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Kumkapi – and revisiting the Bazaar

I took a taxi to my next place with some trepidation.  First, it started to rain – heavily – and the forecast for the next three days is not good.  Also, I had not properly researched the location of the B&B place, simply going on good reviews in, plus wanting to return to the Old City.

It turned out that the taxi driver was equally vague about its whereabouts. He read the address I gave him with much sighing, and stopped increasingly frequently to ask for directions (with much turning around in narrow back streets, often facing traffic in one way streets). I saw he had a  smartphone and wondered why on earth he did not key in the address. (I couldn’t use mine as I had run out of credits).

Eventually I rang Goksen, the owner, and passed the phone to the driver. Within minutes we were there – and Goksen was waiting with umbrella to take me the last few minutes across the pedestrianised (sort of) centre of Kumkapi to the apartment.

The first floor room was pleasant (evidence of shopping in Ikea) and I dried out before setting off to revisit the Grand Bazaar.

What the map does not show is that the one kilometre walk is non-stop uphill.  Kumkapi is after all the centre of fish restaurants and a stone’s throw from the sea.  The bazaar is on one of Istanbul’s hills. The way up is past endless bustling local shops, but uneven almost non-existent pavements and unnerving traffic.

As I approached Yeniçeriler Caddesi, the main road in the Old City, I passed through the shoe shop area.  It is always amazing to comprehend how a business can operate when it is selling exactly the same goods as its neighbour – something one sees a lot in Istanbul.  But as I said earlier to Ed, according to my faint memories of introduction to economics this model of competition assumes that the total sum of prospective shoe buyers is proportionately greater.

Once in the Bazaar I of course had no way to retrace my steps along the route we had taken earlier.  But I did come across a narrow alley of leather goods stalls.  As my family knows, I am a sucker for bags, though never finding the ideal one. Small enough not to be an encumbrance, large enough to accommodate more than the minimum of things (for example room for a guide book), strap to carry the bag across the shoulder, zipped pockets to avoid an anonymous jumble in the bottom of the bag, non-black interior so one can see what is inside … the full list is even greater.

As always I could not resist the temptation and bought a small bag (for thos occasions when the full list of requirements above are not needed…). When I got home I realised the red looked different – and unattractive – in natural light.  Ah well, it cost me about ten euros.  The salesman spoke good English and when he found that I lived in France, exclaimed: Ah, I must meet his patron, Florence, who is from France but has lived here for several decades and is the French Consul in Istanbul.  She has a rug shop nearby. I’m not buying rugs, I said. Firmly.  Not important, he said, just come and meet Florence. Well, I had no pressing engagements, so I allowed myself to be taken to Florence.

Florence was out – back shortly – but the bag salesman left me in the hands of a rug salesman to wait for her.  I repeated my position: absolutely no purchases.  The salesman, also fluent in English, said not a problem, just to show me examples of what they had. And of course I was completely captivated.  Those who have known us know that Chris and I were particularly partial to Middle Eastern rugs and would have bought many more if we could have.

The saleman was interesting and authoritative.  He came from a country area towards somewhere in Eastern Turkey and grew up in a village where everybody – including his family – made rugs.  So, he said, he knew what he was talking about. This was no ordinary rug stall; it was clearly top of the range.  I thoroughly enjoyed being showed various rugs, some of which left me indifferent, others which left me craving to own them.

His uncle was in the process of setting up a modern Bokhara rug for display.  I commented that I did not like it very much.  Just as well, as the price tag was 3000 dollars.  The uncle smiled and produced another Bokhara from the pile, a smaller, old one and like everything in the shop, handmade and individual.  I remarked that as a child I used to love following the patterns on a Persian rug on my bedroom floor, spotting the irregularities.  The salesman said yes, one of the most common problems was that when the weavers started a new batch of wool, often the colours were not quite the same, and he pointed out the irregularities in the rug he was showing to me – we both agreed the subtle changes in the pinky red were part of its charm.

This was the rug I fell for.  The salesman said that the price was 1500 euros (very muddling when they keep changing currencies) but I could have it for 800.  No doubt if I had entered the bargaining I might have got it for 500 euros.  So, so tempting. I felt proud of my restraint when I decided it was time to stop waiting for Florence, thanked the salesman and his uncle for their presentation, and left empty handed.

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