Istanbul can be visited, but it can not be described, really. Istanbul is to be experienced.

The establishing shot outside of the Grand Bazaar Gate 7, shortly after opening. Only by crossing the threshold can you savor the sights and sounds of a 550+ year old market preparing to tempt up to 400.000 daily visitors, including the two of us.

Only by entering the market will the powerful soapy aroma of freshly washed sidewalks and storefronts reach your senses.

And only by wandering the 61streets and 3.000 shops will your eyes be able feast on the sparkle–on the walls, the ceilings, and the store shelves. One is required to wander; the temptations and curiosities at every intersection can shred even the most organized person’s shopping plan of attack. I speak from experience.

A pause, or two,  for tea is a necessity.

And for some, so is a little catnap.

Two identical fountains serve as markers. That’s not confusing at all.

A small caravansary adjacent to the market. These small courtyards with inns once provided lodging for those who came to sell their wares.  Now they are specialty shops for discerning shoppers.  This one houses jewelers who make custom pieces.

Believe it or not, we made it out of the Grand Bazaar with minimal pocketbook damage. (I’ve decided that Tony and I should return for a rug shopping weekend before we leave Europe, though).  Surrounding the bazaar on its north side are districts of textiles, sewing notions, and cooking apparatus, all leading to the Egyptian Bazaar.

(The latest in conservative Turkish swimwear.)

The Egyptian Spice Bazaar might be easy to miss were it not for the aromas drifting through the arch.

If only the Internet had an “Aroma” setting.

Anna Grace and I were given a lesson (with tastings) in the difference between Kashmir, Iranian, and Turkish saffron by a professional herbalist in a little store that resembled an apothecary.  The herbalist even wore a white laboratory jacket and carried a small scale to measure precisely the saffron we desired. I had found my dream bazaar.

We had a lesson at a tea stall, as well.

The more touristy stalls offered pretty displays, but shoppers were on their own for guidance.

Russian and Iranian caviar could also be purchased.

Turkish Delight could be sampled. And sample, we did.

Sample, we did not.

Should the “love tea” being sold in the market not do the trick…

We were told this was a spice for lamb, but I was dubious.

After our grand Bazaar Day, making like these little cats was next on our agenda.