The region between Galata Bridge and Beyazıt is the old market district of the city.
As well as being one of the oldest, it is also one of the most architecturally rich and picturesque quarters of Istanbul where the tumultous sreets are full of clamour and commotion with crowds of shoppers hurrying along the maze of streets and sidewalk vendors trying to grab their attention.
It is also a part of Istanbul where one is more than likely to come across a typical Turkish Bath which is has kept its authenticity to a degree without becoming too commercialized.
Albeit brisk to catch a meeting, my walk from Mercan, where a myriad of small family owned businesses are congregated, to Beyazıt where I am sure Oliviero Toscani would have tumbled into many many faces to photograph, via the Grand Bazaar was as always very uplifting.
Theia, the goddess of sight and the shining light of the clear blue skies was in total control sending her warmest greetings via a lukewarm and serene day, making my fast-paced walk even more pleasant.
The flowers were in bloom and it seemed as if the sun had vitalized the already very energetic crowd.
I have always admired the the rich architectural heritage of the area and perpetually entertain myself by observing, rediscovering details, losing myself in the maze of streets, as I move to keep pace with the district.
The area has its own rythm which of course is not for everyone. It can become exhausting for those who find the idea of crowds and the feeling of the need to duck in order to avoid being trampled upon unfriendly. I, myself find the area invigorating , cherishing the idea of getting lost and then finding myself in the winding and narrow streets.
The Grand Bazaar, which is the main hub of the area was established on its present site by Sultan Mehmet II a couple of years after the 1453 Ottoman conquest of Constantinople. Despite being destroyed several times by fires, the Bazaar has apparently kept its same structure.
It is very difficult to give directions to a certain store or area in the grand bazaar which they say has 61 covered streets and more than 3,000 kaleidoscopic stores. Those selling the same kind of merchandise are congregated together where the steets carry the names of the various guilds which have been trading in the same locations for centuries now. It is simply best to immerse oneself and cherish discovering every nook and cranny of this invigorating maze and the colourful trinkets on offer.
Although nowadays most of the goods on sale are mostly mass-made, there are some little shops which sell very original and distinctive pieces. Locals would very seldom go to the Grand Bazaar on a shopping spree, however do frequent the area to most probably embrace the glory of the past, get lost in the colourful stores, enjoy a quick lunch at one of the local eateries or share a cup of Turkish coffee with a friend. I know a lot of women still like to stroll around the jewellery quarter where the craftsmen embellish their shop windows with the most exquisite designs.
I think Mark Twain described it best when he said: “We went to the Grand Bazaar in Stamboul, of course, and I shall not describe it further than to say it is a monstrous hive of little shops – thousands, I should say – all under one roof, and cut up into innumerable little blocks by narrow streets which are arched overhead.”
How to get to the area:
I always enjoy taking the tram to the area, getting off at the Beyazit stop, opposite to which is one of the 20 something entrances to the Grand Bazaar.