The Grand Bazaar in Istanbul was the first shopping mall.  It was built in 1461. The bazaar has about 4,000 shops and is like a city.  The Sultans used to have armed guards surround the building at night to protect it.  It was the most important shopping place in the world during the Ottoman Empire.

Going to the bazaar was one of the things that I was really looking forward to doing in Istanbul. My Aunt Lois sent me some money so that I could buy myself something in Istanbul and I knew I wanted to spend it at the bazaar.

We did not expect that the building of the Grand Bazaar would be so beautiful!

First of all, you don’t just buy things at the price they tell you, you have to bargain. I really like bargaining and thought it would be more fun than regular shopping. I read articles about how to bargain before we left for Istanbul. And also when my Uncle Sy came to visit, I also learned a little bit about bargaining from him. Here are some of the bargaining basics: (1) Don’t pay more for something than you really want to pay, (2) If you agree on a price with the seller, then you shouldn’t say another one because that is rude, (3) Be very polite and friendly when you are negotiating, (4) If you decide not to buy something, then just say no and don’t feel bad about walking away because the people selling stuff do this every day, (5) Don’t show how much you might like something because they might not make the best price for you, (6) The sellers usually tell you a price that is two times what they expect to sell it for, so you can start negotiating with half the price they tell you.

Every guide book says that the bazaar is overwhelming, but it really isn’t that bad. Mom was thinking that she might not go because she thought it would be too much. But we all went and thought it was great. The building is cool and the bazaar was very interesting.

It made it easier for me to shop because I had ideas about what I wanted. I knew that I wanted jewelry and maybe a pretty scarf. Some people say that bargaining is part of the fun of going to the bazaar. You might be wondering if I bargained? Yes, I did. Bargaining was very fun.

My Dad made a conversion sheet for me from 10 Turkish Lira to 100 Turkish Lira counting by 5s so that I would know how much Euros I was spending. Also while we were walking to the bazaar me and my Dad made a code word. The code word was “cosi-cosi,” which means “so-so” in Italian. And if my Dad asked if I liked something and I said “cosi-cosi”, it meant to my Dad that I really wanted to buy it, but thought it was too expensive so was going to start bargaining.

The first thing that I got was a pretty scarf. My strategy for that one was to pretend I was going to leave so he would make the price lower. This is how it happened. First he dropped the price 10 percent. Then I told him that the light blue color might get stained with food, so it wasn’t the best for me. Then he lowered the price. Then I said I liked it but it was more than I wanted to pay. Then he showed me other scarves and I said “no thank you” and then he asked me what I would pay. I told him I was going to keep looking at other places and as I was walking away he made another price. And at the end, I bought it for 40% of what he first said. My parents said that they really thought I was not going to buy it when I started to walk away.

After I bought my scarf, the seller and I took a picture together.

And other thing I got was a bracelet. Remember how I told you how you can’t show a lot how much you like it? Well, my Dad had to make my mom go in a different section because she kept saying how much she liked the bracelet and she was being so enthusiastic that it was ruining my bargaining. I kept walking away to check my conversion sheet because I had to keep track of how much money I had left. It was hard to think about Turkish Lira and Euros and Dollars. The man selling it kept offering a price to my Dad, but Dad told him it was my money so he had to negotiate with me. This time I made an offer that was a little less than what I really wanted to pay for it. Then he made an offer, then I said a price that was in the middle and he said “OK.” My bracelet has little mini Nazar Boncuk charms (or Evil Eye Beads) in different colors. The eye in the beads are supposed to keep you safe from evil spirits. It is one of the most common decorations that I saw in Turkey. You can see women wearing them as jewelry and you see them at homes and hotels. My Great Grandma Rosie believed in the “evil eye” and after people that she thought had the Evil Eye left, she would spit three times for good luck!

My brother got a beautiful chess set. Ever since we got to Roma, he had been looking for a chess set as a souvenir from this year. The board is very pretty wood and it is decorated with inlaid mother of pearl. Eli shows a lot of enthusiasm when he likes something, which is not great for bargaining. But he did a good job anyway and part of his negotiating was to get two different sets of pieces from different chess sets. He got one side is ancient Roman characters and the other side is ancient Egyptian characters. The pieces are made of brass.

The seller showed Eli a puzzle to solve where you have to switch the places of the knights.

We all had a great time at the Grand Bazaar.

Stopping for an apple tea break at the Grand Bazaar.

— Nell