Istanbul – Eminönü’s Alternative Souvenirs

Souvenir shopping; it’s never been something that tops our agenda while exploring new places. In fact, it doesn’t even make our agenda, most of the time – but Istanbul is different. Istanbul has the power to tempt even the most reluctant of shoppers (that’ll be us) to part with even just a little of their lira. So, whenever we go there, we always return to Fethiye with a few little treats in our rucksack.

But our souvenir shopping is a bit different. While we love to browse around shops such as Istanbul Ceramic and admire (and covet) the beautifully-painted plates and vases, the goods we do buy, more often than not, serve a practical purpose. In the past, we’ve told you about our favourite Beyoğlu turşu (pickles) shop, Petek’s. How long could we spend in that shop, gazing up at the multi-coloured pickle displays and breathing in the pungent vinegar aromas…

Eminönü Back Streets, Istanbul

We love to wander the passages of Eminönü

We bought a few jars of turşu while we were in Istanbul last October – but we also bought a couple of souvenirs from this street, here. These are the types of Istanbul streets that capture us, take away all sense of time and hypnotise us into buying something.

How we’ve missed this street in the past is beyond me – it’s directly behind the Egyptian Spice Bazaar (Mısır Çarşısı) in Eminönü, close to Kuru Kahveci Mehmet Efendi – and we’ll certainly be returning next time we’re in Istanbul. There’s allsorts for sale here – if you like that type of thing.

Eminönü Backstreets, Istanbul

Handmade baskets and wooden crafts for sale

We came across this little area after our visit to Süleymaniye Camii. As we descended towards Eminönü, the first treat had been the surprise view down the Golden Horn that we spotted through a gap in the towering walls.

And then we found ourselves in this network of narrow walkways, rammed full with anything from street food to haberdashery to cleaning products to baskets…

Eminonu Passageways, Istanbul

Wooden kitchen utensils for sale

…And all manner of hand carved wooden products…including kitchen utensils! Loads of kitchen utensils. And you know us by now. We love our food, and with that comes a love of gadgets (of the traditional, rustic variety, in this case, of course). Yes, we were in awe of Süleymaniye Mosque, but areas like this have an equal effect on us.

Paddles of various sizes for those of us who love to make pide at home.

And maybe the shop owner spotted that in our eyes as we eagerly picked up our souvenir of choice; a wooden spoon. “3 lira,” he said.
“Bargain,” we thought. “No point in haggling when we’re getting a good, sturdy wooden spoon to add to our collection.”

We paid the man his money and wandered along, new toy in hand, browsing the other shops as we passed. This is Turkey.

We should have haggled. Our new 3 lira wooden spoon was 2 lira just a few shops further along. Lesson learned? Probably not. We were on holiday, after all.

Do you buy unorthodox souvenirs when you’re away from home? What tempts you to part with your cash?

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  1. One time, my daughters and I were on vacation in Colorado Springs, Colorado. We had a contest to see who could find the most rediculous souvenir tchotchke at the Trading Post in Garden of the Gods. I wanted it to be a teachable moment about not wasting money on dumb stuff. Daughter #1 won the contest. What did she find? A Jackalope on a wall plaque – a mounted rabbit torso with “antelope” horns attached. $50! Ewwwwww. We got a lot of laughs that day for no money down.

  2. maybe one of the reasons i have never traveled to turkey is just this! i am trying to get rid of almost everything i have before i die and a trip to istanbul would set me back quite a bit!!!

  3. @Karen: Wow, $50 for that? Some people will buy anything. Was more than happy with our 3 lira for a wooden spoon. 🙂

    @Jaz: Yes, there is definitely temptation everywhere in Istanbul – too many goodies. 🙂

  4. I always go around those streets when I’m in Istanbul. There’s a shop specialized in every kind of thing – from wooden spoons to applicable brand logos. It’s great fun.

  5. Ah….one of my favorite streets in Eminonu as well! I’ve bought several wooden spoons in all sizes here for myself and for gifts. If you use honey a lot, look for the small spiraled honey spoons next time. The really small wooden spoons are great for measuring out spices and just look so darn cute!

    Of course, food is always one of my favorite souvenirs to bring back from our travels no matter where we go!

  6. Mrs Ergül says

    We were right at the kahveci, can’t believe we missed this street! Booking this place for future visits!

  7. @ Italian Notes: I’m sure we’re not the only ones who love these streets in Istanbul. Such good fun. 🙂

    @ Joy: I remember you saying on your Facebook page once that you were shopping in Eminönü and I thought you might be here. We’ve looked at the honey things in Fethiye. Might have to make another purchase. 🙂

  8. @ Mrs Ergül: Well, we’re not sure why we’d never noticed it in the past, to be honest. Istanbul is full of surprises, though. Thanks for your comment. 🙂

  9. I love that street…..I collect those wooden spoons anywhere I go in Turkey. I have dozens which I still have not used. Can’t find any here like that.
    I don’t usually haggle…but when my husband goes…I can take a coffee break till he finishes, but he sure gets a good price….because I’m a ‘yabanci’ and he’s not so I just stand there and let him do the work.

  10. @ Erica (Irene): See, you have the benefit of your Turkish husband. We are two yabancı – lambs to the slaughter. 😉 They’re great wooden spoons though and definitely worth 3 lira so we don’t feel too aggrieved. 🙂

  11. We just love that street too and we were there a couple of days ago… having bought the wooden spoons as long ago as ’73 (showing our age now), we have bought the tea glasses, spice grinders and – this time – shish skewers, to make our own lamb kakabs now we are home…

  12. @ Tom and Kathy’s Travels: We’re looking forward to getting back there, too. Looks like these streets in Eminönü are really good for the kitchen utensils! 🙂

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