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20 Things Women Should Know Before Visiting Istanbul...

 

Shopping: Turkey is fabulous for shopping at all price points. High quality textiles, organic cottons, fashion, top quality blue jeans (Mavi is a hip Turkish brand), jewelry, leather goods, silver, gold, magnificent silk scarves,rugs and kilims, housewares, food gifts, hand painted ceramics, tiles and on and on.

 

Bargaining: In most shops outside the bazaars you do not bargain but you can always ask for a cash discount. In bazaars, ask if the price is 'fixed', if not try to get to approximately 40% of the original asking price. Never look overly interested! Prices are generally easier to reduce if you are paying cash.

 

Top Picks for shopping: Go at least once to the Grand Bazaar in the Old City. Hundreds of years old, it is the world's original shopping mall! Over 4000 shops. Yes, there is a lot of touristy product, but also loads of irresistible high-quality textiles, scarves, items for the home and bath, jewelry, leather, rugs, and much more. Dhoku has lovely antique kilims that have been re-purposed into gorgeous rugs with very fair prices. Cashmere House has marvelous 'affordable' silk and cotton scarves and also a line of jaw-dropping fine silks, the best pashmina and antelope hairscarves. Go inside the shop to see the best and talk with the hospitable owner. Amazing things!

 

Arasta Bazaar: The Arasta Bazaar is behind the Blue Mosque and is much smaller than the Grand Bazaar. Arasta is packed with top-quality shops and is a far more manageable experience. Check out Djem for glorious handbags made with antique kilims and Jennifer's Hamam for organic cottons, towels, tablecloths and more.

 

Nisantasi is an upper income neighborhood beyond Taksim Square: The Tesvikiye neighborhood of Nistantasi is the shopping hub for superb Turkish designers like Gonul Paksoy and myriad appealing small shops. Take a taxi or adolmus-minibus for 2.5 lira from Taksim Square. The area around the Tesvikye Mosque is packed with appealing shops and cafes. For fashion, visit the boutique of noted Turkish designer Gonul Paksoy, Atiye Sokak #6. Ms. Paksoy trained as a chemist and specializes in hand dyed silks and cottons of extraordinary color and beauty. Each piece is unique and while informed by traditional design is utterly modern. Clothing, shoes and jewelry available. This shop does not have a website. Then, near Gonul Paksoy is the shop called Yastik which sells gorgeous kilims and is particularly known for its high end kilim and contemporary designs in pillow covers designed by RifatOzbek. www.yastikbyrifatozbek.com/index_english.html

 

Beyoglu is the name for 'European' Istanbul: The ever-energized main street, Istiklal Caddessi, is a pedestrianized boulevard running from Taksim Squaredown to the Tunel neighborhood. Packed with shops, patisseries, restaurants, cafes, clubs, Istiklal is a great street to browse along with its numerous side streets. Check out the Spice market area. The area around the enclosed, covered spice market is a jumble of food shops, housewares shops, and of course spice shops. Look for ultra fresh dried fruits and nuts, for pomegranate molasses, honeys, herbal and blackteas, and of course, redolent spices. I always buy the dark smoky, chocolate-y Urfa pepper. It is hard to find out of Turkey and is delicious.

 

Turkish tea: Yes, the Turks drink tea. Loads of tea! All day long. They grow black tea in the hills up near the Black sea and also grow and offer wonderful herbal teas like fresh thyme, rosehip, linden, lemon balm, sage. You will often be offered 'apple tea' which is quite sweet and made from reconstituted apple and sugar. Try the real deal.

 

Turkish coffee: Turkish coffee can be a bit of an acquired taste. At its best it is rich, strong, almost a little chocolate-y. Watch out for thegrounds in the bottom of the cup. As you get to the bottom of the tiny cup you will have what seems like 1/8 inch of bitter, very fine grounds.

 

Coffee, not Turkish: Just in case you are craving a large cup of brewed or filter coffee, you will find numerous Starbucks in busy Istanbul neighborhoods and these are full of Turks and an international crowd. There is a very good Turkish chain called Khave Dunyasi which also sells nice dark chocolates along with its filter coffees and cappuccinos in its comfortable cafes.

 

Bringing it all back home: Istanbul is a shoppers paradise. Five great choices for gifts under $10 to bring home might include spices from the Spice Bazaar (particularly the fabulous Urfa and Maras dried pepper), or some Turkish honey or pomegranate molasses. A box of Turkish Delight with pistachios or in flavors like rose or hazlenut would be lovely. Easy to pack scarves are everywhere from cheap and cheerful cottons to the most luxurious silks and fine pashmina. Organic cotton towels or colorful hamam towels are fun and useful. Or, maybe a set of those cute tulip shaped tea glasses for tea lovers. Sally Peabody can pair you with a female guide to shop for your best all over Istanbul for fashion art, food or home d�cor. One of her favorite colleagues in Istanbul is private guide Gamze Artaman. Gamze guides for clients of the FourSeasons Hotels and elite travel agencies and is a delightful, knowledgeable licensed private guide. Her rates begin at 200 Euros per day. Contact her at g.artaman@gmail.com or read about Gamze on www.turkishjourneys.com/tour-turkeys-southeast.htm

 

Bonus tip...

Finally, a sweet treat. Gulluoglu is the mother ship of all things Baklava. Located in Karakoy on the European side on Rhythm Caddessi (you can't miss it, it is on the street level of a large multi-coloured parking garage!). Gulluoglu is one of the very best baklava makers in Turkey. They bring their top quality pistachios, hazelnuts, walnuts and more from the Turkish southeast and make these magnificent treats in Istanbul for an adoring public. There are over 25 varieties of baklava at Gulluoglu (including a to-die-for chocolate version) and this baklava is not too sweet. It is all about the quality of the nuts and the flaky, buttery yufka pastry with just a little syrup. Choose two or three types, get a cup of tea or Turkish coffee and ascend straight to culinary heaven.

 

 

 

 

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