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Being Lost In The Grand Bazaar

202In his childhood, archeologist/publisher Nezih Başgelen gets lost while he is wandeıing in Grand Bazaar with his mom and aunt. Without any fears, Başgelen retums back to his home alone. His mather and aunt, who go frantic out of fear, get canfronteel with an angry dad when they retum home. After 36 years, Nezih Başgelen got lost in the Grand Bazaar again. But this time, intentionally. I kept my promise to my son and we went to discover the Grand Bazaar last Saturday. Just 36 years ago, in a summer day, I was lost in the streets of this mystic world which this time we got lost intentionally. In this aıticle we will staıt wandering in this tale city of trade by entering it from the Nuruosmaniye Gate. If you stop for one moment in the midelle of the crowd and look at the frontal of the gate, you can see one of the most beautiful marble heraldries of the Ottoman with a flag, sword, lance, artillery gun scale book and flower on it. This omamenred gate w~s reb~ilt d~ring the reparation of the Bazaar after the 1894 earthquake in the reign of Abdülhamit II. The longest main avenue of the Bazaar, Kalpakçılar, staıts from this gate and reaches till Beyazıt. After the gate, on the right hand side there is the Sandal Bedestan which is the second hist~rical building of the Bazaar. It is one of the biggest examples of the Ottoman Bedestans with its twenty domes carried by twelve elephant feet. When I said Sandal Bedestan, the fırst thing that came to my son’ s mind were the sandals that are wom on feet. However, the bedestan gets its name from a kind of fabric woven with silk and cotton, which was popular during the Ottoman period.

This main trade center of this special fabric, which was usually woven in Bursa, and the other Ottoman textiles was this bedestan. But, I got chills when it came to the reason why this place couldn’t continue to operate as it used to. As we pass over this period of time in which we tlirt with the European Union in the process of entering to the Customs Union, the painful experiences that this magnificent bedestan had, came in front of my eyes. The rich selection of items of the Empire’s handlooms, which were prodı..ıced in different centers, couldn’t resist against the duty free entrance of the European goods after the Administrative Reforms, thus, all the textile centers, inciueling Bursa, were closed. It is known fact d1at, in Bursa only. Lens of thousands handlooms got closed. Sandal Bedestan, which resisted many eaıthquakes but could not wid1stancl the economic quake, became a place where ilie rents decreased ten times than before in 18′i0′s. We hope d1at today’s process will not result in outcomes like this. The bedestan, which lost all of its functions later on, was nationalized in 1914 and turned into an auction place by me City. In 1980′s, it went under a restaration and became a bazaar with touristic shops in majority. R.ight behind ilie Sandal Bedestan is one of the most interesting inns in ilie bazaar, the living center of gold and old silver trade, cuıTency exchanges and Tahtakale stock market, Çuhacılar Inn.

