Istanbul, dressed in white.

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Flag of Turkey  , Istanbul,
Thursday, April 21, 2011

Istanbul. Dressed in White.

I have seen snow in Turkey in March, but this time (March 2011) has been the first that I saw the city covered with snow.
A new experience. It was not that much, really, but because it is not that common, the newspaper cautioned people about the danger of slippery sidewalks, traffic problems, etc.
For me, it was a great occasion to look at familiar places in a different way.
I like, when in Istanbul, stay in the old city, in Sultanahmet, around Istanbul University.
The tram runs along the wide street Ordu Caddesi which later becomes Yeniceriler Caddesi. It is the spinal column in the body of my walks. If I go straight I find Aya Sophia and the Blue Mosque. Down to the right I would see the Marmara Sea and the fish markets and restaurants of Kumkapi. Down to the left the Bosphorus and the Spice Bazaar would be waiting for me.
The two sides are different. The right is full of shops selling textiles that mainly Russians buy to resell in the former Russian Republics. The left side stores take care of the natives, and one can there buy scarfs, leather, underwear, copper ware, kitchen utensils, etc.
I wanted to visit some old friends, merchants in the Grand Bazaar, the famous Kapali Carsi. It is an amazing place. The main alley going from Beyazit to Nuruosmaniye has expensive jewelry shops, their doors flanked by men with a double duty of salesmen and security guards.
Inside the Bazaar, there are Mosques, restaurants, fountains, etc. It is like a city opening at 8.30 in the morning and closing at 7 in the evening.
My friends in the Bazaar are originally from Turkmeneistan the father, the family patriarch, and six sons. I have included their photos with this blog. 
To the left of the Beyazit entrance of the Bazaar, is the Sahaflar Carsisi, the old book Bazaar, dating from Byzantine times.
At one time rare book editions could be found there. Nowadays, they mainly sell travel guides or text books. 
Coming down from Yeniceriler Caddesi towards the Bosphorus, another famous Bazaar is found. It is the Spice Bazaar, also called Egyptian Bazaar or Misir Carsisi. This is the place to buy dried fruits, coffee, spices, seeds, etc.
I like the old, vaulted building, and the merchants are quite colorful. Some years ago, I bought there some naphtalene balls, to keep moths away from my closets, but the smell was so strong that I could not use them.
I could not be in Istanbul without going to see my old friend, the Blue Mosque. 
It was built in the time of Sultan Ahmet 1st. and with its six minarets is the jewell dominating the skyline of Istanbul. 
I have a nice story associated with this Mosque. During a previous visit, and feeling quite tired, I rested inside sitting in the space reserved for women to pray. Upon leaving, I realized that I did not have my camera. I went back and as soon one of the women saw me, she took me by the hand to go to the Police booth, where she had returned my camera. There are so many honest people all around!.
What happened to me this time, was something of a different nature. In the middle of my first night in Istanbul and not being able to sleep I looked at my computer only to discover, to my dismay, that it was dead. What should I do?.
I decided to approach the situation as a new travel experience. I found out that there is in Istanbul an Apple store and got the telephone number. Realizing that I could get nowhere over the phone with my complete ignorance of Turkish, I went to the Bazaar to seek help from my friends. They made the call and learned the address. It was a place far away, in Sisli, the new Istanbul. I took a taxi, we crossed the Galata bridge, passed Taksim Square (the focal point of the modern city) and kept going. The driver asked for directions several times, and finally we arrived to a non described store where ah!!, the familiar Apple symbol was displayed. The taxi driver,a very nice young man, offered to wait for me while I tried to find out what was wrong with my computer. (Let me say that, during this visit, my taxi drivers were all helpful, and I say this because I should confess that I have a certain prejudice towards them).
Well, I was lucky, it was the charger the part that decided to end its life by the Bosphorus, and it could be replaced.
I think that the price was higher that in the States, and someone told me that a number of different taxes are levied in Turkey to products imported from outside.
In point of fact, Turkey is not cheap. Restaurants and fish are expensive. Clothing and textiles are  more affordable, and may be this is why so many Russians buy wholesale .
I am curious to know why the Chinese have not penetrated the Turkish market. In Spain, whole areas of Madrid are flooded with Chinese stores, selling cheap clothing. The result of this invasion is that the small Spanish textile factories have been forced to close.I would have been happy to talk about this phenomenon but my lack of communication ability prevented me from doing it.
By the time I left Istanbul, the snow storm was over, and the sun was shining again.
It was a nice trip, and I saw Istanbul dressed as a bride.
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