.
Anyway all told we had a great afternoon out at the Grand Bazaar. We managed to pick up a few pieces we liked at prices we thought were reasonable.