Beşiktaş, an Istanbul neighborhood best known for its black-and-white-clad football club and adoring fans, holds a weekly Saturday market that is everything but two-tone. This multi-story parking lot is refreshingly devoid of tourist stuff. The front of this two-story treasure trove is an extravaganza of fresh foods – pyramids of rosy tomatoes and mountains of cucumbers – leading to the second floor, where you’ll find heaped factory seconds, dubiously patterned underwear sold by even more dubious vendors, and unusual jewels at irresistible prices. Look for sparkling knuckle duster rings and tasselled, multicolored boho headwear. Out the rear, a tiny improvised café provides some pleasant relief – recover and return.
The Inebolu Sunday market, an Anatolian gastronomic carnival situated in the downtown squalor of Beyoglu’s Kasimpaşa neighborhood, defines a true Istanbul “foodie.” Tobacco-chewing sellers from Turkey’s Inebolu Black Sea region set off in their lorries on Saturday night, laden with the finest organic produce; chunky slabs of corn bread, bushels of fragrant herbs, thick pastes and purees, crates of eggs, bright flowers, splitting sacks of grain, walnuts and hazelnuts, and bins of gleaming olives. With beady-eyed shoppers arriving as early as 6 a.m., shalwar-clad damsels and their moustached counterparts police the topsy-turvy booths in a chorus of discordant bellows. A journey to Anatolia and back — all before breakfast. At 4 p.m., the store closes.
This massive Saturday event — a white mass extending along the Marmara shore – draws bargain-hunters with its variety and quality of goods, peddled by foreign vendors from Turkic-speaking countries and beyond. There are designer shoes, odd costume jewelry, unique homeware, and pyramids of beautiful organic food available. In the midst of the pandemonium, ladies with beet-red cheeks clad in starchy white clothing roll dough with alarming fervour, slapping it on sizzling skillet with goat’s cheese and parsley to create mouth-watering classic Gözleme. With the rising and setting of the sun, the market rises and sets.
The huge Fatih Carşamba (Wednesday) market, a vast weekly event in an ultra-conservative neighborhood selling fruit and veg, eggs and cured meats, ridiculous stilettos, electronics, branded clothes, and, well, everything at rock bottom rates, is not for the faint of heart. Disorganized and completely chaotic, persistent table-top vendors rummage through overflowing products, shouting prices and bagging things at the first indication of interest. Tourists are noticeably missing, so keep your cameras hidden, assume a steely demeanor, and don’t be afraid to join swarms of furious moms sifting through mounds of clothes, since they will, no matter how improbable it seems, yield the odd treasure. Bags and loved ones should always be kept close at hand.