I had planned on spending the entire day in old town to cover all of the sites.
I woke up around 11:30am.
Worked on my computer catching up with emails and social networking sites.
Then stumbled to Istiklal street to print out several pages of my Istanbul research papers so I could use the information while filming locations around the city.
By the time I found an Internet cafe to print the papers, I had already walked most of the way to old town already.. so I just walked the whole way.
My filming was supposed to start at the Grand Bazaar, but I forgot that the Grand Bazaar is completely closed on Sunday.
So I bought some shawarmas and sat in the grass, beside the fountain, between the Blue Mosque and Aaya Sophia. It was an absolutely BEAUTIFUL day, one of the first days of real Spring in Turkey.. so absolutely everyone was outside, walking and enjoying the amazing weather.
So this is my first day as a travel blogger and travel video guy. I’m in Istanbul, with 5000 years of history, hundereds of things to see, and three days to cover everything. WHAT WAS I THINKING?? To write about Istanbul, there are some things that you absolutely can not forget to leave out of the story. Blue Mosque, Aaya Sophia, Istanbul Cisterns, Galatasury Tower, Grand Bazaar, Spice Market, Topkapi Palace, and more. Forgetting to mention any of these things would be like going to Paris and forgetting to mention the Eifel Tower. So I concluded that I begin my focused travel features in Bulgaria. At least there, I can focus more deeply on fewer items, and setting up a tripod and talking into a camera will be a lot less embarrasing when there are not 1000+ Turkish tourists starring at me at every moment.
The craziest experience of the day came when a very nice gentleman said hello.
Chat chat chat..
“Where are you from?”
“OH, I have a cousin in New York.”
“Yes, I am not a tour guide, so not be afraid, but please come and take a look at my shop.”
(Ehh..) “OK, but just for a second.”
So I go to the man’s carpet shop, and he takes me and shows me the many different rooms with rugs, oh sorry CARPETS.
He offers me apple tea.
Then another man enters the room.
The nice guy that led me to the shop disappears, never to be seen again.
“How are you, sir? You look like a nice man. Where are you from.”
“I am good. I am from USA. Thanks.”
“Blah… blah… blah… carpet.”
“No thanks, I’m not buying a carpet.”
“That is ok, I like an honest man, just take a look at this for me.”
In walks a boy with 5 carpets and he starts spreading them on the ground.
“Which carpet do you like?”
“I’m not buying a carpet.”
“But come on, if you were going to bye a carpet, which one would you like?”
(I reluctantly said) “The blue one.”
The man motions to the boy and he takes all of the other carpets away.
“Take a look at this carpet quality.”
He motions to the boy and the boy picks up the carpet and brings it to me so I can touch it.
Every reply I give at this point is polite and positive, but I know if I show any enthusiasm it will only add to the pressure to buy this stupid carpet.
“Blah… blah… blah… quality craftmanship.”
This wasn’t even a carpet I was looking at. At best if was some very nice upholstry fabric that had a nice border sewn on with 4 tassles in the corners.
“Let me tell you that this carpet is worth $1400!”
“What would you spend on this carpet?”
“I’m not buyong a carpet.”
“I like you… you are an honest man. If you were to buy this carpet… what would you spend?”
“Well… I’m not buying a carpet… and if I ever did buy I carpet… I probably would never spend more than $200.”
“Ha ha ha ha ha.”
I had told him many times at this point that I am backpacking for 5 months and not buying ANYTHING I don’t despirately need. This did no good because he started telling me about shipping options.
“OK… look at this carpet again. Feel it.”
(It was brought to me again so I could touch the fabric.)
“What would you spend for this… not $200.”
“I’m not buying a carpet.”
This guy was getting increasingly impatient with me.
I’m sure that he is in the habit of getting foreign travelers to pay hundreds of dollars for a crappy piece of upholstery, he was not happy I was not playing along.
“I’m not buying a carpet.”
“BUT IF YOU WERE GOING TO BUY THIS CARPET, WHAT WOULD YOU PAY?”
He was just below screaming now, but I picked up my backpack and headed out.
“NO, YOU DON’T GO. WHAT WILL YOU PAY?”
But I didn’t look back lest I turn into a pillar of salt.
I can honestly say, the only reason I was not pressured into buying this crap and getting conned is because I HAVE BEEN conned so many times in my life already. Nothing is as good a teacher as EXPERIENCE, and that includes getting cheated.
The first time I really got conned was buying a lifetime supply of film developing in California in 1985. (WHAT?) Over $1000 after I just joined the military for a service and I never developed a single photo with this lifetime plan. These con artists populate the locations just outside of military bases because they know young kids are there who have disposable income for the first time in their lives, with no experience how to manage their money.
Since that time I have been conned in Japan, New York and the most bizarre was in Shanghai. But you learn from being stupid, and then you are less stupid. That is how it works sometimes if you don’t have anyone there to look out for you.
(Let me just say that going to a carpet shop in Istanbul is an amazing experience, most of the time. In fact, I have been to many carpet shops just to hang out and drink tea in the past. Some people go to Istanbul with a goal of picking up one or more of the amazing carpets for sale there, and going through the carpet pitches from the salesmen and bartering the price of your carpets is often an amazing experience. So the experience I mention here in this blog post of an extremely high-pressure and aggressive tactic was not normal. So please, do go shopping for carpets, but if you feel like the salesman is being too aggressive, don’t be embarrassed about it, just leave!)
So I made it back to the hostel. We all went up to the roof to smoke. While on the roof, sitting around the table, we decided to play a prank on the Japanese guy. We determined that we were going to do a magic trick where we made him disappear, then for about 20 minutes, we pretended we couldn’t see him. It was so lame but we were laughing too much and in retrospect, it was definitely funny.
Then the rest of the group from the night before went out to some clubs. Not me.
Receive weekly travel news and special offers.