Wednesday, 26 July 2017

The Bustling, Mystical and Appetizing Bazaars of Anatolia

With their local flavors, bustling markets, historic hans and guild traditions, the bazaars of Anatolia are a vibrant world bursting with surprises at every step. The legendary markets, linked on the historic Silk Road, promise a different kind of shopping pleasure in every corner of Anatolia – a region, comprising most of Turkey and bounded by the Black Sea to the north, the Caucasus to the northeast, the Iranian plateau to the southeast, the Mediterranean Sea to the south and the Aegean Sea to the west. Those bazaars, steeped in a rich tradition of diverse cultures, offer visitors the riches of Abraham with their thousand-and-one varieties of food, their colourful textiles, their wood and copper wares, and their slowly dying handicrafts.

Aegean Variations

“Dear God, save me from cheating and being cheated.” The prayer resounded through the streets from the town loudspeakers. The market of the town of Tire opens with this prayer in the early morning hours. It covers a large area, including most of the town’s streets, and on the day it is set up Yıldız Square and its environs are closed to vehicular traffic.

The fruit and vegetable market set up on Fridays is far more modest. This market, set up by people from the neighbouring mountain and lowland villages, offers just about anything: from live animals and the area’s thousand and one varieties of aromatic Aegean herbs to antiques and fine lace. The fresh eggs, cheeses, fresh walnuts, dried figs, fruits and vegetables straight from the vine that are sold by the village women cost far less than in big cities.

Besides traditional handicrafts like clogs, saddles, felt and quilts, which are slowly dying out in the 600-year-old markets of this historic town 80 kilometres southeast of from Izmir, you can also watch a kabak kemane, a bowed Turkish folk instrument, being made. Guide services in English and German are provided by the Tire Municipality for groups of tourists who come in the summer to visit the market, which also attracts the interest of the neighbouring towns with its size and variety.

After Tire, we head for Cumalıkızık, a village harbouring Ottoman secrets in the foothills of Mount Uludağ. Growing raspberries is an ongoing tradition in this historic village, known for centuries as Bursa’s raspberry patch. If you happen to come here in spring you can find fresh raspberries; if not, raspberry jam is available year-round. Meanwhile local specialties such as chestnut flowers, linden, homemade noodles, tarhana with nettles, potato bread and country cheeses are sold at the tiny village market set up in front of the centuries-old pastel-painted houses on weekends.

Beypazar Market

The backyard of the nation’s capital, Beypazarı has been famous for its markets since 1570. The market, which began to be set up in the present-day quarter of Beytepe in the Ottoman period, was transformed in the early years of the Republic into Ankara’s mohair and angora wool market. This area, where production of male goats for breeding is carried out today, boasts one of Central Anatolia’s most colourful bazaars.

Gutted by fire in 1884, the market buildings were rebuilt in stone on a grid plan. The raising of silk worms was a major source of income in Beypazarı until just a decade ago. In the old days there were more than fifty looms in the weavers’ market. Now only a handful remain.

As you stroll through the market, which is set up on Wednesdays, be sure to stop at a barbershop. There are so many of them, that it seems like there must be one for each of the town’s residents.

A kind of bread known as kuru (dry) and resembling a brittle round of dough known as a peksimet is unique to the region; you’ll encounter it often in Beypazarı’s bakeries and pastry shops. Other products boasted by the township, famous for its therapeutic mineral springs, are carrots, and carrot juice, ice cream, soap, pudding, lokum and even sausage are made in Beypazarı, which supplies the major part of Turkey’s carrot production.

A small coastal town on historic peninsula, Amasra has one of the loveliest markets on the Black Sea. The Hammersmith Market is located on one of Amasra’s most colourful and congested streets and offers knickknacks, bowls, wooden spoons, kitchen accessories, tiny model Black Sea sailboats. You won’t know where to look or what to buy from the vast array of wood-carved items.

The Women’s Market, set up at the Small Harbour on Tuesdays and Fridays, not only offers the blessings of Black Sea cuisine with a host of local dishes but also sells handwork made by the women of Amasra in the form of lace, crocheting and embroidery in a variety of techniques.

A Taste of the Mediterranean

From Amasra we branch out into southern Anatolia. Adana is a southern city with a vibrant market tradition that blends the cultures of east and west and, above all, a decided taste for kebab. There is a rooted market tradition in the city, which is enriched by kebab-makers, itinerant fruit vendors, stalls’ selling dark red turnip juice, confectioners, vendors of pickled fruits and vegetables, and working-class restaurants.

Each one of the streets around the 32-metre Great Clock Tower, one of the city’s loveliest Ottoman structures, opens onto a bustling market. One of the most appealing aspects of the giant, Adana-style market labyrinth created by street vendors, market stalls, historic bazaars and nostalgic shops on the one hand and luxurious modern shopping centres on the other is the Kazancılar or Cauldron-makers’ Market. This historic market in the quarter of Sarı Yakup in the city centre consists of shops where cauldrons and kettles were once sold. Today it is a ‘taste’ market whose restaurants and kebab and turnip juice stalls ring with the strains of local band consisting of clarinet, fiddle, saz and drum.

A Memento of Our Forefathers

We are stopping this time at the markets of Antep, which combines an extraordinary synthesis of Mediterranean, Anatolian and Middle Eastern shopping traditions. At Gaziantep with its local bazaars, its squares – lined with alluring shops, and its markets – thronged with groups of well-dressed men and women, shopping and dining appear to be a way of life.

Both sides of İstasyon Caddesi are jammed with shops selling baklava and other pastries. But the high point of any market tour in Antep is, of course, kebab, made with garlic, damson plums, sour cherries or the local pistachios... Rumour has it that 80 varieties of kebab are made in Antep.

The Uzun Çarşı, the city’s oldest shopping centre, famous for its century-old kebab shops, is a virtual repository of sounds, colours and aromas. Another surprise of this market, which reflects the region’s richness from a dizzying variety of spices and dried fruits and vegetables to mother-of-pearl inlaid woodwork and burnished copper wares, are kutnu and yemeni.

, with its vibrant colours and shiny satin texture, we know from the kaftans of the sultans, and yemeni are the traditional flat-heeled leather slippers. Both continue to resist time in the hands of the Antep Bazaar master-craftsmen. Anatolia likes a big bazaar. You will too.

Orhan Usta: Supplier of Slippers to Brad Pitt

“We are keeping the craft of yemeni-making alive in a tiny 10-square-metre shop in the 200-year-old Mecidiye Han. I represent the fourth generation of the craft, which was started by my great-grandfather Abu Usta in 1870. I have been doing this work for thirty some years. We produce sixty kinds of slippers in 14 different colours, mainly the classic red and black. The brighter colours like pink and purple are preferred more by women whereas the men go for the darker shades. World cinema discovered the slippers I make before Turkey did. We got an order for the film Troy and produced and delivered 500 pairs in three months. Brad Pitt really liked our yemeni and sent me a signed photograph in gratitude. The minute I hung it in my shop, I was dubbed ‘supplier of slippers to Brad Pitt!”

How to get there: Turkish Airlines flies daily from Istanbul and Ankara to the cities of Izmir (Tire), Ankara (Beypazarı), Adana, Gaziantep and Van whose markets are featured here. | Tel: +90 212 444 0 849 |

This text is courtesy of SkyLife, a monthly magazine published by Turkish Airlines.

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