Shoe Shopping in the Grand Bazaar… Barefoot

Shopping, bargaining, and haggling in Istanbul’s Grand Bazaar is something of a sport. Vendors are aggressive, they want your money, and will stop at no end to get it. They deal with shoppers, tourists and hagglers on a daily basis, and they are like the gold medalists of the shopping-world.

Unfortunately for myself, I had to take on the daunting task of traipsing through this market-labyrinth on a mission to buy shoes… with bare feet.

Seriously.. this actually happened.

An Unfortunate Accident
I was making my way through the streets of Istanbul, toward the Grand Bazaar. I stumbled over rickety cobble stones, raised curbs, and many of the black, metal poles that lined the sidewalks. I usually have a hard enough time navigating my own feet, never mind a new pair of sandals that are starting to cut into my ankles.

I stubbed my toe on a particularly menacing cobble stone, and cried out as I hopped up onto the less hazardous sidewalk. Or, at least I tried. Upon making contact with the sidewalk I caught the sole of my sandal onto a raised sewer grate, pulling it backward, as I continued to move forward.

I looked down to find straps around my ankle, yet the rest of my sandal was flipped upside down, behind my foot.

Great, now I was going to have to try to buy a new pair of sandals at one of the World’s most infamous shopping emporiums, where the vendors are known to talk their prices up to tourists, and they are going to target me as the shoeless-American (well–Canadian) girl.

For some reason, when I think of Istanbul now, this is exact spot that always comes to mind. The place where I broke my shoe.

So, there I was… strolling through the dim entrance of the Bazaar, among a crowd of hundreds of visitors, with my pasty-piggies on display to the whole World. I cringed at the thought of what I might be stepping on, but continued toward the clothing booths.

Hey you! You need shoe!”

“Pretty-Lady! You want pretty shoes?!”

“Come here! Very special price for slippers!”

I knew it. Should I have expected anything else? It was a bit like stumbling upon a water cooler after getting lost in the desert. Or–like entering a hair salon with three inch black roots, after a bad hair-dye. They could smell the desperation (and probably whatever else I had stepped in).

In Search of Sandals

This was just the beginning. I suffered through a good hour of being hassled by every shop-owner. I may have been desperate, but I didn’t want to be harassed into buying something that I didn’t want. I tried to keep my calm, to keep myself from walking home in a fluorescent pair of rubber crocs, or a really unattractive pair of pink pleather wrap-arounds.

I finally made a careful decision, and secretly had a friend do the purchasing. This way the vendor wouldn’t spot my bare feet and double the price, sensing my absolute need for the simple sandals. My friend was able to haggle with the man, and ended up scoring me a deal!

What can we all learn from this?
Do NOT, under any circumstances, try to buy shoes when you are barefoot.
Especially in the Grand Bazaar.

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4 Responses to “Shoe Shopping in the Grand Bazaar… Barefoot”

  1. Danielle
    August 16, 2011 at 6:23 pm #

    I would be mortified if I broke a shoe! Luckily you had your friend to help you. You probably would have spent double, if you tried to bargain with them yourself!

  2. Robert W
    August 17, 2011 at 4:39 am #

    Great story. Lucky you had your friend with you or you would have been ripped off or conned into buying a pair that were totally unsuitable.

    • Seattle
      August 17, 2011 at 10:16 am #

      haha yup! I wasn’t very good at haggling anyway. Even if I had shoes on, she still would have done a much better job than me 😀

  3. unci
    June 17, 2014 at 4:53 am #

    You were doing it wrong. Say you are barefoot by choice and don’t need any shoes. Let the shoe salesperson convince you to try on their shoes anyway. Walk away if you get the feeling they are overpriced. That’s the way to get a good deal: Don’t appear overly interested.

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