Two years ago, a veteran from this trip advised those of us looking ahead to it, “Do something at the beginning and end of the trip together.” Whatever it was, he suggested that the revisiting the act would help us grasp the time and changes elapsed during the three week journey.
This year we lacked the cohesion to share anything informally, but gracious scheduling allowed it nonetheless. You may recall my reaction to the Grand Bazaar. Today we concluded our second visit to Istanbul with the Spice Bazaar.The Spice Bazaar hosts fewer than 100 shops, compared to the Grand Bazaar’s 3,000+. Caroline, Annie, and I glided down the center aisle, mostly unmolested, marveling at the displays: tiny empires built of sweet jelly delights; many-colored mountain ranges of saffron, pepper, and their cousins; jungles of glazed ceramics and woven scarves. A young vendor caught my attention by offering me a sample of dried strawberries.
“Where are you from?” — the ubiquitous question.
“I have a friend who lives there!”
Really. I raised my eyebrows.
“Yes, yes,” he insisted. “I have friends living in Pennsylvania, Virginia, and [another coastal state]. They are citizens or students.”
This inspired me to wonder where my friends had vanished. I ducked into the store and halted, bewildered, at a blank wall. Another vendor of the same establishment rescued me. “Downstairs!” He indicated a staircase tucked into the corner.
The steps descended into an underground treasury of ceramics. There the owner of the store entertained the three of us. He chopped the price of a ceramic lamp for Annie (“Are you not sure, or is it too expensive? You tell me the price you can pay”) and then escorted us upstairs again for a tour of his tea wares. From the rose tea, he plucked a delicate bud for each of us. “And tea?” he inquired.
“Yes, yes. Pomegranate and apple!” Three thimbles of pink and copper tea materialized before our eyes.
Seated on a bench with a steaming cup in hand, I silently thanked Turkey for its fond farewell.