A Genuine Fake Watch: Kusadasi, Turkey… Armchair Travel

Fake has taken on an interesting connotation today that has little to do with its original meaning. When Peggy and I visited Turkey in 2013 it was a different era, however. We were amused when a store was offering genuine fake watches at a price that matched. I almost bought one because of the honesty, which I’m sure was the idea. On Wednesday, we visited the impressive ruins of Ephesus. Today I will take you to Kusadasi, the land of expensive rugs and real fakes as I continue to dig into my archived blogs for armchair travel in the time of Covid-19.

Dozens of Turkish rugs were scattered on the floor in Kusadasi, Turkey, thrown out in a frenzy of encouraging us to buy.
Dozens of Turkish rugs were scattered on the floor in Kusadasi, Turkey, thrown out in a frenzy of encouraging us to buy.

The rugs were flying, quite literally, and landing on the floor in front of us. Twenty minutes earlier they had been neatly rolled up at the back of the room. Now five Turkish rug salesmen were expertly flipping them out onto the floor, a new one every ten seconds. We had been wined; we had been dined; we had been educated. Now the final push was on, the push to get us alone in a room where more multi-thousand dollar rugs would be thrown at us in hopes we would eagerly pull out our credit card with the highest limit.

Part of the show was an interesting demonstration on how carpets are made. Hundreds of hours are involved.
Part of the show was an interesting demonstration in the craft of carpet weaving. Fine rugs can take over a year to complete.

Peggy was ready. The falling rugs had hypnotized her. Her eyes were glazing over and she was levitating out of her seat as a handsome dark-eyed Turk wooed her with fine words. The last time I had seen that look we had ended up with a timeshare in Mexico. This time I was fortified, however. When the salesmen was passing out drinks to soften us up, I was one of two from our tour group of 30 who ordered arak or raki, the unsweetened Middle-Eastern anise drink with the smell of turpentine and the kick of a mule.

I admit the rugs were beautiful works of art, but I was arak strong. Our cabin in the woods of Southern Oregon did not need a Turkish carpet. “I’m sorry,” Peggy explained to her new best friend. “My husband doesn’t want a rug.” I was truly the bad guy in this scenario and the salesman gave me the look to prove it before he sidled off to corner another victim… oops, I mean client.

Buying a rug in Kusadasi is reputedly the quintessential Turkish experience and a whole industry is set up to make sure you do. The cruise industry is a major partner in this endeavor. Lectures on bargaining and quality are given on board the ship before arrival. Lists are provided of safe, preferred shops (i.e. those that share their profit with the ship). Our tour guide hurried us through ancient Ephesus sergeant-like to make sure we would make it to the shop on time. Tours are tightly scheduled. Each tourist needs the opportunity to buy a carpet.  Everyone profits. For the cruise ship this can mean a 50-60 percent kickback.

I hurried Peggy out with the promise of lunch and the opportunity to buy presents for the grandkids. Her brother John and his wife Frances stayed to buy a carpet, however, and ended up with two. Later we celebrated with them in their rambling Texas home as they rolled their children’s inheritance out on the floor.

Dozens of small shops were located in a modern Turkey bazaar near the port. It was touristy but fun. Since we were one of the last ships of the season, we found true bargains.
Dozens of small shops were located in a modern Turkish bazaar near the port. It was touristy but fun. Since we were one of the last ships of the season, Peggy found numerous bargains to make up for carpet we didn’t buy.
I was amused by this shop that offered genuinely fake watches... truth in advertising.
Truth in advertising. (grin)
As we wandered through the shops of Kusadasi I was attracted by the rich colors.
As we wandered through the shops of Kusadasi, I was attracted by the wealth of colors.
This plate was another example of the rich colors found in the shops of Kusadasi.
This plate closeup is another example of the rich colors, intricate patterns, and fine craftsmanship found in the shops of Kusadasi.
Francis unrolls John and her new silk carpet in their Texas home.
Frances eagerly unrolls John’s and her new silk carpet in their Texas home.
A closer look at the carpet. It really is beautiful and John assured me they bargained for a good price.
A closer look at the family heirloom. It really is beautiful and John assures me they bargained for a good price.

