Jo Jacks Travel

Disaster in the Grand Bazaar Istanbul

One of the scariest and funniest moments we have had during our global travels, is what our family now refers to as “The Disaster in the Grand Bazaar.”

Disaster in the Grand Bazaar!

Disaster in the Grand Bazaar Istanbul with kids

When we were in Istanbul our family visited one of the city’s great sites: the Grand Bazaar with our 4 year old, 2 year old, and baby. Was this an easy thing to do? Not particularly. In fact, just taking all three boys grocery shopping at our local shop can be a mess, so why would the oldest shopping mall in the world be any different?

Before we arrived at the Grand Bazaar, I went into world-school teacher mode with the family – reading about the history of the bazaar and what goods we might see there. We talked about what we might like to buy, how much we might spend, and what negotiating tactics to use.

We also had been warned of pickpockets and tried to secure wallets and phones deep within the black hole of the diaper bag or inside zippered pockets.

Everything started off fine. We were in our usual shit-show formation: two single strollers and one child with death grip hand-hold. Team Jo Jacks – let’s roll!

Disaster in the Grand Bazaar - Istanbul with kids

We totally got this!

Inside the bazaar is a fascinating and exotic labyrinth. The bazaar is covered overhead and full of small stalls – so it feels somewhat like a street souq and not much like a modern shopping mall at all, but is comfortable and musty with the smell of incense. Some of the goods are unique and interesting, others look like cheap trinkets made in China.

Off of the main alley, the stroller was a pain to take over steps and through narrow entrances and crowded paths. But, we were managing alright. I bought a lovely wooden backgammon game set, some dishes, and colorful lamps. Our favorite shops were the ones with rugs and Turkish towels.

Disaster in the Grand Bazaar Istanbul

Getting a bit tight!

Disaster in the Grand Bazaar

Our expert at haggling.

Wow – high five family! We really nailed this trip. No meltdowns, no accidents, no problems. Go us!

And as we turn to exit out the main doorway, my 4 year old son slips on the marble slab stairs and busts his chin open. Suddenly blood is spurting out everywhere – all over him and his clothes and on the goods belonging to some poor merchant who unluckily had the store right next door, we could only hope that they had some stain removal products in home to take care of that.

In my panicked stupidity, I abandon my stroller with our diaper bag full of important items like wallets and cameras, not to mention my 2 year old!

My husband and I rush to our son to help him and our whole family is quickly engulfed by what felt like a swarm of 50 people. 50 very nice strangers wanting to help by pressing all kinds of tissues and water bottles into our hands. And pulling our middle son and stroller aside into a shop.

After we got the bleeding under control, we then panicked that perhaps we had been robbed and were furiously patting down our pockets, while simultaneously not wanting to offend any of the helpers, so smiling and nodding and thanking them and apologizing profusely.

Ahhhhm – where is our son? And stroller? And diaper bag? Oh no worries they are over there in a rug shop, my son being fed Turkish delights.

Thank you to the Turkish people for your kindness and honesty. We were prime targets at that moment for pickpockets, purse-snatchers, or kidnappers. And what we found instead is how kind strangers can be. And in case you are wondering, my son is fine – the cut healed without stitches and the scar lives on in family legend of our trip to the Grand Bazaar.

Could There Be A Worse Disaster in the Grand Bazaar? Always…

Disaster in the Grand Bazaar

Now, my husband’s boss, who we’ll just call Mr. A, lives with his family of five, including three young children, in Turkey. We had a good laugh with him about our “Disaster in the Grand Bazaar” later that night. He assured us not to worry because his family has had a worse disaster in the Grand Bazaar.

Mr. A and his family went into the Grand Bazaar to do some serious rug shopping. They had seen a guide by Bazaar Velvet on how to choose the right rug so they were confident going into it that they knew what we were looking for going into the shop. They were seated in one of the gorgeous rug shops tucked into a back alley. The shop owners sit you down, offer up countless cups of tea and juices. It is a wonderful experience.

Mr. A is a hard negotiator and the family was there for at least an hour while rug after rug was thrown down, measured, touched and considered. The family had narrowed down their choices to two beautiful rugs from the Turkmanistan region that they envisioned for their living room.

As the shop-owner and Mr. A went back and forth on prices, Mr. A’s 2 year old son abruptly stood up, announced he needed a bathroom, and then proceeded to pee all over the fine rugs. He looked at his father apologetically, shrugged his shoulders and declared “I can’t stop it,” as the stream of urine flowed over the final two rug selections.

The shop owner, with a completely straight face, looked at Mr. A and said, “So, You’ll be taking both rugs at my original quoted prices, correct?”

And this is how Mr. A came to have two, nearly identical, Turkish rugs. And they look gorgeous in his home, after some dry-cleaning.

Moral of the story: potty training can be expensive.

Disaster in the Grand Bazaar - Istanbul with Kids

Do you have any funny family travel disaster stories? Have you been to visit the Grand Bazaar? Don’t be shy – let me know in the comments!
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