Thursday, February 21, 2013

Istanbul's Spice Market

Well, my last couple of posts have just been bitch, bitch, bitch, so I thought I'd say something nice about Istanbul for a change. While the neighborhoods all have their weekly street market where you can go buy fresh fruit and veg [I love that the verb "to bargain" in Turkish is pazarlık etmek, or, roughly, to "do the market"] Istanbul is known for two big markets -- the Grand Bazaar in Sultanahmet and the Spice Bazaar in Eminonu. While the Grand Bazaar has always struck me as a little touristy (though my gorgeous engagement ring and our wedding rings did come from there), I absolutely love the Spice Bazaar. Despite the fact that the  vendors are generally calling out to customers in English, it still feels like an authentic place; you can buy a lot in the grocery store, of course, but the Spice Bazaar seems to have every spice/tea/dried fruit you could ever want.

In Turkish, the Spice Bazaar is known as Mısır Çarşısı, or Egyptian Bazaar, because the bazaar was once known for selling goods from Egypt. It's been around since the 1660s -- according to Lonely Planet, it was built as part of the Yeni Camii mosque complex and intended to help support the mosque's upkeep.

We go over to Eminonu every once in awhile -- you can buy almost anything over there, from fancy dogs and tulip bulbs to wedding dresses and copper pots, and I am especially fond of the yarn market. Eminonu also has one of my favorite buildings in Istanbul -- the Legacy Ottoman hotel, a building known as 4. Vakıf Han, built between 1911 and 1926 in the neoclassical Turkish style. You can't see it very well in the photo, but there is gorgeous blue tilework above the highest windows.

I actually haven't ever been inside the hotel -- it's the grand exterior that I love. But on our last trip to Eminonu, we made it halfway in -- we had coffee in the attached coffee shop, Brew Coffeeworks, and sat in the back, next to the window separating the two. The interior of the hotel is, of course, very opulent -- chandeliers and rich fabrics -- while the coffee shop is bright and modern. How cute are the bowler hat lights? The coffee wasn't so bad, either. :)

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