EXPAT LIFE: TO MARKET, TO MARKET

by missfootloose on October 31, 2009 · 16 comments

in Armenia, expat, Expat life, life abroad, shopping

Many expats and travelers enjoy wandering around in foreign markets to give them a feel for the culture of the country and discover treasures to buy. I trust you’ve taken careful notes and remember my post here of some months ago about my shopping excursion in the sprawling Makola Market in Accra, Ghana, West Africa and you’ll remember all the wondrous things that can be procured in its many maloderous alleys (thunderstones, dried shrimp, fabric, beads, deep-fried turkey tails, etc.).

This time I want to take you along on a trip to the Vernissage, a fabulous flea market in Yerevan, the capital of Armenia, a small country in the Caucasus Mountains. It is a market of a totally different character, which is not surprising as it is located on a different continent and has a different cultural flavor. I must apologize for not having an amusing or scary story to offer along the way, but perhaps the photos will make up for it.

The Vernissage is much more than an ordinary flea market. You can find new things and old things both, junk and real art, fakes and antiques and treasures of all kinds. Among the old items you’ll find out-of-date electronics; spare parts from or for equipment or instruments your great-grandfather might have used; sepia photographs of ancient ancestors dead and forgotten; archaic medical and dental instruments resembling dangerous torture devices; vintage Soviet coins and memorabilia; and leftover lab chemicals as you can see on the photo below.

Leftover lab chemicals.
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New merchandise include arts and craft items, souvenirs, socks and sweaters, puppies with bows on their heads, glasses and dishes. The ones below are all blue because, you guessed it, they’re underneath a blue umbrella.

Delicate teacups, gold-decorated teapots, fancy glassware.

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Little old ladies wander around in slippers selling pastries or beautifully crocheted thingies your great-grandmother used to put over the back and arms of chairs. Sadly we have no use for those in our contemporary houses.

And here are some more finds:

Hairdryers, mixers and thingamabobs.

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And something underfoot:

Carpets. Old ones, new ones, good ones, not so good ones.

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And for the mechanically inclined this artsy collection:

Ball bearings

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Need some art for your walls or shelves?

Paintings, carvings, sculptures, lots of stuff.

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And let’s not forget the jewelry! So many stalls! So many lovely, odd and artsy adornments! I developed an addiction for the colorful pendants made of natural stone and set in silver. I could never walk past the many displays without admiring Mother Nature’s designs. Here’s what I ended up with:

Pendants and more pendants.

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And of course who can walk past these handbags and not buy one? Or two or three . . . They’re handmade using pieces of old carpeting (or maybe new at times as well). This is my collection. I must admit, I seldom use them, but they look nice as a wall decoration in the hallway!

Carpet handbags

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This is, of course, only a small sampling of the marvels of the Vernissage. I have more to show you so we’ll do another trip another time.

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So where else in the world have you found a great market? And what types of merchandise was/is for sale there? Something gorgeous or fun or weird or scary? What is the most unusual item you’ve ever bought in a market? Or has something interesting happened to you in a market? Make my day and tell me!

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{ 14 comments… read them below or add one }

Mara October 31, 2009 at 7:50 am

I’ve only been to quite ordinary markets in Italy and Britain. However, when I went to the market in Vittoria (Sicily, Italy), we also had to get back to the holiday compound we worked in. So, we (and about one hundred little old Italian ‘nonnas’ were waiting for the bus to take us in that direction. When the coach arrived I was swept along by all the little old grandmothers and pushed on to the bus. Fortunately so was my friend. I have never seen anything like it before or after. Those one hundred grannies fighting over fifty seats and pushing and shoving each other out of the way.
Who says grannies are little sweet old ladies?

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Typ0 October 31, 2009 at 10:11 am

I love visiting local markets. Whether it’s INA in Delhi for fresh fruits and veggies or the Masaii Markets in Nairobi. A huge part of the fun is the haggling. One of these days i should blog about the evolution of my haggling style.

Thanks for the idea!! πŸ™‚

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Elizabeth Bradley October 31, 2009 at 8:17 pm

You took some fine shops and love the rugs, jewelry, and handbags!

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Scintilla November 1, 2009 at 8:25 am

This is fantastic! How I’d love to visit a market like this.
Believe it or not, I’d buy the mechanical thingamabobs and maybe the blue covers over the stalls!

