There’s shopping. And then there’s shopping. And then there’s Ecseri and Petőfi and Keleti and the other flea markets in Budapest, each one better than the next.
Like people, each market has its mood and like people, each market has its good days and its bad days. Sometimes you’re both in sync and spending a couple of hours wandering the stalls is like being with someone whose company you really enjoy. Other days, you may as well be at each other’s throats! There are too many people, everyone’s in a bad mood, there’s nothing remotely interesting to see (no, that’s not true… there is always something interesting, it’s just a matter of having the patience to look for it).
My favourite is Ecseri. It’s a hike… about 30 mins from the flat via metro 3 to Ecseri ut and then bus 84E or 195E to the market. I’ve only recently discovered the fleamarket bit (like a carboot sale at home). People load up their cars and vans and trucks and then park them just beside the actual market. The only trouble is that you need to be there early as by 9am they’ve all pretty much sold out and gone back home. There are temporary stalls at the back and then the more solid ones in the middle which now have a roof so that you can wander out of the rain. You can buy everything from old-fashioned porn to gramaphones, from walking sticks to suites of furniture. It’s a great place to bring a camera for unlike many of the markets in BP, you can actually take photos without risking life and limb. PM got a classic of three violins next to a heap of vintage porn mags! Talk about crosscultural! And the food!!! There’s something magical about a coffee in the market in winter – huddling against the rain or cold trying to get some feeling back into your fingers – while around you, people go about their business, buying, selling, making the world go around!
I lucked out on Saturday and found a wonderful antique tablecloth for my art deco table. Unfortunately, I went to buy chairs and lights… but no joy. Ah well, there’s always next week! My favourite furniture shop there has now opened a shop in town and has gone upmarket! And lovely lads that they are, they’re on the lookout for some chairs for me. It becomes quite the challenge, shopping for stuff. You spread the word and then soon, everyone is on the lookout for what you want – like a community spend! The thrill is in finding exactly what someone wants. I’ve sent texts and had texts about something somewhere that would suit someplace… I’ve just seen X and it would be just perfect for Y…. love it!
For a Sunday morning stroll though, a little more central, is the great Petőfi Csarnok up in City Park. It’s smaller and hasn’t much in the line of furniture but you can still find textiles, statues, lamps, pictures, and washing powder! It sells all sorts! And the journey in itself is worth it. Metro 1 to Szechenyi (M1 is the oldest metro in continental Europe and still has the leather straps to hold on to!) and then a short walk through the park, past the palaces, and stopping to touch the statue of Anonymous for luck! In winter, you can help yourself to a glass of hot wine; in summer, a fruit lemonade. My favourite there is a man in his eighties who is selling off his own pen and ink etchings. For a song! I have two of his nudes on my bedroom wall and a monk librarian in my hallway. He’s a dote.
If you’re feeling particularly brave and ready to take on the world, then Keleti market (M2 or the No. 7 bus) is the place for you. The aisles are narrow and the crowd is large and everyone seems to have a little bit of an attitude going on. I have it on good authority that it has its good days…and I’ve not yet written it off. Mind you, the morning I was there it didn’t do anything to warm the cockles of my weary heart. But never say never. We all have our bad days, and it’s worth trying again. Likewise with the Four Tigers Chinese market. Not one to visit if you’re in any way claustrophic. It’s a maze of stalls, all selling the same tat. But the food… that’s supposed to be out of this world, if you can find it! I know people who go there for lunch! I’ve been there a couple of times and have to fess up to panicking slightly. Too much for me. I have visions of disappearing into the hold and not surfacing for months.
Nope, I think I’ll start setting the alarm a little earlier on Saturday mornings and heading to Ecseri… that’s where the action is!