Considering Turkey as the vintage world’s best kept secret is probably one of the most unlikely claims ever made about the country.
Indeed, we’ve heard a lot of things related to Turkey in the news, but “Vintage” has certainly never been one of them. Though the country is brimming with history and is essentially the crossroads of civilizations, it is still an untapped resource for being the leading place to acquire vintage and antique items.
I can’t say that I was ever the average person traveling to Turkey for the first time. Before heading off to Turkey in the winter of 2018, a few of my friends and co-workers asked me if I was happy to escape the South Korean winter and travel to the deserts of Turkey to go camel riding. I’d even been asked if I was going to purchase a Burka and bring along a phrasebook for the Arabic language.
I didn’t find any of the questions too out of the ordinary, however, in fact, this was not my first rodeo dealing with this line of questioning. Instead, I treated the questions as “snapshots” of what little information people had about the country. And to no fault of their own, it wasn’t every day that my friends and co-workers met someone from Turkey, let alone needed to know anything about the place.
In undergrad, I majored in Linguistics, yet I had a deep interest in the Middle East and North African studies and Global Islamic politics. Much of what I knew about Turkey came from courses I studied during those years. I was both fascinated and enamored by the sheer complexity of the country.
What excited me most about traveling to Turkey, was my anticipation of being surrounded by Roman, Byzantine, and Ottoman architecture; hearing the diatonic scales of traditional Turkish music and getting a feel for the overall “tone” of the country, while discovering something I wouldn’t find in a textbook or tour guide.
And I did.
What I found was a society where tradition was so beautifully woven into a tapestry of Anatolian and Western aesthetic that still embodied the vintage style icons of the past.
Notably, the tiny town of Eskişehir and the Asian side of Istanbul are two places where vintage is widely celebrated and alive.
Head four hours slightly Southeast of Istanbul, and you’ll wind up in the tiny town of Eskişehir — home to Eskişehir Büyükşehir Belediyesi Masal Şatosu (or as I call it, “The Eski castle” lol, Lületaşı (meerschaum stone), and Kurtuluş (koor–too–loosh) (lol)— I’ll explain later. Just about all roads lead to Espark-the city’s main mall- and attempting to cross the street is just shy of a challenge from the TV show Fear Factor.
Eskişehir’s streets are spread with pockets of original Ottoman housing and a tiny Tartarian community with houses making their way to a wonderful park atop a hill overlooking the city’s beautiful landscape.
If you love taking in views of architecture from the past, this district will NOT disappoint. You will feel as though you’re walking in a part of the world where time stood still.
Popping up in neighborhoods spread across town is what Turks call “nostaljia” (nostalgia) cafes.
As this rather fitting name suggests, the cafes are stocked with items from yesteryear. My personal favorite is a Café called Gezgin Cafe. Veruna is a perfect blend of ambiance and memory lane. When you first walk in, you’re immediately hit with a sense of “coziness”.
You’ll find anything from vintage TVs to typewriters, and old bottle caps. Go upstairs, and you’re met with vintage and antique pictures of Turks lining the walls. I’m a HUGE fan of observing how other cultures preserve or honor their past, so I found this section of the café particularly beautiful.
Once you reach the top of the stairs there are books lining every stretch of wall. And let me tell you, it’s a pretty big wall! If you don’t speak Turkish, that’s okay, I think I spotted at least a few books in English. On the other hand, if you’re like me and you’re studying Turkish, well, it’s a fantastic place to pick up a book and test how much you can understand.
Another great nostalgia café is Kirathaane. This café holds a special place in my heart because it carries a more intimate vibe. On some nights you can enjoy listening to a tiny blues band perform while sitting next to a radiator from the 40s. On a winter’s night, it’s the perfect feeling of warmth.
Enjoy something to eat and you’ll find that the owner of the café has named some items on the menu from characters in novels. If you decide you want to try the café’s breakfast after you finish you’re allowed to venture upstairs and choose two books to keep for FREE from their upstairs library!
If you love thrifting as much as I do, and want to score something you wouldn’t be able to find in your own local thrift, I suggest checking out the following places, all of which have an online presence, as well:
- Seyhane (Eskişehir)
2. Vintage RetroBohem store (Eskişehir, Izmir, Bursa, Ankara, Istanbul)
3. Vintage Istanbul (Istanbul)
4. Bee vintages (Istanbul)
5. NebulaVintageshop (location unknown)
Eskisehir is a far cry from Istanbul, yet it still captures all the history and mystique of Turkey in a more condensed fashion.
Istanbul—the Asian side
It’s a shame, really, that I wasn’t privy to what lay ahead or else I would have taken pictures galore!
If you’re unfamiliar with Istanbul, it is essentially divided into two parts: The European side, and the Asian side. The reasons for these titles are pretty self-explanatory geographically speaking—one opens up to Europe, while the other side is a gateway to Asia.
In the district of Kadıköy are hip nostalgia cafes, thrift and consignment stores at every turn and an artistic community bridging the older and younger generations together.
Although I adore the quaint shops of Eskişehir, nothing brings out my inner explorer, then finding AWESOME vintage shops found in just about every nook and cranny of Istanbul’s beloved alleyways.
The best part about it? SUPER affordable. Of course, you have your more high-end “specialty” vintage shops, but there aren’t many of those. Most of the items I bought were priced anywhere from $2-$30.00. I wish my suitcase were bigger because I would have returned to the states with an entirely new wardrobe.
Turkey is my second home now, (my husband is from Turkey, that’s us pictured below), and there is nothing I love more than to share all the hidden gems this country has nestled inside. Although I didn’t do any camel riding or trek through the desert, I stumbled upon a menagerie of vintage finds that spoke to my old soul.
If you ever get a chance to visit Turkey someday and enjoy vintage and antiques I assure you, you won’t be disappointed by what you find.
Oh, before I go, I mentioned above about a place called Kurtuluş. It’s not a vintage place, but it’s the best candy store I’ve EVER been to, and if you’ve got a sweet tooth, love Turkish delights, and find yourself in Turkey, then treat yourself to a trip over to Eskişehir and thank me later;)
What’s been your most pleasant and unlikely find while traveling? Comment below or in the Facebook group. I’d love to read what you have to share.