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A Chance Encounter Led to a Memorable Day in a Turkish Market

The morning was sun filled, and the temperature cool as I walked past a group of Turkish cab drivers all doing their best to get some business. Out of nowhere a large, jovial man speaking perfect English said, “excuse me, do you need a ride?” and I replied that I did. As we set off in the cab, the driver advised that, although we would see much of Izmir that day, I needed to start with some food. At that point, I knew circumstances had aligned and my day was going to be a good one.

I offered to pay for the driver’s lunch if he would take me for an authentic Turkish meal. The heart of most Turkish cities is the market, so we drove deep into the Kemeraltı Bazaar. When we stopped, we visited one of the markets stalls and ordered an amazing array of tastes and colours. We sat under a pavilion and shared a great meal and excellent conversation; everything from politics to American Basketball. The bustling market seemed like it went on for miles, and everywhere I looked I saw something different; anything a person could need was there.

When we finished lunch, the driver and I set up a meeting point then I strolled the market on my own. After a while, I found an oasis in a courtyard, tucked away from the noise and masses of people walking from stand to stand. I found a bench and sat down; shortly after, a young boy approached and asked if I would like a complimentary Turkish Tea. I said yes and a short while later he returned with one of the best cups of tea I have ever had. As I looked around the courtyard it was a sea of colour and I realized that I had, in fact, been sitting on a bench that was surrounded by carpet stores.

After I finished my tea, a man from one of the carpet stores asked if I would like a bottle of beer and a hookah pipe. In the spirit of adventure, I said yes and soon after, the same young boy came by with a tray and delivered a cold bottle of Turkish beer and a hookah. It was different this time though as the boy watched every sip I took and before I had finished the beer, he dropped off another. This happened five times as I sat people-watching in the market. When I took my last sip, the carpet shop owner approached and asked, “did you enjoy the Turkish beer?” then asked me to look at his carpets. That is when I realized that the hospitality was meant to soften me up for the carpet salesmen.

I had to applaud their ingenuity and, as I was feeling very agreeable, I said I would look. After going through what seemed like hundreds of carpets, I saw one that spoke to me, a carpet that had all the elements of Noah’s arc sewn into it. With an assurance that I would not have an issue getting it back to Canada, I watched the two salesmen fold, roll, and compress the carpet to a package that fit in my backpack. It made it all the way back to my home where it lays in my dining room today.

I spent the rest of the day taking in the Turkish culture and exploring the beautiful mosques of Izmir. At the end of what had been a long but enjoyable day, I was rewarded with the most magnificent sunset off the coast. I sat at a small café, ordered another cup of fine Turkish Tea, and thought to myself, “man, this carpet is heavy!”

If you love good food, culture and colour, Turkey is a must see. 


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