Weekend activity: Flea markets

I have the fondest memories of flea markets. When I was about 7 years old, my family lived in this very small building in the middle of our village’s market area. Every Thursday and Sunday  morning, I will do the rounds of inspecting all the different products they are selling, from the colorful toys to the fresh fishes. Vendors from different parts of our 6-town province come to the flea market every Thursday to sell their wares. It was always a joy to see different products every week and interact with different people. Our village is so small that it must only have a thousand residents and seeing the faces of these strangers is already a huge joy to a 7-year old like myself. In addition to the things that they are carrying whenever they do their weekly visits. Back then our family also has a little soy sauce and vinegar business and we also hawk them in the flea market. But the most enjoyable for me was when the market closes, I’d once again walk around the area, this time inspecting the ground for loose coins and sometimes bills. You can’t imagine how many loose coins are there when all the tables and stalls had been dismantled. Me and my friends would have a great time scouting the grounds for them.

But one point, I had to leave our little village and move to the big city for study and work. That was also the time I stopped going to the flea market.

Holland brought back my love for flea markets. Unlike in my country where flea markets are often (but not all) dirty and much chaotic, going to a flea market here is such a breeze. Everything is organized (as the rest of the country) and you hardly find litter around the market area. Not sure though, afterwards.

The photo doesn’t do justice to flowers in flea markets but this is what I have right now. Taken in the Tuesday market in Goes, Zeeland

There are three stalls that I always visit whenever I go to flea markets, antique stalls, flower stores and fish stalls. Living in this country gives you access to different types of beautiful flowers and there is no place to get them cheaper but in flea markets. Sometimes it even becomes difficult to choose among those array of colours.

If you are a regular of flea markets, big chance is that you will make acquaintances with the vendors which may lead to discounts in the future.

Just this morning, when I bought my “bos” of red lilies from the Saturday flea market in Rotterdam the flower man  said  a lot of people are telling him his flowers are very cheap.

“I tell them I stole it so don’t tell anyone,” he joked while handing us the flowers. Such a funny old man. I think I will go back to his stall again.

Any person living here knows, the price of fish is very high in the Netherlands. People here generally eat pork and chicken for everyday meals and fish is saved for the more special dinners. Being a tropical girl and having lived half my life in an island, I am used to eating meat daily. Back then I remember feeling very poor because my family eats fish everyday while my better well-off friends can afford pork. It’s the reverse in my country, the price of meat is much higher than the price of fish so fish was abundant in our dinner table.

After two years of living in Holland and despite the high price, I still can’t survive a full week without eating fish. It’s healthy, delicious and doesn’t take a long time to cook. Unlike the Dutch, I prefer my fish whole, not those fillet ones that you can buy from their supermarkets. It is sometimes difficult or almost impossible to buy fish from supermarkets like Albert Heijn, Lidl or C1000. Since a year ago, I get my fish only from Sligro and now from the flea market. They are fresher and so tempting. Today I stacked up on seafoods and bought Dorado, Tilapia, Snapper, inkvis and tiger prawns only to find out, when I got home, that our freezer is broken.

Admiring the jewelry at a flea market in Brugge, Belgium

But antique stalls are my favorite. I always make sure to stop by one whenever I am travelling abroad. I can spend half a day looking through old clocks, jewelry, books, tiny dolls, old spoons with intricate designs, beautiful wine glasses. Oh all the things that you can find in an antique stall. But honestly, I’ve never really bought one from them, except a small jewelry box not from a flea market but a antique store. But just looking at those old things, treasured by other people from long time ago, is an experience in itself. It tells a lot of stories. Perhaps like how a young poor gentleman wooed the rich lady with an exquisite pearl necklace that he had saved up for a long time or the love of the memories of a widow for her husband engraved in a golden locket where his picture lies. All those I see and imagine whenever I am passing by antique stalls.

Cheeses from a market in Gouda, Netherlands

I can spend a whole Saturday on a flea market just looking at everything to see and eating here and there those snacks that you can buy so cheaply there. If you are home bound and feel the need to explore on weekends, try visiting the flea markets in and around your city. It’s a whole different place out there