I had never realized how many stories a market can tell. I used to associate markets with my weekly shopping. Going there, buying fruit and veggies, maybe some cheese and salami, every once in a while a few clothes and that was it. Of course I took the time to look around and enjoy the vivid vibe but it’s only recently that I became aware how much markets can tell me about a culture and a country!
I never paid attention to the uniqueness of the markets in my home country, Belgium, because they were so familiar. When I was a child I used to join my mother every Wednesday afternoon to the local market to buy a freshly grilled (free range!) chicken for supper (with Belgian fries and apricots on the side, mmm). This was a little ritual we had for years so I grew up with weekly visits to the markets. This is why I never was really impressed by markets in other Western European countries because they’re very similar to the ones in Belgium. It wasn’t until two friends of mine took me to a little local market in Turkey that I realized how much there is to see, hear, smell and learn without even having a verbal exchange! Sometimes we have to indulge ourselves into something new to appreciate the old.
After one visit I already learned which kind of fruit and vegetables are grown in Turkey, what they like to eat, what the latest fashion is and what kind of clothes the people like to wear. The young men wear very similar clothes like we do in Europe, the older man wear mostly baggy trousers (called şalvar), long-sleeve shirts, a vest and sometimes a traditional woolen cap (called kufi) on their heads.
The women wear baggy trousers (şalvars), sleeved tops to the elbows or wrists and a head scarf. The girls wear similar clothes although they might trade the trousers for a long skirt and wear their headscarf very stylishly. The headscarf in Turkey isn’t necessarily connected with the religion but is more an expression of the culture. In the cities you’ll see a lot of young girls without a head scarf and they are mostly dressed in a very European style. So one clothing vendor will sell jeans, sweaters, tops and t-shirts while another will sell you şalvars and head scarves.
I also enjoyed looking into the household products. I loved that the old-fashioned brooms – which our grandmothers used to sweep the floors with before the vacuum cleaner was invented – are still very popular here! The same counts for plastic washing-up bowls, although the dishes are more likely to be washed under running water because it’s seen as being more hygienic. They also sell a lot of hardware and hand tools.
One thing I knew for sure though was that I didn’t feel like buying meat here …
But I didn’t mind trying a a tasty dürüm or a döner kebab !
Something that I didn’t enjoy were the cages with live poultry. It broke my heart to watch all those little chicks, ducklings, jakes and jennies (the funny official names for baby turkeys) tumbling over each other in those cages. Apparently most people buy these little ones for their eggs so most chickens and ducks only end up on the dinner table after a lifetime of running freely around the garden while providing the main ingredients for a nice big omelet. Except for the turkeys, they’ll have a nice life until it’s Christmas time (not all of them are as lucky as Lurkey, the turkey we’ve cared for during our house-sitting experience).
What I definitely loved about this village market was that there were no tourists to be found, nor were the products aimed to be sold as souvenirs. It wasn’t very common for the villagers to see foreigners here. At a certain moment I became the subject for the cameras of a few girls. As much as I was in awe for their beauty, they were admiring my exotic looks. For a brief moment I felt like a celebrity when all those girls wanted to take a selfie with me. We also made a beautiful group picture which I love very much. Women from different ages and backgrounds united on a little village market!
I’m happy that I visited the markets with such curiosity and awareness. The colorful clothes and products, the smell of fried food, the sound of people bargaining with each other (I can still hear the word “Buyrun” – which means “Can I help you” – ringing in my ears),… It was a source of inspiration and it gave my soul such a joyful boost!
Markets give an authentic cultural reflection on a country. From now on I will always visit markets with an open mind, even the ones in Belgium – someday, when I return from this world trip.
Join me for a visit to a few markets in this vlog. I couldn’t capture the smells with my camera (technology isn’t that advanced – yet) but you’ll definitely feel the atmosphere of the vivid markets!