“Our holds are busting with swag!” Any fans of Pirates of the Caribbean will vibe with this line, which captures perfectly almost every afternoon and evening when we returned to the flat in Istanbul with treasures from flea markets. One of our main reasons for going to Istanbul was the abundance of flea markets and Ottoman antiques. We landed on a Saturday and had planned to have two Sundays before we left, that’s two visits to Ferikoy flea market. Istanbul also has ‘spot shops’ on the Asian side where people who are moving house go leave their household items. I’ve provided useful websites, directions and maps as some places are tricky to find. And of course, pictures of the 60kgs of goodies we brought back!
For all the below markets this link is an accurate web reference is called Yesilist.com. The other good link is mymerhaba and mydestination. Don’t forget that each district has its own ‘pazari’ or open air bazaar. Mydestination is a good website to find out when and where these are. We never made it to Ortokoy but there is a Sunday crafts market that is legendary.
Ferikoy flea market
Every Sunday, what is a car park during the week becomes rows and rows of tables covered in priceless treasures lovingly displayed by their owners. From a drill press to Ottoman era ‘hamam’ (turkish baths) taps and door knobs, we had tremendous fun selecting a range of objects. The irony is that old treasures and the people who are passionate about them, rub shoulders with the trendy residents of the glitzy new apartment blocks of Anthill that tower over this rickety old car park.
There’s a small stall selling tea and wonderful tostu with garlic sausage. We got here at around 8:30am and with tea and toasted sandwich we watched as sellers carefully set up their wares, lovingly placing each object in its designated spot, arranging and rearranging till things were just right. Then it was time for the first recce. Even if you don’t buy, the variety of objects that fill people’s collection is fascinating. What would our stall look like?!
We saw very few young people running stalls, most were older who had dragged their son or grandchild along to do the heavy lifting.
At around 10 am the fresh fruit juice stall and the gozeleme sisters start up their trade. A fresh peach juice and a minced lamb gozeleme is a good break to think more about what treasures could be yours – ‘should we go back to the guy selling the spoons?’, ‘should we have bought those gilded mirror frames, 2 for 50 TL?’ This is not abandoned junk that someone threw away to the kabadiwala – these are carefully chosen pieces and their owners know their value.
GPS and Map: 41.056634,28.980281
Web references: There are some good websites out there with accurate descriptions and most of these were helpful. But only here will you find the easiest directions and a map. If you are a flea market fan this is a place you cannot miss.
Directions: Go to Osmanbey metro (one stop after Taksim), take the Ferikoy exist and head West on Rumeli Cadessi. Walk up Rumeli Cadessi (towards University). Take the first right on to Abide Hurriyet Cadessi, then first left on to Arpa Suyu Sk, keep walking straight down and you will come to Lala Sahahin Sk. Ferikoy market will be right in front of you down a dirt path in a covered car park. The posh Anthill developments will be towering over you.
The ‘Tuesday Bazaar’ is also held on a Friday and runs from 8am to 5pm on the Asian Side. But get here early. 39,000 metre squared and 1900 stalls of fresh fruit and vegetables of GM proportions (not sure if they were GM though) freshly pressed olive oil in bottles that had no labels, fresh olives of all tastes, colours, shapes and stuffings; dried fruit under large clear plastic domes, cheap clothes, cheap Chinese imports and then right at the end – the junk market. Old bric-a-brac, machine parts, tools, cutlery, utensils, you name it, it was there.
Sadly we got here as the market was closing down and missed a number of good stalls. But within an hour we managed to stuff our bags with two bottles of olive oil, oil lamps, four Turkish tea cups, a solid jaguar symbol which the DH was convinced was stolen off someone’s Jaguar and which he has converted in to a bottle opener; and a glass oil jug or two. How much more we could have had! Another reason to go back to Istanbul (and there are so many reasons!).
This is real ‘junk’ – stuff that people have given away (or been taken from them?); from broken toys to mismatched dinner and cutlery sets, this place is a ‘pickers paradise’ as the guys on American Pickers would say. True pre-owned treasures are waiting to be found.
Directions: It is quite far from the Asian side city centre. You will need to take a taxi; the fare cost us about 12TL one way. It was about 7 to 10kms away in the Hasanpasa district. Take a taxi from the ferry point, the bazaar is well known and there are taxis at the market to get you back to Kadikoy ferry point.
Horhor Bit Pasari
A bizarre location for a flea market. In a non-descript seven storey warehouse in the conservative neighbourhood of Fatih stands the Horhor Bit Pasari. One has to walk quite a bit to find it and you will need a GPS to reassure you that you are going in the right direction. The sellers here are permanent and the silence is errie among the vast floors of opulent, often gaudy pieces. These would look perfect on the film set of a period drama or in a hotel with the words ‘Sultan’ in its name. We were the only customers there and the sellers looked as old as their wares.
