Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Wandering around Eminonu markets

Saturday was Declaration of the Republic Day and we had quite the adventure. It was both exhausting and awesome.  It was so long, in fact, that I am going to split it into two posts: early afternoon shopping in Eminonu followed the parade on Bagdat Street.

We went to Eminonu in search of yarn - there's a crochet project that I desperately want to start and I've needed black yarn for weeks. While there are a number of big-chain stores here (we have the British department stores plus one for electronics and a Home Depot knockoff), there is no Joanns or Michaels equivalent and most of the little stores have gone out of business. The only place I know of to get yarn is in Eminonu, a somewhat touristy area on the Golden Horn that a lot of the Bosphorus ferry trips leave from.

I hadn't actually been back there, on foot, since last summer, and it was weird to return there as a resident and with Cagatay. I went to Eminonu on my first day in Turkey last year and it was a little unnerving because it very much has a Middle Eastern market feel. I feel pretty safe here but to be honest, on day one, I felt like I could have been grabbed into an alley at any second - and it didn't help that I'd already had two sketchy guys that day try to pick me up. (One of them I couldn't shake; we met near the Blue Mosque and at the exit, I literally covered my head with a shawl and RAN.)

Eminonu also makes me laugh as it reminds me of my Turkish language-learning struggles (still ongoing). On that first day, by chance I wandered into the Yeni Camii, or the New Mosque, which has gorgeous details and sits by the water and was completed in 1663. Do you think you know how to pronounce Yeni Camii? I thought I did - but then when I was telling Cagatay about it last summer, I learned that in Turkish, "c" is pronounced like "j." So it's not "kammy" but "jah-mee." (Which also explains why when I'd ask people for directions - the Turkish word for street is "cadde" - they'd look at me like I was crazy.)

Anyway...after getting off the tram, we briefly walked through the courtyard of the Yeni Cami to reach the Eminonu markets at the back. Last summer, I had only walked through the enclosed Spice Market; this time, we walked through the open-air section, which had all kinds of stuff for sale. In the pets section, there were open barrels of chow, caged pigeons/roosters/etc and pedigreed dogs, dog collars, and jugs filled with leeches. We made our way through this chaotic scene and into the streets with the proper stores where literally thousands of people were trying to make their way through. This area had really practical things for sale - shoes, fabric, the most bedazzled, ugliest wedding dresses you've ever seen, etc. - and for the most part was arranged by type.

We had to ask a couple of people but eventually we found the yarn merchants, located on the second floor of some building. It was a square building with an open center and all of the stores were along the sides - and there were probably 15 different yarn stores, each packed to the brim. And omg, that yarn was cheap - acrylic yarn going for about $4 at home cost about 2 lira (or $1.12).

After that, we headed back to the wharf to catch the ferry to Hyderpasa Station, on the Asian side. We had about 20 minutes to kill before the ferry left so we walked along the promenade and watched the fishermen. Cagatay bought hot chesnuts from one of the ubiquitous vendors. I tried one and thought it tasted like half-cooked potato; I was even less impressed when he found a maggot in the last one.
We caught the ferry at just the right time, just at sunset. I really recommend this trip for touristic purposes, by the way - you pass a lot of the major sites, like Topkapi Palace, the Aya Sofya and the Blue Mosque, and the Maiden Tower. It only takes about half an hour and costs less than 2 lira, I do believe.

At the bottom, I've added a Flickr sideshow but you have to be on my actual blog to see it. And you want to see it - I included photos of both the awful wedding dresses and the leeches. How can you resist that?

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