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The Hans of the Grand Bazaar

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The Grand Bazaar is really a city unto itself. The main thoroughfares are where you’ll find the most popular shops and restaurants, but just like any city, the coolest spots are tucked away in its less-visited corners.

Silver Han

In days past, the hans of Istanbul functioned as inns; places for traveling merchants to rest and do business. Most frequently, the hans consisted of courtyards with a fountain for washing, and a kitchen or tea house. The Grand Bazaar, naturally, was a major hub for merchants, so it’s unsurprising to find so many hans within its walls.

Most hans were dedicated to a particular craft, and many still are. You can find gold-spinning in Astarcı Han, chains in Zincirli Han and silver merchants in Kalcilar Han. Wandering through the courtyards, you can find smiths practicing their craft… melting gold, for example, or hammering out a piece of copper. Happily, they seem to be accustomed to tourists, and don’t mind if you politely enter their shops for a quick photo. It’s great fun watching them at work, performing tasks that have been unchanged over the last few centuries.

Most of the hans are small and run-down, but many are lovely. The Zincirli Han, for example, is particularly photogenic, with all-pink shopfronts, a marble fountain and trees. And our favorite is the airy and comfortable Iç Cebeci Han, where you can dependably find guys sitting around in the sun drinking tea and playing backgammon.

If you stick to the main drags, a trip to the Grand Bazaar can be hectic and stressful. So make sure to duck off into the little pockets of relative tranquility offered by the hans, and check out some of the activities which have kept the Bazaar running for 500 years.

Great Resource: Self Guided Walking Tours Through Istanbul’s Hans

Pink Han Grand Bazaar
Turkish Crescent Han
The Third Man Istanbul
Han Copper Grand Bazaar
Workshop Hans Istanbul
Working In Istanbul
Old Hand Istanbul
Old Orient Lamps Istanbul
Worker Hans Istanbul Grand Bazaar
3 Little Dudes
Han Entrance
Sultan Hats Istanbul Grand Bazaar
Silver Shop Istanbul
Spinning Gold Istanbul
Copper Wire Spinning Istanbul Hans
Portraits Han
Dish Han Grand Bazzar
Grand Bazaar Tunnel
Secrets Istanbul
Tea Garden Han Grand Bazaar
Silver Decoration Grand Bazaar
Fountain Grand Bazaar
Smoking In Istanbul
Melting Work
Schmied Grand Bazaar
Melting Pot Istanbul
Black Smith Istanbul
Fungus Dome
The Hole Grail
Istanbul Portraits People 2013
Tunnel han Istanbul
Gold Han Istanbul Grand Bazaar
Shoe Maker Grand Bazaar
Carpet Strings Bazaar
Making a Carpet
String Ball
Looking Inside Istanbul
Green And Rost
Welding
Istanbul
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June 10, 2013 at 10:57 am Comments (10)

A Day in Zeyrek

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The lively neighborhood of Zeyrek, just north of the Aqueduct of Valens, was one of our favorite spots in Istanbul. It’s difficult to reach with public transportation, and lacks any well-known sights, so very few tourists bother to visit. Not that we mind; it just leaves more Zeyrek for us!

Hoca-G%c4%b1yasettin-Cami

Zeyrek is one of the four spots designated by UNESCO as “Historic Areas of Istanbul” (the others are Sultanahmet’s Archaeology Park, the Suleymaniye Complex and the Theodosian Walls). This ancient neighborhood still conserves some original wooden housing, and its mosque has a wonderful location overlooking the Golden Horn. Unfortunately, though, the Zeyrek Mosque has been added to another, less desirable UNESCO list: “Endangered Monuments”.

Which perhaps explains why it was closed for restoration during our visit. Originally built in the 12th century as the Church of Christ Pantokrator, this is the second-largest Byzantine-era religious complex in the city, after the Hagia Sophia. It was frustrating to be locked out, but that gave us more time to lounge on the terrace of Zeyrekhane: an upscale restaurant in the shadow of the mosque, which boasts a fantastic view over the neighborhood.

Me-And-My-Lamb-Leg

Walking from the mosque to the Roman aqueduct, you enter the heart of the neighborhood. Life in Zeyrek seems to be lived on the streets, with markets opened out onto the sidewalks and people going busily about their days. This is a boisterous place, and there’s no escaping the pull of local life. One minute we’re passing a meat shop, and the next thing I know, I’m on my knees with a baby lamb suckling my fingertip. Meanwhile, Jürgen is taking portraits of butchers, and then we’re both shaking their bloody, carcass-encrusted hands.

And now the peanut-seller wants to chat. Really, you lived in Germany? Auf wiedersehen! Çiğköfte sounds good for lunch. And then tea. Yes, Mr. Baklava Seller, of course we’ll sit down! Oh, look at this group of kids, who want to practice their English. “Huh-low! Bye-bye!” Now, more tea and a round of backgammon, and then… wait. Where have the last three hours gone?! And that’s how trips to Zeyrek tend to go.

Not quite in Zeyrek, but nearby, is the Yavuz Selim Mosque. This is one of the oldest imperial mosques in the city, commissioned by Suleyman the Magnificent in honor of his father Selim the Grim. The interior is simple but lovely, decorated with Iznik tiles and crowned with a shallow dome. But the Yavuz Selim’s main draw is outdoors. Like the Zeyrek Camii, this mosque offers an incredible view of the Golden Horn. A wooded courtyard faces out towards the river, complete with benches allowing people to relax and take in the panorama.

Locations on our Istanbul Map: Zeyrek Camii | Yavuz Selim Camii

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New-Ataturk-Bridge-2013
Zeyrek-Terrace
Zeyrek-Under-Construction
Forever-Alone-Istanbul
Baby-Lamb
Sheep-Heads
Istanbul-Butcher
Turkish Dudes
Turkish-Cheeses
Turkish-Lavas-Cheese
Lena Istanbul Cafe
Coming-Together-In-Istanbul
Walking-IN-Zeyrek.
Walking-Tour-Istanbul
Pics from the Yavuz Selim Mosque
Yavuz-Selim-Mosque
Yavuz-Selim-Mosque-Gate
Istanbul-Panorama
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Yavuz-Selim-Glass
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Yavuz-Selim-Iznik-Tiles
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May 18, 2013 at 2:22 pm Comment (1)
The Hans of the Grand Bazaar The Grand Bazaar is really a city unto itself. The main thoroughfares are where you'll find the most popular shops and restaurants, but just like any city, the coolest spots are tucked away in its less-visited corners.
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