At first the vastness, the dim lighting and silence of the place is intimidating but having come this far we were determined to comb through as much as we could. This building is so huge it even has a lift! We met some strange sellers – two old men in shops next to each other, drinking tea all day. One selling candle stands and glass jugs of all prices, colours and shapes; the other selling beautiful wooden furniture – I wanted every piece. Every inch of the shops here were packed with stuff, so much so that we had to leave our bags outside for fear of crashing in to things. People with wide tummies beware…!
We quickly realised that nothing in this bit pasari was going to be cheap or easily bargained for. We came to the conclusion, wrongly or rightly, that these guys had bigger clients who they dealt with over phones and emails. How else could they afford the rent!? The furniture was exquisite – beautiful leather inlay desks, an old swivel chair, hat racks, nesting tables. If we had a shipping container, what I would have brought back! We saw a beautiful store with old counting devices – the DH’s dream shop. We fell in love with a delicate 100 year old brass weighing scale (i can imagine a really classy heroin dealer weighing little baggies on this) but for 200 TL it was way beyond our budget. I offered 100 (even that was too much) but he refused. After a long chat (in broken English) with the owner and his wife about their wonderful items we wandered around some more. As we boarded the lift for another floor, he came running to us with a counter offer of 150 TL, unfortunately still too much for us. We met some lovely people here, who’ve been lovingly preserving their heritage for over 40 years.
We saw a store with lamps, old and new. I have never seen a pulley lamp before – fascinating. This lady rents lights for movie sets as well. We found the perfect green glass lampshades for a light fitting I’d found on a wander around Cuckurcuma (see video).
At the end of a long evening (waiting for the Iftar feast to begin at Kadinlar Pazari near by) we went back down to the ground floor and the first shop we walked in to. It was run by an older lady in a striking black dress with blond hair, a large friendly face and bright red lips. Despite her striking appearance she was so unsure of herself. She had a few friends in her shop who did speak English and one of them has spent ten years doing business in guess where – India. Not just India but Tirupur near Coimbatore! He was delighted to know my parents lived in Coimbatore cos he loved India and Indians. I could smell a good deal on the glass cake dome and the brass trunk handles we were lusting after (see video). Turns out the lady running the store had no clue about antiques – this was her late husband’s shop and since his recent passing, she was trying to get rid of as much stuff as she could. Another wonderful conversation with the man who loves Tirupur.
We may not go back to Horhor Bit Pasari a second time because it was a bit too expensive for us. But it is a fascinating place to visit the first time around and especially good if you are looking to furnish a house. There is beautifully made furniture here. And if we did have a container, i might go back for the big furniture items.
Cuckurcuma Rd and Turnabasci Rd are located in the neighbourhood of Cihangir where we stayed and I highly recommend you rent an apartment. Shop after shop of fascinating junk – books, records, lamps, ornate bird cages, garden ornaments, pots and pans, wooden furniture and even rifles and pistols. Some shops are a bit more expensive than Ferikoy but amazing pieces nonetheless. Keep heading down Turnabasci Rd and there is more to be found.
We met a lovely couple running a store where we picked up a couple of mirror frames, two matching angle poise lamps, a large kettle (see video) perfect for an aga or the wood fired oven we don’t have (yet) and because the lady loved all the choices I made and thought I had brilliant taste, gave me a free plate that I chose but kept aside as the bill was racking up. We had a lovely chat with her about her life, her family, her brother and his wife (who I apparently was a spitting image of) who live the glamourous life, like only things new and cannot fathom why she sits amongst dusty old junk everyday. We talked religion, the business of antiques and how the DH and I should set up a shop because to her we clearly had a passion for old stuff. She has an open invitation to us any time as she is fascinated by India.
Asian side spot shops
On the Asian side are what’s called ‘spot shops’ where people moving house leave the stuff they don’t want to take with them. We didn’t get to all the spot shops on Mandira Cadessi but we managed to pick up some odd stuff. The DH found a drill press, I got some oddly shaped little gas jars with corks (could still smell the oregano in one of them!). There is mostly great furniture – sofas, cupboards, shelves, decorative stands – that I would have loved to take with me. We hit a few of these shops and then moved on to the antiques.
