Imagine a trader from Venice walking among his naughty pigeons earnestly to the Makro Envalos Bazaar from the harbour. The trader from Venice is walking proudly, and even though he has pouches of gold in his pocket he is after bartering with something at least as valuable as that black pepper.
The Byzantine trader counts the black peppers one by one which you won’t even turn your head for when falling off a plate nowadays When even one piece fall off his hands, he search for it very closely and put it in his palm again, it is maybe as valuable as silver.
The trader from Venice walks very fast to his ship among the pigeons by taking the black peppers from the centre of the world. His workers come later on after him in sweat with boxes. Obviously his ship sails to Mediterranean and is taking the black pepper and many other spices to the earls, dukes and even kings of Europe.
Today, those pigeons are still flying in front of the New Mosque. The Spice Bazaar has taken the task of the Makro Envalos Bazaar since ves in the mind 1664 and the skill of the Byzantine Gentleman Mikha and hands of Gentleman Mustafa today.
The only thing that did not change since that day with the naughty pigeons of that day, may be the world’s centre The centre of taste and spice in the world is still the same Various kinds of spices continue o disperse around the tables of lstanbul with the riot of colours it leaves. Even if the names, buildings and streets change, the waters of Bosporus still continue to be the witness of the new stories about the tastes. You can find various kinds of spices from Asia to Africa and Anatolia’s loams in the Spice Bazaar. Also, there is a magic in the spices in lstanbul even if you do not reach to it, it will come and find you. The saffron you will taste in the rice you eat at rlitas, the thyme in the delicious meatballs of Üsküdar will bring a smile to your face… Black pepper is a surprise guest in the hot soup you will have at Beyoğlu; it will make ou will feel the pride and importance of beautifying lstanbul’s meals or centuries with the first spoon in your mouth. It makes you love the capital of tastes, and meals. lstanbul again with each spoon kitchen by simply saying “I am here”.
There is a story behind the spices and colours inside your mouth in Istanbul; with the pepper inside a pastry a mom has made, the cinnamon which brings colour and taste to the salep from the corner shop, the exotic mixtures that are blended because they are good for you. There is something that pulls people to the colour and magic of this city in the streets, bazaars and the heart of the spices Spice Bazaar.
Edmondo de Amicis explains this magic in the Istanbul Travel Book he wrote in 1874 as follows: “There is a very strong herb scent the minute you enter here. Spices from India, Syria, Egypt and Arabia come and meet here; spices that paint the hands and faces of handmaidens.
He made the houses, hammams, mouths, beards and foods smell nice give strength to the crank has and that distribute imagination, drunkenness and joy to the amazing city where the spices are transferred into scent, pill, dust, ointment, in the Spice Bazaar. One gets dizzy hile walking a little into the Bazaar, however the effect of the smells that make you drunk cling to you even after you go out in the fresh air and stay alive in your head as the most meaningful and hidden trace of the orient.”
It is the same magic that made the trader from Venice come to Istanbul 1000 years ago and the same magic that made Edmondo de Amicis fall in love with the Spice Bazaar and Istanbul 200 years ago. This magic still continues if smell of the thyme reminds you of the memories in Istanbul when you are far away. It should be thought that the magic of Spice Bazaar, the herbalists of the ancient cities and lstanbul which achieves to present a different taste from each corner are still strong while thousands of eyes do not let go the taste and the spice with different names.
The cardamom from Syria and the pepper from Asia both get affected by Istanbul’s attraction and wait for their buyer on the counters in a city of Europe or in a table a couple blocks away.
You wish the Bosporus would remember you too when the pigeons walk so fast but resist to fly in Eminönü and when you have a sip from the hot tea that was made from herbs you would not find anywhere else in the world and have a piece of cumin inside your mouth. After all, you know that the ingenious people who make lstanbul meals and the spices of Spice Bazaar and this magic real, will continue to live in the streets of this city even after the world stops.
If you want to smell the historical atmosphere of Spice Bazaar; or if you want to visit that cute little store which trade herbals two blocks away for three generations, either way, don’t forget to taste one teaspoon of spice in order to live lstanbul forever.
by KORAY GÜNYAŞAR