One of the many differences between the culture of Istanbul and the United States is the way people shop. In the United States, there are spacious stores lining the city streets, perfectly organized in a way to stand out from their neighbors and draw you in with their offerings.
Istanbul is the polar opposite. Because space is limited, stores are crammed together and offer limited space to move around. Many sell the same wares as the next three stores, organized in a sort of district-like fashion. You pass the row of tech stores, then turn the corner and enter the antique area, and so on. If it’s a restaurant or café, the front is lined with tables, chairs, and (because it’s the winter) heat lamps. Consumer shops are usually a clutter of goods and a bright, animated LED sign.
At center of many neighborhoods, including Kadiköy, stands the agora, or marketplace. Here shops and stalls are crowded together, one after the next and often spilling over each other. The street is too narrow for traffic- only trash trucks are allowed to pass barriers that rise from the ground. At all hours of the day, there are people- jostling for space and walking to a predetermined destination. It’s rare to find anyone in the agora just “wandering around”.
“Agoraphobia” is aptly named. Anyone with the fear of crowded spaces will be extremely put off by the market. It’s a place where buckets of fish lie on the street, ready to be tripped on by a person avoiding a canopy-supporting pole. It’s a place where the culture comes to life mixed in with the aroma of baking döner and kebabs, spices, produce, soaps, and more. To a foreigner, it’s off-putting at first, but it draws you back time and time again (as you’re guaranteed to find whatever you’re looking for).
Istanbul is famous for its Grand Bazaar, and while the average market is far smaller than the tourist attraction, the feeling is the same. It’s a world away from the nearby traffic-filled streets of modern Turkey.