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I frankly had no idea what to expect when I headed over to the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul on the first day of my Eastern Mediterranean cruise aboard Viking Star. I had done exactly zero research, but I knew the Grand Bazaar was one of my must-see destinations in Turkey.
Would the bazaar be just like one of those frenetic Middle Eastern market scenes you see in the movies, with merchants hawking tapestries and bric-a-brac along rows of dusty stalls?
Well, no. Not even close.
Today's Grand Bazaar is more akin to a trip to the Mall of America, with rows of high-end boutique store, jewelry shops and, of course, throngs of shopkeepers — all of whom seemed to have a cousin in the U.S. — touting their finely woven Turkish carpets.
It's a shame that two terrorist bombs in Istanbul since our visit will likely prompt some visitors from visiting one of the most remarkable cultural melanges of the Middle East, where Western values and Turkish traditions easily coexist.
Here are some of my photos of the experience. Hope you can find your way there some day!