Thursday, February 21, 2013

At the Grand Bazaar and Egyptian Market, Istanbul, Turkey

Dear readers, let us continue our tour of markets, which are always fun.  One of the oldest and grandest anywhere is the Grand Bazaar of Istanbul. According to Wikipedia, the Büyük Çarşı, meaning "Grand Bazaar" is one of the largest and oldest covered markets in the world. It contains 61 covered streets and 3,000 shops, and may attract 250,000 to 400,000 visitors every day.


When I was here in the 1960s, it was still pretty authentic (= smelly, dark, questionable sanitary standards, suspicious jewelry).  Unfortunately, I do not have any photographs from that era.  Bad or good news (depending on your opinion of modernization):  today it is clean, well-lit, and the vendors take credit cards. There are even ATMs for your convenience.  That takes some of the fun out of the experience.  However, keeping up with the times is how a 500-year-old institution thrives.  We were warned that many of the authentic "Turkish" carpets are made in China now.

Trivia question:  What James Bond movie has some scenes in the Grand Bazaar?  Answer:  From Russia with Love, the second Bond film, released in 1963 and starring Sean Connory.

Proceed east, downhill towards the Golden Horn, and you reach the Egyptian Market. On a Sunday, this is a lot of fun. The barrel-vaulted building, dating from 1660, is also known as the Spice Bazaar (Turkish: 'Mısır Çarşısı'). The "Egypt" part of the name may come from the fact that revenues from Egypt, then part of the Ottoman Empire, helped pay for construction.

You can buy clothing, all sorts of nuts and spices, and the normal farmers' market stuff. The dry figs that I ate here and in central Anatolia were the most delicious I have ever tasted.
These are a bit more mysterious.  Do you eat the red berries or the yellow husk?
If figs or unusual fruits are not enough, visit the operatic gyro vendor.  His pita sandwiches looked really good, as did the fries and chilled juices, and he sings for you.
When it is time for a drink, these gents sell genuine freshly-squeezed orange juice, but I am not sue if they sing.


In keeping with the theme of appreciating the local ladies of the market, this trio is has plenty of attitude.
I suppose this little guy also had attitude.


If you prefer quieter ladies, some of them are missing parts of their heads, while others are missing their undergarments.
When you tire of the crush of people at the markets, cross the Golden Horn on the Galata Bridge (Galata Köprüsü). The waterway has been spanned by bridges since the time of Justinian the Great. Leonardo da Vinci designed a bridge for this site, but the sultan chose not to build it. This is the view back across the Horn, with the Süleymaniye (Süleymaniye Camii) Ottoman imperial Mosque on the skyline.
Walk along the waterfront west of the Galata Bridge, and you come to a casual restaurant that grills freshly-caught sardines, served at tiny tables.  They have big crunchy rolls, so you can make a sardine Po-Boy. Good company, a beer, sardines, the Golden Horn: it doesn't get much better than this....

Older market posts:


Most Istanbul photographs were taken with a Sony DSC-W7 compact digital camera.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Ladies of the Athens Flea Market, Athens, Greece

In the previous post, we saw the Athens Flea Market in the early 1950s. Today, it is more refined, and most of the stores sell inexpensive new manufactured goods. Many even accept credit cards. But Sunday is still a good day to explore, and you never know what a vendor will produce from a bulging suitcase.
Monastiraki Metro station, Athens
The best way to reach the market is to take the metro to the Monastiraki Metro Station.
Turn right as you emerge from the station, and you see the old mosque with the Acropolis in the distance. The mosque was built in 1759 and now houses the modern pottery collection of the Museum of Greek Popular Art. This is one of the few buildings remaining from the Turkish era.
Turn right again and you will see the opening to Hephaestou Street. As the sign says, open every day.



I promised ladies, and here they are, complete with odd sweaters and underwear (or no underwear).
Do you prefer the tough lady look? Here is the military style
Or how about a Soviet babushka (ба́бушка)? I saw a surprising amount of old Soviet equipment, but nothing interesting like genuine military-issue watches or rocket launchers. 
Warning, warning: Greek Zombie attack. 
 And now the red riding look. The wolf might like her. 
To demonstrate equal opportunity, here are the gents of the Flea Market. Regardless of your tastes, there is plenty to see.

(If you would like to see some other lovely market ladies, come to the markets in old Kathmandu or Venice).

Most photographs taken with a Panasonic G1 digital camera, some with an older Sony DSC-W7 camera.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

The Athens Flea Market, 1951

In a previous post on the Pláka district of Athens, I described how the flea market has changed over the decades, becoming much more gentrified. The market is in the Monastiraki (Greek: Μοναστηράκι = little monastery) neighborhood just to the north of Pláka. To check if my memory was correct about the character of the flea market decades ago, I scanned some of the family's 1950s negatives.
In the early 1950s, Greece was just emerging from the brutal civil war, and the country was desperately poor. US aid was pouring in, but people were still impoverished (except for war profiteers - that is an especially ugly story).*  A flea market like this was the place to raise a bit of cash, barter some odd metal scrap for some clothing, or buy an old steel bedstead.
More treasures for sale. I recall that you often saw Greek men hanging around, seemingly without work. I also remember many crippled veterans in the post-war era.
This is a Kodachrome slide from 1953 converted to monochrome.
A tourist in the market. Notice, he is wearing a suit. Even at leisure in those days, gents often wore suits. Sixty years later, we have become a nation of swine.
This is the view of the Agora with the Theseion temple in the distance. The train below is the original metro, the Athens-Piraeus Electric Railway (Greek: Η.Σ.Α.Π. - Ηλεκτρικοί Σιδηρόδρομοι Αθηνών-Πειραιώς, Ilektrikoi Sidirodromoi Athinon - Pireos). The rail line from Piraeus to Theseion was inaugurated in February 1869 as a steam train. The route was extended to Omonoia Square and electrified in 1904, making this one of the world's oldest metros.
This may be the end of Athenas Street where it meets Omonoia Square. I remember the policemen with their white gloves directing traffic from the round pedestals. Then, sometime in the 1950s, traffic signals were installed throughout Athens.
Back to the Pláka District: here is the Temple of the Winds. The 1800s houses were still authentic and unrestored then.
Finally, here is the Odeon of Herodes Atticus, on the south flanks of the Acropolis. Workmen are setting up chairs for a concert. The theater was built in 161 AD by a wealthy Athenian, Herodes Atticus, and is still in use for the annual Athens Festival. The seats are rock hard (really!) - take a cushion. Notice the view of the city in the background.  It looks like a village.

Technical note: Most of these negatives are Ansco Ultra Speed film. Fortunately, we saved them all these years. They were taken with a Canon rangefinder camera with 50 mm f/2 Serenar lens. This was a Japanese post-war replica of the German Leica IIIC camera and the Leica 50 mm Summitar lens. The Canon was not as good optically but still capable of fine work. You can see that the edges of the frames are a bit soft. The negatives were scratched and dirty, but I did not retouch. I scanned them on a Plustek 7600i 35mm scanner using the German Silverfast software. A couple of the negatives were so thin, I would never have tried to print optically through an enlarger, but the Silverfast was able to extract a surprising amount of picture information. Black and white film is an amazingly archival storage material. Will we be able to read our digital files in 60 years?

* For a detailed description of the terrible World War II years, see:
Mazower, Mark, 1995.  Inside Hitler's Greece, The Experience of Occupation, 1941-44. Yale University Press, New Haven and London, 437 p.
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For 2013 revisit to the Plaka area, please click here.
For a description of the Leica cameras that we used over the years, please click here.