Let’s face it, we look like tourists. Del wears a camera strapped to his chest, and I wear a bright blue jacket while everyone else is wearing black. In old Istanbul this means we couldn’t stop to look in shop windows at rugs or tiles without a shop keeper inviting us in. They were polite, but we felt pressured and would walk away.
We were caught unexpectedly outside the Blue Mosque where a nicely dressed man offered to show us where to get plastic bags to use for our shoes. We thought, “How kind,” until he then invited us to see his nearby carpet shop. He didn’t press us though. However, the street vendors selling tour books were very annoying and would sometimes follow us, trying to put a book in our hands. We learned not even to make eye contact with them and to walk quickly whenever we saw them.
Of course the Grand Bazaar is another story, as we expected the badgering there. Just outside, at a purse stand, a smiling young man said, “Let me help you spend your money.” We laughed, knowing this was just the beginning. We had been told that gold jewelry was often a good price, so looking in a jewelry window at gold necklaces we asked the man standing outside, “How much is this?” He answered, “$4,000.” We looked at him in disbelief and walked away. You have to be in the mood to haggle and you also need to be very knowledgeable about what you want to buy.
But there was one thing I really wanted and had been looking for over several years, a blue lapis pendant. We went into a jewelry store and found several pieces in silver settings. Since we were his “first customer of the day,” he offered us a special price. It would bring him “good luck” to make a sale early in the day. “Sure,” I thought, “It’s a sale, isn’t it?” We bargained for lower prices twice and got it down to what we thought was a reasonable deal based on prices in other countries.
We felt good that we could buy something and not be taken advantage of in Turkey. The key was being knowledgeable and knowing when to walk away.