Day 13 – Istanbul – The Hippodrome, The Arts Festival, The Istanbul Museum of the History of Science & Technology in Islam, and some shopping!
So it is Day 13 and we still haven’t filmed everything they have in the Hippodrome!
Our first stop was to the German Fountain – as I was giving my little bumper for it – a small crowd stood there watching. One lady asked if I was famous – I replied “not yet”. The students who are there to answer questions were looking on – I kept asking them how I was doing and they gave me the thumbs up.
Even though we have been walking through the Arts Festival in front of the hotel every day – we figured that today would be ‘the day’ for really seeing what it had. I have already mentioned the shadow puppet guy and the marbling lady before – and they really are the standouts. For most forms of art there are two vendors so when one is a jerk we go and talk to the other. There was someone making knives (like steak knives), someone making canes, and a variety of people making glass figurines using glass rods and a blow torch which seems really more like state fair than traditional art.
The festival also has lots of food stuffs from Halvah to Coffee and this weird Energy Honey and something called Boza which is fermented bulgar wheat as a drink! My favorite is till the Sultan’s Drink which is a mix of fruit juices and spices – must find the recipe when I get home. We didn’t do much shopping at the festival – fun to watch but both the prices and the quality were only so so.
Today was designed to be a shopping day but I always like to sneak a few more things in so I surprised Amanda with a quick Metro stop to see the Istanbul Museum of the History of Science and Technology in Islam. Long name right? Well it is really a neat museum filled with all sorts of scientific apparatus – like astrolabes and clocks and medical instruments. Most of the items are models but they are fabulous models! They even allow for photography (but it was very dark) – I got a lot of interesting ideas – the sad part was – no gift shop! I would have bought a lot if they sold stuff.
One thing that they had out front was a replica of Galata Tower that was about 7 feet tall – pretty fun to play on.
OK so now back to shopping!
We headed to The Grand Bazaar – not really to film so much as to actually shop. The problem was – it was dead – I mean it was pretty empty. You would think this would make it enjoyable but in fact it made everyone even more obnoxious – you couldn’t look at anything without sales people jumping all over you. This one guy trying to sell me a carpet just kept following me around!
Eventually, we found one guy who had good stuff and good prices – and my motto is you find one person and buy a lot from them – this way he gives you a better deal and you don’t feel as bad because he got a big sale. He was good – if he didn’t have what we wanted it magically appeared from his other shop! There was one item I looked at (for myself of all people) and he saw I wanted it and wrapped it up and then proceeded to just keep dropping the price until I couldn’t say no. Pretty funny.
Most deals are not in the Bazaar but outside of it. Amanda wanted to buy me a vest so we headed to where they said the vests would be outside of the Bazaar. Everyone kept trying to sell me a leather jacket or vest and you can’t deflect them by saying you already own one – this makes you look like you are in the market. Instead I started telling everyone I was from Florida and they just looked dejected and moved on.
So we came upon a store and in front there is the exact vest I want – right color – right material – but no one is there! That’s right – the store is locked and while there are items out front – no one can tell us when the owner will be back! We marked down on the map where we were and kept walking. Soon we found another vest shop (in fact several) and went downstairs into this little basement that was just filled with vests. I was looking for a particular material and color and he wanted to sell me everything (if it fit or not!) – eventually we settled on two vests – one of them is really dressy and both are very rugged.
After we left the ‘vest district’ we came upon the ‘scarf district’ instead of 60TL or 30 or 20 they have them as low as 2.5 TL (about $1.5) – of course they aren’t the fanciest (though they are nice) and many places only sell them in bulk. Amanda found this out the hard way as she picked up what she thought was one scarf to find it was really 5 and they scattered all over the place.
The Grand Bazaar and Spice Bazaar are not near each other but they are connected by street after street of shopping so we eventually made our way towards it. A strange item they sell on the street are spirographs – good old fashioned plastic spirographs with colored pens. I have no idea why – but you see dozens of men with little carts selling them and demonstrating them. I approached one guy and we haggled for a bit and eventually I got 4 for 20TL – the joke was about 5 feet later I see a store that has them for 2.5TL each. Live and learn – it was still fun footage.
When the final film comes out I am going to be seen being overcharged on camera a lot – basically I am overpaying for the privileged of filming.
Near the Spice Bazaar there are a lot of jewelry places – not fancy – more like beads and stones and do it yourself kinda stores. I was asking Amanda about the quality of some of the items and she quickly showed me how cheap some of the stuff actually was – and we left.
Right outside the Spice Bazaar is another Art Bazaar which had some nice things but most were overpriced. Again for no reason I can figure right by the Spice Bazaar is where ALL of the shoe shine stands are – so I had my shoes shined. The guy was telling me that he has been doing it for over 20 years (since he was a kid). Good shine – very cheap – but after he tried to sell me shoe inserts and we had to explain that ours were from American Doctors and we couldn’t buy his.
We ate dinner close to the hotel – it was very nice – as we left dinner one restaurant guy asked how it was. We said good, he said if we came to his place tomorrow night it would be better! So we shook hands and told him we would have our final Istanbul dinner there tomorrow.
Only one more day left in Istanbul – who knows what might happen!