Lights in the Grand Bazar.

Lights in the Grand Bazar.

It was only after we’d left the Grand Bazaar that someone sidled up to us and asked, “Want to buy a carpet?”

The Grand Bazaar is an Istanbul institution, it has been around in its present incarnation since the 1400s and is, today, one of the most visited sites in the world. Knowing that, we were pleasantly surprised to find it not too crowded, and almost too well-lit and clean. It lacked the twisty, dark, crowded atmosphere of some other markets we’ve been to, but that, honestly, made it more fun with the kids. Even the shop-owners seemed to have been entirely changed since our last visit 25 years ago – then they were swarthy older men offering apple tea and an unbelievable deal, now they were perfectly pleasant younger men approaching the inevitable haggling with a smile that made the whole experience enjoyable.

Fez boys.

Fez boys.

We had met up with Nick, Declan’s good friends from Australia and his family a bit earlier and set all four kids a challenge to buy the most interesting thing they could in the market for 20 Turkish Lira. Nick and Declan set out to weave a trail of haggling chaos through the stalls and did a remarkably fine job of bringing prices down. Once they hit their stride they were in full-on haggle mode and getting 50%-plus discounts on the starting price after extended negotiations involving much wringing of hands and aborted attempts to walk away. I’m sure some of the shop assistants were ending up giving them discounts just in pure awe of the kids’ willingness to engage.

We did promise that we’d offer the opportunity for people to vote on the outcome of their buying spree, so the purchases are in the pictures. Nick ended up 1 Lira over budget, everyone else was inside the 20 Lira mark. I blew my 20 on Turkish coffee with no haggling.

And as we were leaving they negotiated a Fez for each of them.

In the late afternoon we caught a ferry over to the Asian side of the Bosphorus, just because we could. Nick and Declan joined a group of locals dancing, just because they could. We came back with the skies opening up and raining, casting an eerie light over Istanbul.

We had dinner again sitting on Turkish cushions and then watched the sun set a final time over Istanbul while flocks of sea-gulls wheeled over the minarets and the evening call to prayer rolled over this wonderful city.