The couple, Stavros and Georgia Kofinas, thought of the Grand Bazaar as ‘a crazy place’ when they came here f’ırst thirty years ago. They deseribe the Grand Bazaar, where they started to come after a long tiıne and became regulars at the place, as a ‘crazy’ but a very enjoyable ‘life style’. Priest Stavros Kofinas, a Greek Orthodox Priest and a psychotherapist who lives in Greece, and his wife Georgia came to İstanbul first in 1972 from the USA. As a couple who grew up in the regular American life style, they got frightened from the crowd in the Grand Bazaar. Now they are regulars at the Grand Bazaar and find the life style here a very enjoyable one:
“We grew up in the American culture, met and got married there.” explained Priest Kofinas. “So, we expected the whole world to be !ike America. On a cruise which we went on for our honeymoon, we stopped by at İstanbul, visited the Grand Bazaar as well, and thought that everything was crazy here. The fact that various kinds of different items were being sold together with the insisting behaviors of the tradesmen was very unusuat for us.” “It was a complete chaos” said Georgia Kofinas, suppoıting her husband. But it was until they decided to live in their homeland, Greece. Then, they realized that the life in the world was not limited to the life in the USA. Being from the Middle East, which d1ey thought they discovered in Greece, but was actually something inherited in them, opened up new horizons for them.They found that life style, for which they thought irregular once, not difficult at all once they thought about it in its own reason. And, they gave İstanbul and the Grand Bazaar another chance twenty years after their first visit.
“We were face to face with a completely different city this time. There were two reasons of this: First, our perspective had changed.” said Georgia and added; “We knew that this place was the meeting point of many cultures and the summaıy of Levant. Moreover, we knew what Levant culture was. Secondly, we could not believe how much the city had changed.” No, they did not mean that the change was for the better. During the period of their absence, İstanbul had gotten much bigger and everywhere was full of buildings. They did not want to say that it was worse either. They just indicated the changes. For instance, the sales methods had changed in the Grand Bazaar as well. According to Priest Kofinas, “The seliers had a more active approach towards the customers, perhaps even in an irritating level. But we were not irritated. Because we knew that it was a style. While the quality of same goods had improved, same got worse. We !ike ceramic materials. The first time we came, most of the Kütahya porcelains were handmade. Now factoıy made, mass produced goods makes the majority of the market. Of course there is a certain reason for that: Mass tourism demands the manufacturing of the same material in big amounts and more affordably. It is very difficult to find a handmade item in the Grand Bazaar anymore.”
Here is the description of Grand Bazaar according to Georgia Kofinas: “Everything in the Grand Bazaar is based on relations, relations among people. Here, you cannot just buy the things you like and walk away like you do in shopping centers or supermarkets. First, you need to have a chat with the shop owners. This is what they want any- way. Of course, they are seliing something, too. But their first aim is to know you and introduce themselves to you. So, you meet the owner of the item before the item itself. And that makes shopping more humanistk and more beautiful. This is the best aspect of the Grand Bazaar for us. Besides, it is impossible to walk away without making friends in d1e Grand Bazaar.” When they first came in 1972, they were very afraid of the people who worked on commissions. “But,” they say, “Today, they are not as annoying as they used to be. They approach the customers more politely and they do not insist. After all, aren’t they also a paıt of the fun in the Grand Bazaar?”
Stavros ve Georgia Kofinas