Depending on your experiences a visit to the outdoor market is a must when you are in Cappadocia.
The village sellers,
the rainbow of colors,
the fascinating smells,
and cacophony of noises make it a unique experience.
The pazar (Turkish: open market/bazaar) is one of our favorite parts of Cappadocia.
The outdoor market in most countries gives the visitor a uniquely local experience. Cappadocia’s bazaars do not target tourists which means they are more genuinely Turkish, not fake “authenticity” painted pretty for foreigners; this is indeed local Turkish life.
With that in mind I will be writing more about Cappadocia’s open markets as time passes. The time of year is important, but even in winter they are packed since their business does not depend on the tourist season. The market is only open in a town one day per week. Similar to a traveling circus the sellers pack up each day and open in a different town the next morning… every Friday in Avanos, every Saturday in Ürgüp,…
Today I want to write about my 10 favorite items at the pazar.
1. The PEOPLE: This should not be a surprise for this blog. The mixture of people at the market is wonderful. Village sellers and shoppers with their tell-tell colorful clothing, the locals stocking up for the week, and a few tourists with their distinctly foreign garb (namely cameras and shorts)- young and old, bearded and bald, religious and secular, men and women, rich and poor- all come together functioning in harmonious chaos. Going to the same sellers week after week means we form a semblance of relationship, at least a level of familiarity and trust, which makes the time more enjoyable, more full, more life-giving.
2. The PRODUCE: Fresh, beautiful, organic, everything imaginable in a non-tropical environment. Every visitor from America without fail comments on how flavorful the produce is. Crazy how picking fruits and vegetables when they are fresh makes them taste better!
3. The SPICES: This is the real treat for visitors. Stock up when you come. All of these fresh spices at a fraction of the price of Europe and North America. Buying them at a local pazar is a much better option than at the grand bazaar in Istanbul which is targeting tourists and has prices to match. To read a more detailed post about the spices, click here.
4. The PUMPKIN SEEDS: This is my own fetish. Late summer/early fall the fields are full of yellow oblong shaped gourds full of wonderful seeds. For a few days after harvest every woman in Cappadocia is sitting in her front yard cutting open (the Turkish word here translates literally to “sacrificing”) pumpkins and separating, drying, seasoning, and cooking the seeds. Those who have excess sell them at the pazar. Over the years they have developed the perfect seasoning mix. The only food I ever craved before moving here was popcorn, but now pumpkin seeds can be added to the cravings.
5. The HONEY: As we have gone to a more healthy diet, we have reduced sugar consumption and drastically increased our honey intake. Bim has the best price on honey (as mentioned in this post), but the pazar has such a rich array of options. The key is deciding what level of purity you desire. The “pure” honey costs upwards of 40-50TL for a jar whereas the sugar-aided product goes for 15TL (around 12TL for the factory type at Bim). Apparently, if you just leave bees to do their thing with flowers (you probably got that talk as an early adolescent) they take longer and do not fill up the comb. Therefore, the farmers “help” their critters by giving them sugar. I cannot tell a difference in taste, but I have not done a blind test either. I recommend asking the seller to let you taste the different types and see if you think it is worth it.
6. The 1TL SOCKS: These are warm and fun to wear around the house and fall under the category of “you get what you pay for”. We get them for our kids and throw them away when we can see their feet which does not take too long.
7. The CHESTNUTS: Great in the winter if you have a soba (wood/coal burning stove) like we do in our living room. We light it, put the chestnuts (Turkish: kestane) on the top and enjoy them a few minutes later. Having grown up singing “chestnuts roasting on an open fire” but never eating them, we are now enjoying both singing about and eating them.
8. The DRIED FRUIT: Turkey is famous for its dried fruit. If you are eating dried apricots, most likely they came from Malatya, Turkey. Look on the bag and check to see. When you are here be sure to partake.
9. The COWBELLS: I had to include this for Christmas time as I could not think of a better White Elephant gift. Would not this be a hit at your Christmas party? I am assuming most of my readers do not have cows, but everyone needs a good cowbell. Use it to call your kids to dinner or to call meetings to order or maybe you can put it on your dog. Someone should do a blog post on 10 uses for a cowbell.
10. The CHAINSAWS: As a guy I cannot help but to love the tool section and when I saw the chainsaws I started drooling. It took every ounce of self-control not to pick one up and let ‘er rip. This is the area for the guys to go and feel like men. Let the ladies go to the clothing section (not covered in this post), we will congregate around the tools.
BONUS: The GIANT CIGARETTE LIGHTERS: These work great for the kazan (furnace). But how great would it be for someone to ask for a light and you pull out this big honking lighter. [Note the 10cmx15cm picture frames in the photo to understand how big these are.]
And this list barely scratches the surface. I have no doubt that you could easily add your own list that does not even include any of the items I mentioned above. So, go ahead and do it and bless the community.
What is YOUR favorite part of the open market?
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