Sundays in Istanbul are an open playing field for zealous shoppers, with plenty of glittering malls and bustling high streets to browse for the necessary, the coveted, and the superfluous. As we lift our newly purchased possessions out of the bags and boxes, inhaling the scent of the virgin fabrics, we can’t help but sometimes wonder as to how long they will remain unwrinkled, unscratched, and shiny, how long they will remain, well, new. It is this pristine condition that gives our purchases value beyond their practical use, and it is not until many years after they lost this fleeting glow of novelty that these objects of desire transition from well-preserved to vintage, and then to antique. Some of them never make it that far, but that is an entirely different subject.
When buying vintage and antique, it is not just the item itself we seek to acquire, but its history clinging to this particular item like the rusty patina covering an ancient coin. Ömer Faruk Işık from İzmir, at the age of 73, quite a vintage original himself, has a large selection of such coins (and replicas) spread out in front of him, each of them unique in corrosion and discoloration, all arranged on a ragged blue tablecloth that only emphasizes the age of his wares. He has been setting up shop in Feriköy nearly every Sunday for seven years, which almost makes him one of the founding members of the eight year old market. His little stand can be found by the righthand wall of the carpark that harbours the market, about four stands into the lane.
A little further down the same corridor, people stop and marvel at copper and brass items in various sizes, all of them unmistakably Turkish, and all of them with that magic patina that turns flashy metal objects into coveted decor. Sinan, the young vendor overseeing the stand has apparently not yet mastered the fine art of verbose and playfully conspirational flea market story telling. Asked about the origin of the merchandise, he seems excited to tell us the chiselled casks, bowls and trays from the Ottoman era are up to 250 years old and have been sourced from Anatolian villages. But not every stand at the Feriköy Antiques Market hawks historic keepsakes of Turkish origin. In fact, the market can as much be browsed like any other flea market, or it can be read like a commodified map of Istanbul’s multicultural past and present, with merchandise new and old from France, Italy, Germany, Austria, England, the United States, Greece, Russia, Egypt and all the other nations that have played a part in Istanbul’s colorful urban history.
Between well-loved books, threadbare costumes, and chipped china you can find rare vinyl records and kılıçs (Turkish sabers with curved blades), but also nostalgic toys and iconic household items that entice almost identical remarks from anyone who sees them, “My grandma owned one of those, too!” Mehmet Akyüz, market vendor since many years, has been selling at the Feriköy Sunday market for five years. His corner stand in the middle of the area (follow the lane that starts with the gözleme stand) is filled with old clocks, watches, and even antique guns. A closer look reveals most of his wares hail from Germany and the United States, and Mehmet is quick to tell a short story about every item we pick up. When it comes to banter, all flea markets around the world are probably the same, and even if it doesn’t end in a purchase, it is an amiable habit. Most vendors are happy to try their broken English on you, and in return they will patiently endure your attempts at haggling.
As the evening sun gilds even the most tattered kilim (traditional Turkish throw rug) with a soft orange hue, vendors are slowly packing up their merchandise. After you have exhausted yourself browsing phonographs and their more contemporary counterparts, and you have finally found (and maybe even purchased) a perfect set of six crystal wine goblets, it is time to return to the present age. Don’t worry, you can always come back to this kingdom of forgotten things.
200 vendors set up stalls at Feriköy Antiques Market every morning, some as early as 5am, to secure a wanted location. The market is open from 9am-7pm, every Sunday. And, watch our video roundup of the martket, here.