Istanbul is a huge commercial center, with clusters of shops all selling similar items. The area around my hotel is characterized by musical instrument stores–dozens of them, selling all sorts of traditional and electronic instruments. Nearby is a section with dozens of stores selling light fixtures, from huge chandeliers down to small high-tech LED fixtures. This morning, I started in the light district, went thru an electrical supply area, filled with specialty shops, some selling bulbs, some selling circuit breakers, and some selling switches. As I went further down the hill, I found myself in an increasingly lower rent district.
After going thru an area of plumbing supply stores, I ended up in a hardware district. Again, most of the stores were hugely specialized. This tiny district of the city is a rabbit warren of little shops, crammed between the waterfront and one of the roads. A few of the bigger stores had multiple clerks, all wearing matching vests, but most of them were 1-2 person shops, often with the owner standing out front. Some of them were chatting with friends, often drinking cups of sweet tea, delivered on a steel tray by a nearby cafe.
I’ve never seen so many specialized tool and hardware shops before. Down one little alley there would be a couple of guys selling small wheels, like you’d use in a shop or on carts. Another store would be selling chain. The closer they got to the water, the more nautical they became, with shops specializing in anchors, marine fixtures, block and tackles, floats, and little brass things for boats.
In an area with stores selling paint brushes and masking tape, there were a couple of small shops selling powdered dye, both in bulk and also in plastic bags. Another grimy little shop nearby was selling all sorts of solvents in cans, presumably including linseed oil, so you could make your own paint.
I saw shops selling pneumatic and hydraulic valves, gear motors, cutting bits for lathes and milling machines, micrometers, roller burnishers, nuts, bolts and all kinds of fasteners.
It was nice to spend some time seeing what people actually did for a living, and not constantly being accosted with “Hey, want to look at some rugs!” I don’t think I met anyone who spoke English. I’d hold up the camera and gesture, and most of them were keen to have their picture taken, either amused at the strange foreigner, or flattered that someone from outside their community, let alone outside their country, would be interested in what they were doing. 3 people gave me their card and indicated that they’d like copies of the picture, which I will take care of when I get home. Only one person out and out refused to let me take his picture, but he indicated that I should go next door and take a shot of the neighboring merchant.
(An Istanbul photo page will be uploaded to photos.heiserhollow.net as soon as I can process all my shots.)