“You owe it to yourself…

… to at least find out the price.”


These were JoAnn’s words as we found ourselves, back in the Grand Bazaar, strolling past numerous shops with leather jackets. At various points during our ramble through the maze of shops, I had discretely muttered under my breath what type of leather jacket caught my eye.

One of the shopkeepers was astute enough to catch our momentary pause. “Ladies, ladies, come into my shop. I have leather jacket for you.” We look at each other, then duck through the door and enter a small room. The leather is sorted by color and by style.

I had originally seen a style through the door that had grabbed my attention. It was black. But truth be told, I love red. When I pointed to the style, he then asked what color I liked. “Black? Brown? Burgundy?” I fairly quickly said, “Burgundy.” He sized me up and pulled a jacket off a hanger. It fit great. The color was good. But the collar had a strap with a buckle that didn’t interest me. He tucked the strap back, but he could tell that it was definitely a deal breaker.

A second burgundy jacket was now in his hands, ready for me to try. Once again, it fit great. The deep burgundy was soft. He says, “baby lamb,” to which we tell him it’s better to not have that visual. The collar was much simpler and stylish. The lines were sleek. Wow. I looked good!

My mind had just made the switch from ‘just looking’ to ‘I want this jacket!’ I’m sure the shopkeeper is adept enough at reading all the signs. I had just fallen for the jacket.

I couldn’t just go for it at that point. The sleeves were too long. “No problem. No problem.” He presents me with two options. Cuff them or his tailor can shorten them. And then there’s the question of price. I had just gotten my standard amount of Turkish Lira out of the ATM before entering the Bazaar. I asked the fateful words, “How much?” He tells me the price. It’s more than what’s currently in my pocket. He is smart enough to realize that I’m getting ready to take the bait. He also steps away so I can consult with JoAnn. She thinks it’s a good price for the quality and uniqueness of the piece. She gives me some suggestions on my haggling strategy.

When he comes back in, I tell him how much lira I have in my pocket. If he wants closer to his asking price, I’ll have to use my credit card.

At this point, he doesn’t want me to walk away and he senses (correctly) that he’s got me hooked. But then there are those pesky credit card fees and everything associated  with using plastic. He takes my offer.

I’m doing my happy dance in my head. I can’t believe I’m getting this gorgeous red leather jacket!

The tailor comes to measure my sleeves. Shorten 5 cm. The jacket is whisked away and someone comes bearing apple tea while we wait.

These shopkeepers are hard-core salesmen. Now he starts in on JoAnn. She eventually will buy a leather jacket. But she has specific ideas and a plan for what and when she’ll buy. She does show him a design and, of course, he has something similar. He also picks out a size that fits her just right. But she’s not in the market for a jacket today.

“How about your husband?” he says. We say that he’d have to be here to pick it out himself. The shopkeeper asks about her husband’s build. He proceeds to find a buddy who is closer to the height of JoAnn’s husband. The man comes in and tries a few jackets. It’s entertaining. We laugh. Then he looks at me and asks about my husband. I tell him I don’t have one and he then names off various relatives for whom I could purchase a jacket.

Finally my sleeves are shortened and I try on the jacket one last time before making the purchase.

“I look good in this jacket. Maybe this will help me find that husband!”

The shopkeeper laughs and genuinely smiles. We exit his shop and disappear into the crowd.


Shopping Tips for Istanbul…

Shopping outside the Grand Bazaar is often easier and less stressful. If the prices are stated, there’s less room, if any, to negotiate. The Spice Market seemed to have better prices. Just because it’s called the Spice Market doesn’t mean that there are only spices.

Outside of Suleyman Mosque was a shop with a good selection of scarves. They were 20 TL for the pashmina (silk and wool blend) ones.

Whenever you see the stands for fresh orange or pomegranate juice, take advantage of them! The cheapest we found was 2.5 TL for orange and 5 TL for pomegranate. Try the dried fruit and get some for snacks. The dried strawberries are my favorite.


Just What I Needed…


After a long and extremely busy week I needed to make a special purchase. I’m trying to NOT complain about the weather. But it’s April 20th and we got about 8 inches of wet, heavy snow this week. When I got to school on Friday, the lot wasn’t plowed. Another teacher was stuck as I was pulling in. When I got into a spot, I realized I was stuck there. I was hoping that it would melt during the day so I would be able to get out. No such luck. I ended up using my car scraper to push and pull snow out from underneath my car where I was “hung up.” I did manage to get myself out without any help.

