Turkey-Land of Contrasts


My husband and I will be on the May 13th trip.

Anybody else going?


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    We just came back from that trip and it is wonderful. Bring good walking shoes. The tour director and local guides are wonderful. The best thing about the local guides is that there are only two and one of them stays with you the entire trip. It is very cohesive and friendly. I would offer one word of advice. At the end of the trip you will be visiting the Spice Bazaar. Your tour guide will take you into a spice shop to discuss some of the spices like saphron and the difference between the types of Turkish delight. After his presentation all hell will break loose. The vendor and his helpers are quite rude. They will be forcing you to buy stuff you do not and rushing you to make a decision. He will not ask you how much of a given spice you want, he will not show you what he is doing and he will not tell you what each item costs. In the end the cashier will take your card, and charge an unknown amount which you are expected to pay. Avoid this store. It is a very unpleasant experience and may well ruin what had been a lovely trip. Here is my advice. Listen very nicely to the presentation and then leave the store. Enter the market where you will find at least 50 other spice stores with the exact same products. If you are the only customer, or one of few, the vendor will give you lots of time and attention. He will give you samples, and treat you with respect. If you want your spices sealed in 100 gram bags he will do that. You can ask and get the price before he rings it up. You will be treated with respect. Do not buy spice at the crowded store where everyone is fighting for the attention of the vendors and buyers are treated poorly.

    Also, if you are interested in Turkish carpets, make sure you do you homework. There are a lot of stores selling rugs and the dfferences between the rugs is huge. I would suggest that you go to Istanbul early and scout out and price rugs. If you find one you like take down the information and tell the vendor you will return at the end of the trip if you don't find anything you like better. The tour takes you to a rug making store in the last stop before returning to Istanbul. This store has a huge inentory and many people to help you make a purchase. If you have not done your homework or seen other rugs in Istanbul, you will have no way of knowing if you are making a good purchase. So do your homework and compare these rugs to the ones you looked at in Istanbul. Being forarmed you can now make the best decision for you needs.

    Have a great time.
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    I went to a WONDERFUL stall in the spice bazaar named Hayat. I believe it was stall #8. To be sure, unless they've redecorated, there is a picture of Martha Stewart behind the register (from when she shopped there) and I believe another of Mike Tyson. They are very helpful, polite, and will seal all your purchases to keep them fresh and ready to pack. They have a HUGE selection of everything you can imagine, including some of the best Turkish Delight candies...and yes, there is a difference between the good candy and the cheaper versions. I also bought dates, other spices, sumac, saffron, and apple tea. If you are in the states, I would be happy to send you money to being some tea back for my son, as he loves their apple tea!!!
    Rugs are quite a blind item. Be careful not to compare apples and oranges. Quality rugs are much more expensive than the knock off stuff. Look for the clarity of the pattern on the back side as well as the number of stitches per inch (much like linens....the more the better).
    There is also a wonderful store near the underground cistern....they sell quality items. I bought a beautiful Iznik tile which the store framed and wrapped beautifully.
    If you are interested I'd be happy to dig out my receipt.
    Enjoy Turkey, it's a place I'd definitely return to some day.

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