By Samuel Strait, Reporter at Large

When traveling as I have in the past twenty some odd years, one of the
true pleasures in life was at each new location a visit to the Markets,
Flea Markets, and Farmer’s Markets  that were invariable on the “to do”
list.  It generally tends to be a great learning experience where ever
the market is likely to be.  Not only do you learn about the Country you
are visiting, but the people as well.  Market people are a garrulous lot
and will talk to just about anyone in search of a sale.  Often as you
bargain over a particular treasure you will attract the attention of
other attendees, who will root you on while trying your best to get
“the” bargain of the day.  But, Markets are more than a place where
people come together to buy or swap things, they can also be a place to
try new food, purchase that on the go lunch or dinner, watch some
entertainment, and of course buy that long searched for object you’ve
been looking for to complete your collection.

From the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul where acres of small booths are
jammed together, to the narrow passageways of Jemaa el-Fnaa in
Marrakech, souks as they are called across North Africa, are where you
can experience the frenzy of the market.  Khan al-Kalili is yet another
treasure in Cairo Egypt, the home of the pyramids. Bones engraved with
Arabic, tagines manufactured nearby, leather work and jewelry can be
found at almost every turn.  But before you sit down to bargain, the
shop keeper will be obligated to offer mint tea in preparation for the
arduous bargaining ahead. Polite conversation, might find you learning
that the shop keeper spent twenty five years in Houston, Texas only to
return to take up the reins of a business which had been in the family
for generations.  A member of your audience turns out is from Texas and
invites you to lunch to discuss your bargaining prowess. Lunch is a
treat obtained in the market, while watching the entertainment in the
main square.  It is an experience not to be missed.

In other parts of the world, major cities can have as many as a dozen or
more markets, some for specific items for sale or trade, the book market
along the Seine in Paris or its cousin the art fair above Montmartre.  A
coin and stamp  market in  small square in Vienna.   The largest in
Europe, U Elektry is a riotous affair in Prague covering over 5,000
square meters where you can find just about anything.   Maybe some of
the smaller friendlier markets of Seville, Granada, and Cordoba in Spain
are just your speed.  In each case the experience is a must, especially
after that fourteenth museum.  Nothing like a relaxing stroll through a
market, or that adrenaline rush of competition when bargaining for that
must have item.

Our own local Farmers Market might seem tame by comparison, yet it
offers much of what can be found else where, a good time, something to
eat perhaps, a collection of fresh produce, and that bit of jewelry for
your daughter’s birthday.  A productive day all around and you didn’t
have to go to the ends of the earth.  Save that experience for when you do.

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