MONDAY’S POST: We are off to Venice where we walk on water.

28 thoughts on “A Genuine Fake Watch: Kusadasi, Turkey… Armchair Travel

  1. The year we visited, I too noticed the “genuine fake watches” and mentioned them in our annual holiday letter which strives for humor.
    But I was not as strong as you Curt. By some amazing coincidence, I just – I mean moments ago – paused a recording of a PBS program “Civilization” which was talking about Persian rugs to go look at the one Alie bought.

    • Apparently, Ray, fake watches are as much a part of the Turkey market scene as selling rugs. Sounds like the timing of my post fit right in with your admiring of the rug that Alie bought. 🙂 Maybe you didn’t drink enough raki! –Curt

  2. Oh the raki and the “buying” experience. Love both those – so different than ordering on-line or even stores here. The rugs really do seem to fly as they are flipped. The skill of the shop owners, this close observers of human nature.
    Sounds like a wonderful trip – oh to travel widely again.
    Beautiful rug – great choice!

    • Thanks, Phil. For a brief time, it seems as if the air was filled with flying rugs. Aladdin would have been right at home! 🙂 It was almost like performance art, and in a way, I guess it was. Yes, travel is missed. It will be interesting to see how it changes once we get beyond the pandemic. Thanks for checking in. —Curt

  3. I’m not sure that I could have resisted the purchase of those beautiful rugs. Although my house is the size of a little cabin, so…….that would have been a problem!

  4. Curt for a moment I thought you had been sitting on our shoulder during our own visit to Turkey. We as well saw Genuine fake watches and were treated to raki and rug throwing. the difference is we had two rugs mailed home to Canada. One which currently sits under my feet as I type this almost decade later.

  5. The royal blue in the rug, along with some brown is very rich looking – besides the obvious beauty of it all. You may be awed by the colors, Curt, but I prefer that green lamp. The other is too busy for me.

  6. The rugs are beautiful, aren’t they! We bought a number of them when we were living in Qatar and a couple when we visited Turkey. Fortunately, we had lots of experience in bargaining before we ever set foot in a rug souk.

  7. The only rugs I’ve every purchased came from Paint Rock, Texas, where an enterprising Danish fellow engaged some Native American weavers and started producing rugs from llama, bison, and assorted other critters’ fur. My first purchase was a wall hanging. Then, a few years later, I bought a rug. The traditional design is quite different from those shown here (to say the least!) but I’ve always thought a rug makes a great souvenir. I do have mine in a spot where it’s not walked on regularly, but I can see it and enjoy it.

    The genuine fakes are funny. I’ve come across some in my time. Some had two hands, and some had two legs…!

    • Admittedly, Linda, they are like any other art form. A lot depends on your taste. I’d be much more likely to buy a Navajo rug than a Turkish rug given my love of the Southwest.
      Laughing, there are no lack of fakes out there…

  8. What surprises me most about this post is that you and Peggy took a cruise! You don’t seem at all cruise type people. OTOH the times we’ve taken a cruise we loved it – 3-night Nile cruise, and 8 day Galapagos.

    • I couldn’t resist Alison. It was a repositioning cruise and included several places I had never been (plus several I had). Gradually, I have become more accepting of the cruise world. If it doesn’t survive this pandemic, it won’t necessarily be a bad thing, however. –Curt

  9. Rug wise, we had a very similar experience in Morocco. Same flying rugs, same busload of tourists, same song and dance, same not mentioned but fairly obvious kickbacks. The difference was we were in the market for a rug. I wrote a post about the haggle a few years back, if you’re interested.

    • I had the experience of bargaining frequently when I lived in Africa, Dave. The walking out ploy that you used almost always gets the price reduced. I use the same ploy when I am buying a car. Works here, too. 🙂 –Curt

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