Edirne's population during the weekends is estimated to increase by about 10,000 people. Thousands of Greeks and Bulgarians head on shopping trips to this border town in northwestern Turkey to benefit from competitive prices and high-quality products.
Greek and Bulgarian tourists, as well as local visitors from surrounding cities, generate great mobility in the city on the weekends, when busy crowds can be spotted on the traffic-free Saraçlar Street.
Almost all of the shoppers flock to their favorite, weekly Ulus Pazarı, a local marketplace where one can find a wide variety of goods on Fridays.
Greek and Bulgarian tourists, coming to the city one day in advance to shop, enter from the Kapıkule and Pazarkule border gates and spend the night in hotels. They come to Edirne individually or with tours, shop in markets and shopping centers and make a serious contribution to the city's economy.
One of the major reasons behind this wave of visitors is the volatility in the exchange rate that led to the Turkish lira to decrease sharply, making Turkish products much more affordable for tourists.
This increases the population of the city by about 10,000 people during the weekends, Edirne Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ETSO) Chairman Recep Zıpkınkurt said.
"For this reason, Edirne's tradesmen, merchants and locals are very pleased that these people come here and shop," Zıpkınkurt told Demirören News Agency (DHA). "As the Edirne Chamber of Commerce and Industry, we offer Greek and Bulgarian language courses to our tradesmen. All our tradesmen can speak Greek and Bulgarian with tourists."
In Edirne, tradesmen have begun to translate their websites into Bulgarian. Customers can access the websites of the companies and check out prices before leaving their country. Those who want to reach more customers share their campaigns and promotions with Bulgarian and Greek brochures through social media.
Zıpkınkurt further noted that hotels in Edirne are booked months in advance due to high occupancy on the weekends. He explained that most tourists come from Bulgaria and Greece for shopping and usually stay in the city on Fridays and Saturdays.
"Our hotels are full on weekends. You need to book months in advance to find a place," he continued. "Local tourists come to the Friday market for shopping and sightseeing as well. Therefore, the service sector, and the food and beverage sector has developed in Edirne in recent years."
Kemal Kılıç, a restaurant and hotel operator in the city, said Edirne is frequented by visitors from Greece and Bulgaria.
"We have a big market here, and Edirne is an attraction center due to the difference in exchange rates," Kılıç said. "Tourists come and purchase everything from needles to thread, making a serious contribution to the Turkish economy."
Bülent Reisoğlu, the chairman of Ulus Market where 380 tradesmen make sales every week on Friday in Edirne, said that nearly 10,000 Greek-Bulgarian tourists come to the Ulus Market every weekend for shopping.
He added that they stay in Edirne on Friday and Saturday and go back to their countries after shopping.
"Tourists buy everything you can think of here. They come and shop here because their money is valuable, and these products are of better quality than their own countries," he noted.
Gülçe Sunay, who came to Edirne from Plovdiv, located 200 kilometers from Edirne, with her family for shopping, pointed to the reasonable prices and good quality products in the city.
Meanwhile, Bulgarian tourist Alexander drew attention with his Turkish flag T-shirt while shopping at Ulus Market.
"My ancestors lived in Turkey, and I love Turkey. That is why I wear this shirt. I have been shopping in Edirne for a long time," he said.
Greek and Bulgarian tourists mostly buy detergent, toilet paper and diapers. Pastry, baklava, cheese and olives, on the other hand, are the most popular foodstuffs they prefer.