From this gate, if we go straight on towards ilie Bazaar from the Ağa Street, where there are lots of jewelers, we arrive at the Jewelers Gate of the Inner Bedestan, which is d1e fırst historic core building of ilie Grancl Bazaar. R.ight above ilie gate, d1ere is an eagle relief. According to Evliya Çelebi, d1is eagle relief, which caused many discussions about ilie origin of ilie building, reminds the tradesmen the fallawing advise; “What you eam flies away immediately like a savage bird, tame your ineome and keep it in your han d”. 111is stıucture which was built in ili e reign of Mehmet ilie Conqueror, is mosdy known as ilie Cevahir Bedestan. In every era, this place became one of ilie most attractive centers in which valuable goods, jewelers, gunsmiilis and expensive mercers were located. What is more is mat this building was used as a big bank vault during a ceıtain period. Inside me thick walls of ilie structure, iliere used to be sheltered paıts called “cellars”. The tı·adesmen of mis bedestan used to keep meir merchandises as well as oilier people’s valuable properties and money in these cellars in retum of a fee. Inside, iliere were cabinets, which were acturally wooden, portable stores with shutters and portable benches called trunks. Eveıyday, in me mid-moming, ilie tradesmen of d1e Bedestan would gailier in front of İncieller Gate and enter ilie Bazaar all togeilier. TI1en, each of d1em would stand in front of meir cabinets, pray as a whole, repeat ilie fallawing pıinciples; “No one will cheat, Merchandise won’t be sold and purchased wiiliout a guarantee” and staıt the day and ilie trade. Taday, over a hundred shops try to keep ilie magnificience of the past to same extent. However, stores d1at seli touristic goods are in majority. But stili, iliis bedestan is one of the most attractive comers of ilie Bazaar. The noıth gate of me Bedestan opens up to the street of ilie Sahaflar Bedestan. In this region, where tradesmen who seli carpets and kilims are in majority, iliere used to be  antiguarian book seliers until the earthquake of 1894. Later on, it was removed from the Bazaar and transfen·ed to the place where today the Sahaflar Bazaar is located. After exiting from the Sahaflar Gate, there are three streets which are in paraUel to one anod1er: Kavaflar, Terlikçiler and Perdahçılar. In the past of the Bazaar, the separation of each street according to a specific good and tradesmen group was a clear rule that had to be obeyed. Today, this hallmark lives in the names of d1e streets, and it continues to exist in some paıts !ike d1e Kavaflar Street to some extent. I had some difficulty in explaining d1e meaning of the word of Kavaf to my son. When he saw the shoe stores d1ere, he understood the relationship between the two more easily. However, until the last centuıy, the Grand Bazaar’s most colorful paıt was d1is place in which different shoes for d1e people of diverse religions, races and school of thoughts, which all were a paıt of the Empire, were manufactured and sold. In my childhood, just !ike it was in the lives of the people from İstanbul and provincials, most of the needs were met from the Grand Bazaar and the Spice Market. For that reason, I remember coming here almost eveıy month. For instance, until my high school years, the shoes and felt slippers of my family members were bought from this Kavaflar Street’s so far familiar and cheerful tradesmen. By d1e way, we would defirütely stop by the cute, two storey pudding shop which was seen if one entereel the Bazaar from the Mahmut Paşa Gate in the Acı Çeşme street located in the corner of Kavaflar. This picturesque stıucture, which can be found in most of the travelers’ joumals, unfoıtunately serves in a different sector due to today’s circumstances. For that reason, I was only able to show this pretty stı1.ıcture to my son. In “The Grand Bazaar Novel”, which is the best study ever done about the Bazaar, the friend of İstanbul, Çelik Gülersoy sees Grand Bazaar as a tı·easure tıunk, a trousseau chest or a bride’s drawer that belongs to a beautiful İstanbul lady. Inside of this Bazaar is full of whatever its owner has, depending on the time and the era. On the old, colorless min”Or inside its !id, the beautiful İstanbul lady can watch herself all the time. Indeed, in all times and aspects, d1e Grand Bazaar has been the miıror of the life, economy and sociology of İstanbul and the whole countıy. For example, you can observe d1e new conditions d1at occurred after the disintegration of Soviet Union, d1e best in and araund the Grand Bazaar.

The Bazaar quickly accommodated d1e demands coming from d1ose countries and d1e Coppers Bazaar suddenly tumeel into a bazaar where all kinds of shuttle tı·ading were done. This situation was d1e same for those who came from Poland, Romania, Arabia and Turlde Republics. The Grand Bazaar is a living tı-ade center which in time was foımed in and araund two bedestans, and which is suıTounded by sixty seven covered streets and a series of inns. The Bazaar, which covers an area of 30,700 square meters, has eighteen gates; eight of d1ese gates are big ones. There are approximately 4000 shops, 20 inns, ı school, 1 mosque, 1 masjit, 1library, 7 fountains, 1 well, 1 water tank with a fountain and ı public fountain in the bazaar. This shopping complex, in which vehicles are forbidden to enter, is open between 8:00-ı9:00 in summer and 8:30-ı9:00 in winter. The chain of inns that surrounds the Grand Bazaar also holds d1e workshop system, in which some items in the bazaar are manufactured in an amazing order. Most of the Ottoman works of aıt that are being displayed today in world museums were made in those workshops. A big paıt of these inns, which used to be a paıt of the Bazaar before the ı894 earthquake, were left out of the Bazaar at the time of d1e reparations done afterwards. Among these inns, one of d1e most characteristic one, is d1e “Zincirli Inn”, where jewelıy makers are in majority, and which preseıves its tı·aditional architecture. You can breathe the traditional atmosphere of the Bazaar through the Yağcılar Street which we can call as the second main axle. In d1e shops here, many hand woven iten1S, different clothes, hand made scaıves and od1er textile items from Anatolia are found. As you sit and drink something hot in the cafe, which is located in beginning of those shops, you can watch the flowing crowd of people, who came from around the world and the countıy. We left d1e Gı-and Bazaar right before d1e gates were about to close, not knowing how the time had passed and seeing every nook and cranny of only a few places, but wid1 a wish to come back again. If you too wish to see the East’s tale !and, you can take Gülersoy’s “The Novel of Grand Bazaar” with you and try to get lost in this mysterious tı·ade world on a Saturclay. In any case,you will see a lot of d1ings and reach one of the eighteen gates in the end.

 Nezih Başgelen

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