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Marja November 1, 2009 at 8:12 pm

Oh what a gorgeous market I love the art and the carvings and the carpets The carpets make me think of the big carpet shops in the bazaar in Marocco I love markets and the huzzle and buzzle of it Here we only had one every week. Now smaller ones are starting up.
In holland we lived in the centre and had a market on our doorstep every thursday morning. I can still hear the sounds of it form building the market and the men selling their stuff loudly
Heel veel groetjes, marja

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Fi November 2, 2009 at 7:39 pm

The thingies you refer to are, I think called anti-mocassas (or something that sounds like that, but the blue cups and saucers are Russian, not Chinese…Fx

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The Stewart Report November 2, 2009 at 9:45 pm

I was in the market in Kara, Togo one day looking at pagnes. While haggling the price a gecko fell out of the stall roof and down the front of my dress. The market mama’s had so much fun laughing at me jumping up and down and screaming that they threw in a free pagne. I still have that pagne too πŸ™‚ It’s one of many hilarious market stories.

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Miss Footloose November 2, 2009 at 10:54 pm

@ Mara, oh, I wish I had a video or a picture of all those little nonnas (or nonne to be Italian-correct). Sweet old ladies? They rule the family, I’m sure!

@ Mitr Friend. Indian markets must be great too, right?

@ CairoTypO. I’m terrible at haggling! Write that post and teach me how!

@ Elizabeth Bradley. Me and PhotoShop πŸ˜‰

@ Scintilla, yes those umbrellas do add some color! And that market is full of “thingamabobs” that a creative soul could do something interesting with.

@ Marja, I’ve never been to Morocco, but the markets or souks there are famous. I know the Dutch markets you mention. The vendors call out to advertise their wares sometimes, and joke with the shoppers.

@ Fi, Oops! I fixed my error. The blue cups and saucers are from Russia, folks, not China.

@ The Stewart Report, oh, your story is hilarious! Wish I had seen it. I can just imagine those market mammies laughing! You must have been shrieking! (And a pagne is the French word for a length of cloth, as sold in West Africa, for those of you who are wondering.)

Thanks for all your comments!

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GutsyWriter November 3, 2009 at 4:49 am

I usually go to markets in France for their wonderful display of foods. I love the smell of cheeses and fresh fruits, especially melons and peaches. Here in California, I miss the aromas from France.
I’m not a junk collector and have tried to simplify. Less is more, as they say in writing.

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Jungle Mom November 5, 2009 at 8:30 pm

What beautiful photos. I want a carpet and purse!

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marigirl November 7, 2009 at 3:46 pm

yay! great post!!! I got to markets around Japan often for my job (stocking our little non-profit shop). I’d love to visit your markets some day! πŸ™‚

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Miss Footloose November 11, 2009 at 2:34 pm

@ GutsyWriter, yes, the markets in France are wonderful! And as far as junk collecting goes, you are right, less is more and I’ve been on a tour of getting rid of things and traveling light. Still, there are those things you end up with and can’t quite get rid of. I should go on eBay!

@ Jungle Mom, I had fun taking the photos and as you can tell the bags were tempting to me. My daughters didn’t want them though! That’s part of why I ended up with so many!

@ Marigirl, are there “flea markets” in Japan? Somehow that doesn’t seem very Japanese πŸ˜‰ What kind of things do they sell?

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La Belette Rouge November 11, 2009 at 4:11 pm

I can say without a doubt I have never been to a market that sells left over lab chemicals. A bit terrifying. No? The rugs and the pendents and even the ball bearings are beautifully displayed.Thanks for taking us to market with you!

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Postcards from Wildwood November 13, 2009 at 7:28 pm

Hi, I’ve come from BLOGitse’s site so officially we are now on a ‘date’ set up by her! I haven’t anywhere near as much travel experience as you and I’ve never lived out of England, but I’ve been to markets in Bali (I may possibly have been the ample-breasted British woman you refer to in the post above), Moscow, Singapore, and all over Europe. I enjoy buying something ‘typical’, usually handmade, and particularly enjoy collecting Christmas tree decorations this way. But haggling is a problem for us Brits!
Janice.

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