The snow is still on the ground, but I needed a little pick-me-up. I stopped by and got a pansy bowl at a local garden center. I must admit, it does look rather pretty with the bright, white snow in the background. 😉

Hollywood Does Istanbul


This is the view from the grounds of the Suleyman Mosque, looking out over “New Mosque” and the Bosphorus Strait. On Sunday, I was watching the movie, Argo, and instantly recognized the shot. Plus, it says “Istanbul, Turkey” at the bottom of the screen. The next scene is walking through the doors of a mosque. I’m guessing it to be Suleyman, since they were right there. It looked a lot like this:


Once inside, Ben Affleck’s character is meeting one of his CIA buddies to get information about his adventure into Iran. But the shots inside the building are from here:


This is the interior of Hagia Sophia. Hagia Sophia is a good 15 minute walk away from Suleyman. It is also a museum and not an active place of worship. In the movie, it looks like they got to skip the long lines and price of admission. Suleyman is free. But with the call to prayer happening five times per day, I’m sure filming would not be allowed.

A few other discrepancies to note are what you would see in a mosque. There is no artwork that is in the likeness of any person. So when they pan to one of the mosaics in the Hagia Sophia, it’s of Jesus. Jesus or any likeness of a human would not be in a mosque. I think the mosaic they show is one that is in the upper gallery. They’d have to go through quite a hike. When Hagia Sophia was a mosque, these mosaics were covered. In some cases, the concrete helped to preserve the mosaic. In other cases, they were damaged beyond repair. Here’s the one that I think they showed in the film.


If they would have been in the Suleyman Mosque, the interior looks like quite different.


And looking up…


I thoroughly enjoyed the movie, Argo. I’m not bothered by these discrepancies. But it makes me wonder about how they make the decisions to do what they do. Why didn’t they just show the outside of Hagia Sophia if they were going to film the inside? Instead they chose to film going into a mosque and creating a backdrop that would never occur in a mosque.

Maybe it’s more than teachers that should be going through cultural competency training…


Shop ’til you…

… have to buy another bag to get everything you bought home.

The Grand Bazaar is the oldest shopping mall in the world. And here I thought Southdale was supposed to have some significance in that category… I guess that’s the US’s first indoor regional shopping mall. Anyhoo…

The Grand Bazaar is open from 9am to 7pm, Monday – Saturday. It’s a maze of shops, many of them looking similar and selling similar wares. It seems organized into various sections. But around every corner seemed to be someone saying, “Lady, you want to buy a carpet?” Oh, I’d love to buy a carpet. But I can’t afford a carpet. You avoid eye-contact and keep walking.


Our first foray into the Grand Bazaar was on Monday. We weren’t sure what we were shopping for, other than scarves and puzzle rings. My friend and I are kind of nuts about scarves. Two years ago in Portugal, we discovered of our shared passion while at a market with Margaret. The scarf count was already at 4 for my friend and 3 for me.

Shopping in the Grand Bazaar is a little stressful. There are no prices posted. You’ve entered the realm of bargaining for price. What is the price? The shopkeeper answers. You play the game of looking like that is too much and offer a lower amount. He looks disappointed and tells you a new price, lower than the first, but higher than your offer. If you like it, you take it. If you don’t, you walk away. Sometimes when you walk away they start shouting lower prices to try to get you to turn around. It’s quite the game. I’m not very good at it.

If you actually start looking at a shop, you need to be prepared for the sales-pitch. This may include a demonstration. I did purchase one scarf in the Grand Bazaar. And I’m sure it had to do with the sales pitch and the fact that this guy knew how to drape/tie a scarf. Price of said scarf? 30 TL. Was it a good price? At the time I thought so.


The next day we visited the Chora Church and then went to the Suleymaniye Mosque. When the taxi dropped us outside the mosque, there were more stands set-up to sell typical tourist stuff. Including scarves.


This is A. Ismet Tong. He has a souvenir shop outside the Suleymaniye Mosque. He has lots of scarves. And guess what? He posted prices. When we asked him about that, he said, “I post the price because I respect you. The price is good for me and good for you.” The same exact scarf that I bought for 30TL was 20TL.  So yes, we believed him. And we bought scarves. He was super nice and helpful. When he saw what we liked, he found more in different colors. He was enjoyable to talk to and it was a very nice shopping experience. Some people may like the bartering, but to me, it’s stressful. I like the posted prices and I’d recommend seeking out Mr Tong to anyone in Istanbul. Plus, you then see the Suleymaniye Mosque while you’re there.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention what I actually bought to make it so I had to buy another bag to get my purchases home. My big, unexpected, but totally cool purchase was a bed cover. Try getting a queen sized bed cover in your carry-on wheely bag. I did it. But there was hardly any room for my other stuff. I actually left the merchant’s shop and had to think about the purchase. I’m sure the guy thought he’d never see us again. I’m amazed that we found the shop again amongst the maze of the Grand Bazaar. I offered him a price and was willing to go higher. But he took my offer, and threw in 3 pillow covers – for which I still need to find pillow inserts. When my suitcase arrived, a day later than I arrived, it made it to its final destination.