Today while walking through my 8th bazaar in Turkey I got quite sad at what was on sale and what was on display. Same, same, same. Supposedly hand-woven rugs probably made by children in China. Small painted bowls that were the same ones we saw everywhere else. Though some bore the words ‘hand-painted’ on the bottom, a small touch conferring elevated status on that particular batch.
Same, same, same.
This issue plagues every tourist haunt I’ve ever visited. A plethora of once unique items, expressions of identity and culture, are whittled down to what sells and then repeated ad nauseum throughout every shop on every street. Variations are slight to reduce loss and ensure turnover. Prices are driven down by imported copycats of ancient art forms piled haphazardly and sold as ‘handmade in Turkey by skilled artisans’.
I eventually found one antique store in Urgüp that sold something different, things he had collected and things farmers found in fields and brought in. Hanging items forced visitors to duck as they wandered. He had ancient worn books, silver pieces from the time of Caesar and old seals for waxing envelopes. Giant key chains filled with rusted keys for doors that don’t exist anymore. Wool combs for carding and unique serving platters hand painted by people in the surrounding villages. Every nook and shelf was jammed.
I found a small silver frame that I coveted and carried it with me as he showed me everything he had available. We looked through boxes, and cigar boxes under boxes stuffed with dusty, dirty coins and Byzantine treasures.
We talked and as usual he offered me some apple tea. I had to decline because I knew couldn’t afford anything.
At the end or our visit back near the entrance he told me the small silver frame I was still clutching was pure silver and cost $40. I couldn’t do that and continued looking.
He made an offer of $35 and that he would value me as his first customer of the day. I really couldn’t. I began to feel bad, but couldn’t justify $35 for a 4X6 frame. $30 was his final offer and I had to say no.
Then he showed me some earrings for $6 that looked just like everything else at the other bazaars.