Tuesday, April 16, 2013

"The Hunt" in Istanbul

Last month I took a trip with my daughter to Istanbul.  We had been there before, and remembered it as a fabulous destination.  The sights, the food, the bazaar--these make it an A++ holiday.  My favorite take-away from Istanbul is the same as it was in the 80's when I first went:  it's the skyline. There are soaring, ancient minarets in every view.  In the old city wherever you stand, there are hauntingly beautiful spires reaching heavenwards.

So we saw the sights (again), and ate the delicious food (again), and wandered in the Grand Bazaar (again).  We cruised down the Bosporus in a tourist boat, and visited Topkapi Palace and other famous land marks.  We also, naturally, were on a bead hunt.

Before I left I had researched beads in Turkey.  To my knowledge, Istanbul is not a bead haven, like Africa, or South America.  It's a crossroads surely.  Beautiful jewelry is everywhere--from Europe, from the Balkans,  from the Middle East. Jewelry, but not beads.

Except for one.  The evil eye bead is in every shop, and from what I can discern, every house and car in Turkey.  The shops in the Grand Bazaar sell factory made  blue glass Chinese evil eye beads.  But with research I learned that hand made evil eye beads are made in Turkey.  There is a town, Izmir, where now only three master bead makers make wound glass beads with a fire kiln.  These beads are not in many shops in the Grand Bazaar,  but they can be found "behind the spice market, up the hill, and in the buttons and textile district".

Ovbiously, we had to find them.  It wasn't easy.  We took two days.  By then I knew three words in Turkish:  "thank you", "eye', and "bead".  On the second day, I saw a sign with Beduc nazar (bead, eye), and followed a maze of hallways and stairs, and then suddenly there they were:   lovely hand made glass evil eye beads, hand made in Turkey.  And in this untraveled section, we also were rewarded to find Turkish goods at a fraction of the prices in the Spice Bazaar and elsewhere.

Istanbul is a fabulous vacation destination.  The sights, the food, the bazaar make it an A++ holiday. But for us, The Hunt, and the Discovery, made it truly remarkable.
Long Strands of Hand made wound glass Evil Eye beads made in Izmir, Turkey

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