Turkey is a magical country with a culture unlike any other in the world. East meets west here, and the people are a literal interpretation of two continents colliding – coupled with a rich history of luxury. The souvenirs you can find are unlike any other. And, although Jeffrey is definitely not a souvenir hunter, I managed to trick him into finding a few good places to do a little hunting.
First things first, I did my research before leaving the states – before you ever land in Istanbul, you need to know what Turkey is known for and therefore what to look for when browsing. Obviously, Turkey is most famous for their rugs. Now, because they’re world-renown, they’re also very, very expensive. And surely too expensive for a 24-year-old. So…onto more attainable souvenirs…
- textiles (hand towels, tableclothes, etc.)
The ceramic plates I found at Kapalı Çarşısı (the Grand Bazaar) are colorful and eye-catching, hand painted and, most importantly, remind me of the vibrant Turkish culture every time I eat on them.
Turkish ceramics gained popularity in the 14th century and were highly prized – even by the Turkish Sultans. These days, you can find these hand painted ceramics to fit any budget – from magnets for 1 TL to vases for thousands of dollars.
And they’re not hard to find. Just one peak into the Grand Bazaar and you’ll find little booths of ceramics sellers around every corner. The trick is to bargain with them enough to find a fair price. Beware: some booths will recognize that you’re an American and will not budge on their exorbitant prices. Not to fear: there’s always another booth.
I ended up purchasing four hand-painted dinner plates for $68 – and my only regret is that I didn’t get a set of at least eight.
As for jewelry, head down İstiklal Avenue in the neighborhood called Beyoğlu and turn into a tiny alley way (you have to be looking for it, or you’ll miss it!) named:
The address is İstiklal Caddesi No. 116. Once you’re in, let all the men you’re traveling with sit in this courtyard tea garden and have some Turkish coffee…
Then, you go find Chris Kami (116/1A Hongecidi Sokak, Kazzo Pulo Pasaji) — or, for those not quite able to follow directions and having left the men behind that usually do the dirty work, it is literally a stone’s throw from the garden. You can see the garden from the store’s entrance.
I first read about this hand-made jewelry shop in my Frommer’s guidebook (Istanbul Day by Day), and, needless to say, I just had to go.
I was shocked to find the great prices, and spent some time deciding how many pieces to buy. I finally decided to buy myself a bracelet (about $12) and a few gifts for others.
Jeffrey and I literally stumbled into a packed framing shop — I can’t even begin to give directions because we were just wandering around side streets — and found several old prints of maps, black and white pictures and more. Here are a few shots we brought home: