Driving by taxi to our hotel, Istanbul seemed quite modern with sleek, new fountains and various architectural structures planted in and around the roadways. When we arrived to our place and started exploring, however, the city turned more ‘byzantine’.
We were staying in the Old City. This particular neighborhood, Sultanahmet, was filled with little shoe-making workshops, most of them whole-sale only (darn!). It was interesting to see the men carrying huge rolls of leather around and rushing about the cobblestone streets with their box-heaped rickshaws.
We also were able to sneak a peek at a woman making a traditional Turkish rug. The pattern looked so intricate… I can’t imagine what patience a person must muster to complete one of these beauties. The asking price for a smaller rug (about 2X3 or 4 feet) is a few hundred USD.
There were also little shops where you could create your own piece of jewelry. Simply pick out the type, shape, and size of stones hanging from strings about the store and in minutes, you’ll have your own tailor-made bracelet or necklace.
Of course the Grand Bazaar was a materialist’s paradise (or hell). The colors and scents put one in a trance and it is riddled with inspiration. Yet, my favorite part of the trip was the visible craftsmanship of Turkey, still very much alive. In the States, our shoes and rugs are primarily shipped from China and we will never see the hands who made them. Here, you walk down the streets and smile at those craftspeople.
P.S. If you’re ever in Turkey, The Istanbul Modern is a lovely change-up that will bring you to present day.