• Medieval Markets

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    June 26th, 2010adminConsumer/Pop Culture, History, Istanbul

    Jewelry Section of Bazaar, Istanbul

    Yes, I know. I have been a terrible blogger! No updates, no anecdotes. But I’m only now beginning to adjust. However, I have now decided that I need to regularly blog — no excuses! Anyway, I just got back from a town called Lüleburgaz, where I was teaching English for a few days. The place has a 16th century mosque and a lot of tea shops and not much else.

    This is what I wanted to write about, briefly: Medieval markets. In fair old Istanbul, shopping is often laid out in a very medieval way. In other words, merchant’s work is divided into separate districts or areas. The garment sellers stick together. The shoe-shiners sit side-by-side, scanning for unbecoming leather. And the best cell phone repair shops are cloistered on a certain floor in a certain building in Eminönü (and, in fact, I went to that certain building to fix my phone yesterday).

    My French friend lived in Vietnam. He said it’s the same there…

    From a customer’s perspective, this model can be consumerist heaven. Want a dress? Go to the dress district of your part of Istanbul. And, lo and behold, there are dresses galore! Want baklava? Go to the Spice Market. Want fish? Go to the fish market, where men enthusiastically advertise the daily catches, under hand-painted signs of silver fish. And, yes, this medieval model can be very convenient.

    But how about the business man? Wouldn’t he want to stand out from the competition? Why would a shoe-shiner sit next to five other shoe-shiners? Logically, he would move to a different area. Right?

    Personally, I don’t mind the model at all! I prefer being able to survey the options in one, unified location. And I also feel less of a need to buy silly, unnecessary things, since I’m not distracted by other items to the same degree.

    But I wonder when this modern shopping model began to pervade “Western” cities.

    Once I’m removed from it (in part, at least), the architecture of shopping becomes more clear and more strange to me.

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