These guys pushing carts of old stuff were a common site on the Asian side and Cihangir
The prices and items vary. I fell in love with an aga but the thing that stole our hearts were the hat racks. Clearly these are still popular because we saw a shop selling brand new ones. How on earth were we going to transport an over 6 foot tall hat rack. None of the sellers were willing to dismantle them. But the old ones were expensive – upwards of 350 TL. Until we found a guy who was restoring furniture and had a battered old hat rack that had pieces from other hat racks to fill in the missing parts. And it was clearly hand made. This guy spoke hardly any English but because he was working with furniture and not just a seller, he was more than happy to dismantle it, even had a hot air gun to melt something glued on. He shrink wrapped it all and all for the grand price of 30TL. This was a steal. The DH knew that with a little love, he could restore it and boy did he do a great job.
We didn’t just shop at flea markets for old stuff. There is the spice market, the grand bazaar, Emininou/kucuk pazaar (behind the spice market) where we found lots of nice things as well. Reading the blogs before we left I was dreading the grand bazaar for all the harassment that bloggers talked about. We got there and no one bothered us at all. I think it was the brown skin. Also we are used to much more unruly markets in India, so this was incredibly civilised and clean (everything in Istanbul is clean except for Taksim early on a Sunday morning where the abandoned food and drink of drunken revelers awaits the cleaning crew). I expected the Grand Bazaar to be very crowded – no crowd at all at 10am. Grand Bazaar opens at 9am and closes at 7pm; closed on Mondays.
My tip for bargaining in Istanbul’s market – enjoy the bargain, have fun. Sellers love it when they know you are having fun. Start at half the asking price (and depending on the item’s quality even quarter the asking price) and then work your way upwards. We struck some fabulous deals – from 20 Tl to 11,50TL; 120 TL to 86 TL. At one point one seller in the grand bazaar laughed, in fact guffawed at the DH’s counter offer so the DH’s reaction – he laughed back, then the seller laughed back, then a nearby stall owner joined in, soon about 5 guys and the DH were just (mock) guffawing at each other. Finally got the coasters for a serious bargain! Have fun with it, have a chat, have some cay (tea) and Istanbul’s people are a joy.
The grand bazaar is great for ceramics and Turkish lamps, also scented soaps and rugs. I found a lot of the shops selling similar things and after you’ve seen what the flea markets offer, it’s hard to refocus on things that are new and shiny!
There are hanging Turkish lamps in any electrical shop or hardware store for cheaper but you won’t get the variety as in the Grand Bazaar. This Time Out guide to the grand bazaar is very useful. There is also a colour coded map of the Grand Bazaar which we didn’t really use. We happened upon the Iznik Works tile shop and bought the ‘tree of life’ four tiles. This is a shop I would go back to. I can see our cottage having these tiles. This is the only shop selling tiles and this Time Out article will help you find it.
I lured the DH in to the idea of leaving Abroozi and going to Istanbul with the lure of flea markets and the possibility that we would find an object he has wanted for at least the past three years and probably longer, that is, angle poise lamps. You can get new ones from Ikea and once you start looking out for them they are in every TV show and movie. It’s also the Pixar logo. I never realised the beauty of these lamps till I really started looking at them closely. And I too was hooked. We found our first angle poise on our very first visit to Ferikoy market on day 2 of Istanbul. It was actually being used by a seller to light up his stall (see second picture in this blog). He was pretty amazed that we wanted it as it wasn’t really for sale. If you look on Ebay an old angle poise is anywhere from 120 to 350 pounds. We returned to India with a grand total of 4 large angle poise and a mini bookmark one (see video).
Incidentally, just yesterday the DH found an angle poise in the garbage of his office’s electrical stores – the garbage! for free! We are now the proud owners of 6 angle poise lamps.., and if we saw another, we’d buy it.
I’ve written before about our fascination with things old. Why are we in love with old things? There is a beauty and care in the craftsmanship. Today’s objects and furniture are generic, reproduced millions of times. For example, just take a look at the legs of the furniture in your house. Chances are that most of your sofas, tables and cupboards have straight machine cut legs. Furniture with bespoke legs, curves, carvings and flowing shapes are old and crafted with care (even if machine reproduced) at a time when beauty was not about ‘seeing no parts’ but about seeing the art in each piece.
Antique items or pre-owned items have a story to tell. And there is something enticing about the hunt – digging through mounds of items to find something that speaks out to you. It doesn’t have to be a hundred years old or of any monetary value or it can even be a reproduction – it just has to appeal to you. A house with too many antiques could be an overkill. Carefully chosen pieces that live well together and have their own space to shine, is the key. I will never get tired of rummaging through an antique shop or flea market, first a quick scan of items and then a careful scrutiny, row by row; the thrill of finding something for the perfect price; the thrill of not knowing what you’ll find, what gems lurk beneath.
Here’s a video of all our stash, set to the Turkish March
Other useful web references: