I expected many things from my first visit to the famous Kapalıçarşı, or Grand Bazaar, but a district-wide power outage was not one of them. I’d already done my little share of (primarily unsuccessful) haggling and had emerged happy with my new nazar amulets and bracelet–Turkey’s ever-present blue glass charms for warding off the evil eye–when the snow, heavy, wet, and feather-like, came tumbling down and threw the bazaar’s already chaotic proceedings into deeper, darker confusion. Stefie and I were delighted when the shopkeepers, without missing a beat, produced stumpy taper candles and placed long wicks into the spouts of Aladdin’s lamps they’d been plying a moment before. Before long all 58 of the winding corridors brimful with copper, porcelain, leather and antiques blazed up in flickering candlelight, and the business day went on, virtually uninterrupted.
We made one sloppy, cold foray up to the outside world for lunch, and thawed a little over elma çay and dürüm döner (I hope, dear reader, you’re Googling these things, because I can’t figure out how to hyperlink, darn it) but as soon as the power went out in the restaurant, too, we dove back under to be cajoled once more with lines like, “Hello, angel! Hello, Spice Girls! Let me help you spend your money.” These Turks do have a way with words. A selection of our favorites from this afternoon include:
“Miss! Miss! You dropped something. …My heart.”
“Hey, I remember you from last night. You don’t remember? I met you in my dreams.”
“What are you looking for? A Turkish boyfriend? I can help you there!”
“For you, with eyes like those, everything in this shop is free.”
We made our escape before too long and were amused to hear variations of the same lines addressed to the next few foreign girls who wandered through behind us. Their English seemed to be of much the same caliber as the Hindi I pick up from Bollywood romantic comedies–grammatically perfect, but limited in scope.
Out again into the snow, umbrellas up! The power outage kept trams and lightrail trains from running, so after a few hours all the denizens of İstanbul seemed to be trying to pack onto about three buses as though they were clown cars. The buses would pull away from their stops, honking furiously, with people hanging perilously all over them, dangling from open doors. Opting out of this particular form of public transportation, and deciding we couldn’t get much colder and wetter, we proceeded to get royally lost on our walk back to our ferry terminal. (Who knew İstanbul even had an autobody and car parts district?)
Once in sight of home we rewarded ourselves for being such good sports with a big splurge on cookies at our local Komşufırın (it’s a fabulous franchise, which means “Neighbor’s Bakery”) and ate them for dinner, accompanied by nearly three hours of pirated episodes of Jersey Shore. You gotta do what you gotta do sometimes, you know.
It’s a drowsy kind of evening–even the cats in the tree outside my window are fighting less raucously than usual–so I’ll save the rest for another day. Pictures to come soon, I hope, along with little vignettes about my first Turkish pilsner, first candied kumquat, and first (but not last!) grilled lamb intenstine.
Love to you from my sleepy, snowy city.