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Sunday means market


ANAMED 2015–2016 Fellow Milena Raycheva shares her impressions of her sunday strolls to the Open Market: ‘the once-elegant-and-now-shabby streets, the pushy crowd, the shouts, the beggars, the Roma children, the smell of gözleme…’

Sunday means market. Not only because it literally does so in Turkish. You actually risk remaining a hopelessly ignorant outsider if you don’t, at least, try to understand the essential role of open markets in this culture.

While living at the RCAC, the visits to the Tarlabaşı Market have acquired the status of a Sunday ritual for me. It is one of those things that make me feel a little less “yabancı” and a little more initiated into “real life” in Istanbul. Plus, there is the undeniable benefit of getting fresh fruits and vegetables at really great prices.

I am strolling with fellow Caroline among the bustling colors of stalls piled with seasonal produce, nuts, dried fruits, olives, cheese, fish, oversized underwear and plastic kitchen utensils. We know the place is not only about the cheap food. It is about the entire experience of immersing ourselves in the atmosphere of the Open Market: the once-elegant-and-now-shabby streets, the pushy crowd, the shouts, the beggars, the Roma children, the smell of gözleme…

As we make our progress with shopping, Caroline gets free tangerines from a courteous old man as a bonus to her already full bag of fruits bought from him. I am contemplating the remarkable combination of animal patterns, pink and glitter on baby clothing. Caroline notes with irony the variety of “original” brands. I am very curious about the spiciness of some spices, but I lack the vocabulary to ask about it (mental note – bring a Turkish friend next time). We will probably never master the art of bargaining, but we don’t seem to need it here too much. I am trying to say as often as I can, “Poşet istemiyorum”, in an attempt to be eco-friendly and practice some Turkish phrases at the same time (thank you, Mehmet), which naturally causes vendors to eye me with suspicion, raise eyebrows or laugh.

A singing-and-shouting young man sells us juicy green and red apples, allegedly at a discounted price. He enquires about where we are from (for some reason, Bulgaristan seems to be an exceptionally pleasing answer to him). And then, with a big smile, he asks about our marital status.

We knew it – this place was not only about the cheap food.