Miss Footloose needs distraction, so let’s go shopping in Armenia, a small country hidden in the beautiful Caucasus Mountains. The capital of Yerevan boasts a fabulous flea market, classily named the Vernissage.
The Vernissage is truly a treasure trove of bits and pieces, a cornucopia of junk from times past and times present. It offers a profusion of thingamajigs and thingamabobs, from frightening ancient lab equipment to atrocious new artwork. And yes, lots of lovely things too — cheery carpets, pretty jewelry, fun arts and crafts, puppies with bows on their heads.
Salt ladies are, you guessed it, salt cellars. They come in different styles and artistic interpretations, small imitations or reproductions of very large ones Armenian woman used to have living in the corners of their kitchens. Much salt was (is) used to preserve vegetables for the winter time food stash. And no, you don’t need to close your salt containers in Armenia; the air is so dry, the salt never gets wet.
Russian tea glass holders, known as podstakanniki (podstakannik singular) are fun things to collect because you can actually use them. They are still seen today on some trains and in the odd restaurant in Yerevan.
Podstakanniki come in many types and designs, some are real works of art. The ordinary ones are nickel coated, the fancier ones silver plated, and some are made of silver all the way through to suit the tastes of the rich and famous in Russia, who then burn their fingers because silver is such a lovely heat conductor.
If you’re a serious collector, you’ll covet the ones that belong to series commemorating special events, or depicting famous people or architecture.
Needless to say, Miss Footloose only has the proletarian type in her collection as befitting her status in the world.
Also works of art are some of the handmade dolls on offer. Pieces of old rugs and carpets are used and no doll is exactly like any of the others. The photo below depicts another specimen, a hunky guy with a fur hat who now lives with Miss Footloose.
Miss Footloose fell in love and took him home
These dolls are highly collectible, as the phrase goes, and seen in groups they make quite a display hanging on a wall.
The Vernissage is a handyman’s delight. Tools, equipment, appliances from centuries past can be found, as well as every device, spare part or gizmo required to fix anything produced during the glory days of communism and beyond.
Since Armenia was once a Soviet republic, you’ll find Soviet memorabilia galore, such as these cheery telephones.
Vintage telephones from Soviet Armenia
Photo © Keegam Shamlian Thank you, Keegam!
If you suffer from cold ears in the winter, you might consider buying an ushanka, a traditional Russian fur cap with earflaps, especially well-known as worn by Soviet soldiers.
Tough guy wearing Russian soldier hat
The ushanka on the photo depicts the hat of a Soviet soldier. Looking carefully you’ll see that the badge on the front boasts the famous communist hammer-and-sickle symbol in the middle of the star. It must be noted that this particular hat is not made of fur or wool, but of polyester, lovingly crafted for the foreign tourist. (Possibly in China.)
Note also that our model here is not an actual Soviet soldier, but a little boy in pajamas, whose genes are a lively cocktail of American, Dutch and Italian. Since he has trouble sharing his toys with his sister we may safely assume he has no communist aspirations.
And so comes to an end a stroll through the Vernissage. It’s time for a cappuccino at the Marriott Hotel terrace overlooking Republic Square.
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What treasures, or fascinating items have you found in foreign flea markets? Or in any market? Or what interesting adventure did you have? Entertain me! (Please.)
Oh my! I love all the little trinkets you photographed. Did you buy anything?
In my case, I love finding old unique dishes and pottery in markets abroad.
To my great regret all the wonderful comments to this story went missing during my migration from Blogspot to WordPress. However, I do have a copy of my reply to your comments here, so will post that again. @ Mary Witzl: I love your hairdresser dummies story. Those are the fun things that give life color and interest. @ Sonia, I know, I know, about the STUFF I don’t have very much, unloading lots of everything when I make another move across oceans and continents. However, it is very easy to get more. Sometimes it just appears out of nowhere.… Read more »