We booked our trip through a small travel agency at the Helsinki Travel Fair in January. They had a great deal and it included all airport transports and one half-day guided tour. We thought we’d use all the included services, so on Saturday morning we hopped on the tour bus.
Our first stop was Pierre Loti, which was on our sightseeing list anyway. It wasn’t raining, nor was it sunny and this location really should be visited at sunset for the most spectacular view. You take what you can get.
After Pierre Loti, our tour continued around the old town walls. We didn’t stop even for a photo-op but then again, whats with 1500-2000 year old brick walls?
Our second stop was at quite a reputable leather factory. We were treated to a short fashion show, exhibiting the company’s new season clothing. After the show, we were led to the showroom and a band of salesmen appeared out of the woodworks. Even though the new bomber jacket caught my eye, I had no intentions of buying anything. The price got lower and lower, but Jaana was the only one who bought anything. She got a good-looking long coat for spring, and everyone was happy.
Final stop, Istanbul Handicraft Center to have a look at some real Turkish carpets. Our host Felix started off with a round of tea and apple tea and then continued with his presentation. First we learned how to tell a proper carpet from a machine woven.
Felix moved on to tell us about double knotting and even showed us how easy it is to pull out the threads from a machine-made single knot carpet. And how impossible it was to do from his carpets. He even promised to give the carpet as a memento if we succeeded. Nobody even tried.
And what is the best carpet then? All handmade carpets are equally good, since they will all outlast you and me. The quality mainly lies in the amount of knots per square centimetre, and not in which material is used. Silk is obviously thinnest, and that is why you can get more knots in a square centimetre, which obviously gives you a larger range of patterns and the amount of detail you can produce. So pick one that you really like and stick with it.
We got a chance to see a master never at work. She came in with her mobile loom and her hands started flying around. Felix asked her to slow down, which proved to be difficult and the work became prone to mistakes.
After Felix finished his lecture, an army of salesmen descended upon our group. We both value skilled handicrafts and being a basic human being, one tends to answer when a question is asked. So, what do you say when asked if you think something is beautiful? And after that, you have a salesman glued to your side and he has a couple of helpers ready get any and all kinds of new carpets for you to see. Just in case you’d want to buy something.
This time I caved in after considerable haggling, and got myself a silk on silk, 10×10 knot (100 knots per square centimetre) small carpet. It was small enough to fit in my little backpack, so it was easy to carry around for the rest of the day. A nice little piece of artwork to hang on the wall.
After this eye-opening experience, we headed towards the Grand Bazaar, to see if we could find someone else to haggle with.