Tuesday, April 04, 2006

flea markets

German flea markets are amazing. There is usually one each weekend in the good sized towns; even the smaller places host one every couple of weeks or so. Our favorite was the one in Frankfurt - a long, crowded affair that ran alongside the river for a mile or so.

Frankfurt has a strong Turkish population, and the warm, spiced smell of gyros always met us several blocks before we got there. Even quite early in the morning there was a long line waiting at the white kiosks. The most memorable vendor there was Turkish as well. He sold used clothing, but while most of the German-run stalls carefully hung their goods out in neatly ordered racks his were spread out in jumbled heaps on several large tables. He himself stood in the middle. Wearing the daintiest, fluffiest negligee he could find he would twirl and wave the nylon like a slow moving spanish dancer, waggling his hips and shouting 'alles schtuke eine mark!'

Driving and parking in Frankfurt is a nightmare, so we always used the u-bahn which meant that while I loved looking at the heavy carved furniture, we were limited to buying things we could comfortably carry with us. Kirk began a collection of Russian military watches. They had versions for each service, and we managed to find Navy, Air Force, Army, KGB... one had a tiny portrait of Yuri Gagarin on the strap. They were big, clunky things with colored dials that kept terrible time. I was fascinated with the winding mechanism that worked on a tiny ratchet and was probably the best-made part of the whole piece. Kirk wore the KGB one for years although it was utterly unreliable.

The Russian stuff wasn't found at the larger stands, but usually was spread out on white cloths on the ground. Within a few months of the border opening there began to be hundreds of beautiful Icons - often silver mounted. Exquisite things - amazing colors and painted with meticulous care so the surface was almost completely smooth - but terribly sad to see spread out and sold for a few mark. I never could bear to buy one although I would have loved to; these religious works of art that had been saved somehow through years of communism. Kirk loved to talk with the vendors, and they all said much the same thing - they had saved the icons when they needed them, but now they could go to church again if they liked they needed the money far more.

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