Istanbul Grand Bazaar and Nargile Bar

After our food tour of Istanbul, we were both pretty tired and came back to the hotel to rest for a while. Rachel eventually took a nap and I went out and walked the 2-3 blocks to the Grand Bazaar to explore for an hour. It seems like most of the shops are gift shops for tourists, but I only wandered around for a little while and saw small sections. It's like a maze of streets inside, and I think there are sections that are for certain types of shops. What I found most interesting was how the vendors all try to get tourists to come over to their stall (hello, jeans, good price - where you from?) and the tiny tea shops and mini restaurants hidden here and there for the workers. I definitely want to have lunch at one of those places before we leave.

Istanbul Grand Bazaar-5
Istanbul Grand Bazaar-6

I came back and picked up Rachel to go out to a nargile (hookah) bar. I've never done hookahs before, but it seems to be a big thing here so I figured I'd try it. We learned about a place nearby, just a few blocks away, and headed out. A shopkeeper told us to go to the end of the alley, turn right at the bathrooms, and make another right. We expected to find a tiny place with a few tables... but we turn the corner and walk into an enormous den of smoke. It was a huge indoor/outdoor space filled with sofas, tables, smoke and probably 200 people, all smoking hookas and drinking tea. We were both pretty shocked. We got a spot on a center sofa, right in front of a giant fish tank, next to a guy that seemed pretty zoned out. Or stoned.

Nargile Bar-8

I ordered us a couple teas and Rachel ordered an apple nargile. This place is something else - they have servers who all wear these matching jackets and each have different jobs. A couple bring around the pipes. A couple others come around with a hot pot of coals to refill water pipes. Another couple clear the tables. Another one sells bottles of water. Then there's a random guy in an apron who will take your shoes and shine them for you.

I expected that the place would be full of old men playing backgammon - but instead it was mostly young people, all types. Tourists, locals, girls with their heads covered, older guys, groups of friends, etc. I would say it was about 80% Turkish and 75% men. There was no food, alcohol or pot - just beverages and the nargilas.

Now this only is my first time, but I have to admit I just don't get the hookah. I didn't taste much and I don't see the point. My theory is that it's just an excuse to hang out with friends and have something to do. I'd rather have eat or drink! I did enjoy the atmosphere though (I just wish they had whiskey).

Nargile Bar-9
Nargile Bar
Nargile Bar-7
Nargile Bar-10

Tending the coals at the Nargile Bar:

Nargile Bar-12

Afterwards we stopped at a casual cafe outside the Grand Bazaar. I ordered a cheese pide (Turkish pizza) and a beef doner sandwich on lavash (like pita). The meat was dry and stringy, and only when they brought the check did I realize they charged $9 for it. So overpriced - it should have been about $2. The pizza was ok. This was like Turkish fast food and not very good, but it was fun to sit outside and people watch.

Cheese Pide (Turkish Pizza)
Young boy collecting items to recycle

Back at the hotel room I finished up the Turkish Delight (gotta get more tomorrow!). The plan for tomorrow is the Hagia Sophia (former mosque, now a museum) and then a walk across the Galata Bridge. Then we'll spend most of the day exploring the New City - we've only been in the Old City so far. If we have time and energy we may go for a Turkish Bath tomorrow, but I have a feeling we may just need to rest.

By the way - did I mention the stray cats everywhere?

Nargile Bar Cat
Man hanging with cats