These Harem Slippers....straight out of the Arabian Nights, right?
Oh. My. Goodness.
Did I tell you we had no intention of visiting Istanbul this trip? Well, ever really?
It just wasn't on our radar. We even discussed not getting off the ship as we'd heard scary things about thieves and pickpockets.
We sailed in to Istanbul in the early daylight hours of the morning, and one look at that skyline, and there was no way I wasn't getting off.
Of course we hadn't booked a tour in Istanbul, so we found our own way around. We didn't have to go far.
Having nixed The Grand Bazaar as too big and overwhelming, and having done some research prior to leaving home, and determining (just in case we got brave) that The Spice Market offers everything The Grand Bazaar does on a smaller scale, we made that our destination.
With great trepidation and some nervous giggles, we made our way out of the port terminal and wandered through a somewhat industrial, but pleasant enough area, to the bridge that would take us to The Spice Market.
We entered The Spice Market via an under bridge tunnel, down into the tunnel, then back up the stairs and out again, where even the tunnel itself is a sort of Bazaar. Shoes, clothing, and funnily, Superglue and Bandaids were on offer. We thought the Superglue and Bandaids rather odd until we reflected on what obviously useful things they are when travelling!
I expected a sort of produce market, but let me tell you, it's way beyond that.
Apart from the expected spices, sweetmeats, and souvenirs, we ogled luxurious linens...
....utterly exquisite Swarovski crystal studded teasets...
...chandeliers, gorgeous painted detail on the shopfronts and Turkish Delight by the tonne...
...jewels worthy of a Princess....
...and of course, the spices...heavenly, exotic, other worldly in their pungency...
...Note the little hand painted glasses and saucers and the coffee/spice mills in the foreground. Divine.
This lady astounded us with the load she carried on her head, and clearly even baby's walker is carried similarly!
These Turkish wedding gowns were to die for. Game of Thrones wedding anyone?
We wandered for some hours, purchasing delicate metallic purses to gift to The Divas friends, designer goods at bargain prices, leather goods, exquisite postcards, Turkish Delight in three flavours for the cruise ship staff, and a few other little treats. Travelling with one bag sure makes shopping a task of 'what can I abandon to fit this in my bag'!
The verdict? Istanbul is a must see, and not just once, but several times. We loved it. The people (men, almost exclusively men) were lovely, and many very taken with The Diva and her alabaster skin, blue eyes and red hair. One young man, from whom a watch was purchased, tried in vain to make conversation with her, but alas the language difficulties were too great.
They were overwhelmingly helpful, eager to please, and fascinated with we Aussies.
Put Istanbul on your bucket list. You won't regret it.
As we sailed out of Istanbul at sunset, viewing the skyline as the sun tinted the mosques purple and gold, how could we not have a pang of regret that we didn't savour more of her exotic wares.
Go. You'll love it.