Not the crashing stock markets. The ones where you go to to actually shop. Although some small European markets do rise out of the ground once a week only to crash at sundown like a Cinderella. A prominent feature of life in a small European country is visiting the markets. Its my weekly ritual, and I try to visit markets everywhere I go. The markets in general and those in a small European country in particular, provide an excellent insight into the local specialities and offer you an opportunity to feel the vibe of the place.
No two markets are the same. For example, do people haggle? Is is a mixed food-non food market? Are there many souvenir shops? If so, it might be a tourist trap instead of a genuine local experience. But even souvenir markets are a proxy of the national spirit, as the trashy junk on sale is nevertheless a distant descendant of the traditional fares and dresses.
Markets are a crowded and sometimes smelly place. Some are mercifully arranged in sectors, separating the meat and fish sections from the less confronting fares. Fortunately, European markets are less confronting than, say, Peruvian ones, where guinea pigs are sitting in their cages waiting for slaughter next to the live poultry, rabbits and between the small sandwich-and-soup shops.
While slightly less exotic, the markets in Europe are still a hub of sights, sounds and smells. In Holland, of course, the cheese and herring stalls are widely available, both adding to the aroma’s, especially on hot summer days. Markets in Ukraine have a wide selection of home-made pickles, and in the South of Europe you can sense the spices stalls from a far.
The central attraction of European markets are no doubt the people. The shouting salesmen of wondermops, rugged potato farmers, bakers and fish cleaners blend together with the flow of customers of all colours, ages and sizes into the market experience you shouldn’t miss. Just remember to watch your pockets.