My wife, seated with a salesman in Kusadasi. He
served us tea and then proceeded with his sales pitch, Turkish hats,
Why has shopping become one of
the main reasons for travel?
Should it be ? I think not.
It’s a dilemma when you
travel. You must buy something for the new baby, for your neighbor
and, of course for yourself. Bargains abound but for this writer,
shopping in Europe or Asia is only a secondary necessity. Yes, it’s
nice to bring home a souvenir. I’ve been known to do that but…
When I travel abroad I travel
to learn about the culture. I’m a museum freak and can’t get enough
of the historical, geographical and archeological and architectural
sites. In Greece or Sicily or even in France I can visit excavations
of ancient cultures. It’s something I wish I had at home in Canada.
But my country is new by comparison to places like Turkey.
Can you believe this ?
Here’s my complaint. Maybe you
can tell me why I’m wrong, if you think I am.
I organize tours to historical
places I’ve seen, studied and lectured about. I’ve taken groups to
France, Italy, Spain, Austria, Hungary and the Czech Republic. We’ve
toured Indonesia, Thailand, China, Bali, Singapore and even Russia.
So why am I still disappointed when I discover that the main reason
my clients go to these places IS TO SHOP?
Years ago, shopping in Europe
and Asia meant bringing back hand made local souvenirs. All that is
changed now. You wouldn’t believe the number of world famous shop
names there is in the main center of Munich or Istanbul. Products
made in Asia find themselves in shops around the world.
Leather jackets in Turkey
Florence has a street market
where you can shop ‘til you drop. There are shopping centers on the
main highways in Italy and Germany. But while the foreign shopping
center builders have not caught up with the 40,000 shopping centers
there are in the USA, there are large conglomerates working hard to
capture the tourist yes, dollar, Euro or Lira. Big business is
beating me to the punch. My clients want to shop and see less ‘digs’
as they call it. What’s a man to do?
Recently I took a group of thirty adults
to Greece and Turkey. We sailed from Athens to Istanbul and arrived there
around 5 PM on Sat. eve. Most had signed up for a shore excursion to inner
Istanbul, that historical relic that once seated the Emperor of Rome and the
heads of the great Ottoman Empire. The city is one of my favorites and while
I hired a bus and guide for them, I tagged along for the ride. Istanbul is
massive. We headed to the Grand Bazaar around 5:30 and arrived there after
6PM battling traffic all the way. When we arrived at the Grand Bazaar my
clients had thoughts of scattering until they were told that the whole place
would shut down at 7PM. It was too much. They ran to find a leather jacket,
carpet, water pipe, and other Ottoman style items. They looked for deals on
Ralph Loren shirts and Anne Klein skirts. But 7 PM arrived too soon and they
found themselves back on the bus. Then they were hit by the bad news. The
Bazaar would be closed on Sunday.
We almost had a riot on our hands but
common sense did prevail and they all discovered that there was equally good
shopping in the other cities along the way.
The shopping in Kusadasi was fine if you
ignored the aggressive salesmen. They would accost us on the street trying
to get us to see their shops. They offered “Good deals, like Wal-Mart”. One
man asked if I wanted a carpet. When I said “No, thank you”, he retorted
with “Is that you’re final answer?”
But in the end the buying won out over
the historical interest. They would lose interest after thirty minutes, even
on the Acropolis in Athens.
Santorini is one of the most visual
islands in the world. Propped on the remains of a volcanic cliff, this white
city is filled with visual splendors. My clients saw very little. They were
busy buying every kind of international garment.
They poured onto the ship after three
hours of dizzying spending. They had collected paintings (machine
reproduced) fake watches like Tag or Rolex, meerschaum pipes, carvings
inlaid with mother of pearl, leather goods which were inexpensive and of
high quality and of course, items for the grandchildren.
How many T shirts can one kid wear?
Wherever we went, they sought out nooks
and cranny. They followed salesmen for blocks since he promised ‘a deal’.
They Returned to the ship to cries of “What’d you buy?” from other members
of the group.
We returned to Athens where bargains
might be available. There was always another watch to buy somewhere.
I think I’ll consider a change
in theme for next year’s tour of India. We’ll shop ‘til we drop. The
daily agenda will be Buffet breakfast followed by a photo op at a
place like the Taj Mahal, a stop for coffee and a lunch rest. They
people can sleep on the bus until we get to a shopping center. There
they can shop for a while, have dinner without dallying as the
stores might close early and Aunt Dora might not get that scarf or
silver ring. Besides, one can never have too many watches,
especially when the average price is 5 Euros. Who cares if Tommy
Hillfiger is spelled without an ‘f’ ?
No. It won’t let it happen. I am
fixed on changing values and won’t be deterred. Yes, I’ll leave
time for shopping but I personally believe that culture, history and
art have more to offer that a baseball cap from Jaipur or a T shirt
from Mumbai. How many pairs of slippers can one person wear?
While their wives shop…
Am I fighting an uphill battle that
is futile or should I stick to my values.
What do you think?
Write to me at Ultours@gmail.com.
You can Contact Professor Arnie Greenberg at:
Over the past few years, Professor
Greenberg has traveled with groups to France, Italy, Spain, Greece,
Budapest, Vienna, Salzburg, Prague and both Sorrento and the Bay of
Naples plus most of Sicily. His tours traveled to the far reaches of the
globe including Italy and most of
China (Beijing -Hong Kong) and to Russia where his group cruised the waters
from St.Petersburg to Moscow.
"He took a group to Greece and another to northern
Russia. In Nov 07 he took a tour group to much of India and ended his tour
groups by revisiting France. He now travels with his wife and friends. They
winter in Argentina or San Miguel Mexico. His newly found spare time
is taken up with his painting and writing. "I must write every day." His
current work is a cautionary manual for would-be tour leaders.. "So
You Want To Be A Tour Leader."
Arnie now travels with friends. He continues writing
Travel articles about unusual places but often concentrates on novel
writing. Two books based on French Art will be published this year.
Keep reading his web for travel ideas. His next
novel HELLSTORM'S Folly,
will be available this fall. He now
lives in British Columbia.
www.top-travel-ideas.com or contact him directly at
(More about the writer.)