Hey there! Happy New Year!! I really can not believe that 2012 is already here. Where does the time go? Oh 24 hours in a day is just not enough, you know?
For today's (or, rather, this year's first) post I thought I'd share a little excerpt from my new novel, Bumped to Berlin. It's from an early chapter in which I chat about the outdoor markets in Berlin-- namely the Tuerkenmarkt. It's just a little taste, but I hope you enjoy. And for those who have already so kindly picked up the book and read this part, sorry for the repeat. But super big thank you for grabbing a copy of my book!!
Excerpt from Bumped to Berlin by Savannah Page:
Weather alert! The sun is shining, we’re not bundled in jackets, and our refrigerators are empty. This can only mean one thing: outdoor market time!
Come rain or shine, but usually more often when the sun is shining, the birds are tweeting, and you’re sporting just one layer of clothing, it’s time to rush to the outdoor markets! During the warmer months I will do nearly half of my shopping at one of the many outdoor markets. When it’s a bit chillier it can be a hit or miss, depending on how often I feel the need to strike up a bargain to save a literal handful of cash each week. The outdoor markets are a great place to purchase cheaper, fresher, and often local food.
Need some fresh produce? Maybe some fish, some beef, some poultry? How about stinky cheeses, fresh eggs, Bio (organic) breads, homemade pastas? If the weather is grand, if you’re in need of groceries, and if it’s Tuesday or Friday, then there’s just one place for you to be: Berlin’s Türkenmarkt.
The Türkenmarkt, or Turkish Market, is a medley of carts and make-shift store fronts that line, three long aisles thick, the Maybachufer canal in Kreuzberg (what I like to call “Little Turkey”). I discovered this diamond in the rough rather late in my arrival to Berlin. It happened about a year after we had settled in to town, at which time I was enrolled in an eight week long intensive language refresher course. My class was located in Kreuzberg, a new area of town for me to venture off to, and most of the students were from around the area. They were all well in-the-know about the shenanigans of Tuesday and Friday afternoons on the canal. So per their recommendation, one day I decided to sip the Turkish waters. Once I got a taste for the market there was no going back. I had found multikulti- and bargain-central!
The Türkenmarkt is a fabulous mish-mash of German and Turkish culture (very “multikulti” as the Krauts say) and a conglomerate of peoples that come together to buy and sell anything from Arab flat bread and honey-coated, fried dough twists, to boxes of Mangos, shiny fabrics, and oversized granny panties. It’s a market filled with the most diverse collection of salable items and I absolutely love it! It’s like Super Target meets the Orange County Swap Meet, but junked up on steroids; with Turkish and German traders shouting, “Lecker-Lecker-Lecker-Lecker!” repeatedly and ever so loudly, announcing how tasty their clementines or apples are.
You can find almost anything on your fresh food section of your grocery list at the Türkenmarkt, as well as your knick-knack section, to boot! In one shopping trip down the Maybachufer I’ve loaded my shopping bags with fresh fruit and vegetables, bread, spices, potpourri, shoe laces, vintage ribbon, antiqued buttons, and a turquoise and silver ring I just couldn’t pass up. Hey, who said it was wrong to pick up a new scarf or necklace when doing your fresh fruit shopping?
I think my favorite part of the Türkenmarkt, tied closely with the intense multikulti feel you get as Krauts and tourists get lost in a sea of turbans and head wraps, are the bargains. If you’re looking for the best price in town for your fresh produce then the Türkenmarkt is your place. I have never found another grocery store, or even outdoor market, that can meet or come close to their prices. I’ve walked away from the Türkenmarkt one Friday, close to the last few hours the market was open, with bargains that would make a gung-ho Wal-Mart shopper back in the States drool over.
The downside in all of this is figuring out how to carry everything back home, of course. I always come well-supplied with many recyclable cloth bags, but I choose to leave Sally II at home. Regardless of how much I plan to purchase. Sally II stays at home for two very good reasons. One, if I don’t have her along with me for the ride then I am essentially limited in how much I can buy. Although Lord knows I try to stretch my arms farther than they can go so as to tote home kilos of oranges, apples and strawberries that I’ll never be able to eat fast enough. And two, the Türkenmarkt just doesn’t have room for another stinking trolley! If you want to see trolley convention then go to the Türkenmarkt, my friends. You’ll see more Omas and trolley-toting Fraus than you could imagine. One more would just hold me up as I try to buzz through the crowds, up and down the rows, frantically taking mental notes of the best prices.
But trolley or no trolley, I always come home well-stocked on loads of fresh produce, and occasionally a new fashionable item to add to my wardrobe. Some such bargains I’ve negotiated at this fabulous market include four kilos of strawberries for less than two euro, a box of a dozen mango for a single euro, delicious Arab flat bread that I use to satisfy my quesadilla cravings for just seventy cents a pack, two kilos of mushrooms for a euro, and may I not forget the kilo and a half of white asparagus for just one euro! The same asparagus that was selling for 6,90 euro per kilo at all of the grocery stores! That’s right, the Türkenmarkt is a bargain-hunters haven!
And as if the pot couldn’t get sweeter, it does! Don’t like a price? Put on your Arab trading hat (or, uh, turban?) and bargain away! Not the bargaining type or not sure of the art of the deal? Observe and gather the strength to just go out there, like the rest of them, and give it a try. Don’t speak German or Turkish or Arabic? Not a problem! I swear half the people there are tourists anyway with no more than three German words under their knowledge belt. And the first time I discovered that I could bargain was after I had watched an American tourist dicker down the price of a garlic press from four euro to three, only to be met with a final price of 3,50 euro. Hey, fifty cents is fifty cents, and this observation opened the floodgates for my bargaining chapter of life!
One day at the Türkenmarkt I saw a sign at a produce stand that was twisted to the side, advertising, “2 Avocados, 1 Euro” on one side, and on the other, “3 Avocados, 1 Euro.”
“Which is it?” I asked the man behind the stall who was slicing away pieces of an orange that he was adding to his fresh fruit sample plate. “Zwei für ein oder drei?”
He handed me a fresh piece of the juiciest and tastiest orange I had tasted in quite some time. My mouth experienced a burst of sweet, succulent flavor. I, like the rest of the market-goers, sucked the pulp off the rind, then tossed it on the sidewalk edge, into the gutter area. “Die Avocados,” I said loudly, trying my best to be heard over the loud crowds that always persist during market days.
“Drei für ein,” he answered, starting to cut into another orange.
“Vier für ein.” I bargained. Four for the price of three was worth a shot.
He then chucked the freshly cut oranges onto the sample plate that looked as if it was about to topple over, barely balancing on the mound of globe oranges it was perched upon. He grabbed four avocados and placed them into a bag. “Ein Euro,” he said, holding out one of his sticky hands, bits and pieces of orange pulp on his fingers.
This is the Türkenmarkt in Berlin. It’s the land of bargains, the land of noise, the land of organized chaos, the land of free samples. Hell, it’s not just Super Target meets Swap Meet on steroids, it’s also got a grand element of Costco on free-sample Saturday! If I’m ever feeling like I want to whip up a fresh batch of homemade peach marmalade, or enjoy a dinner of asparagus and sauce hollandaise, or want to freshen up an old scarf with some antiqued buttons and lace, the Türkenmarkt is my one-stop-shop! And while on the way I know I can sneak in an after-lunch and before-dinner snack of the juiciest plumbs, oranges, mangos, and grapes.
I’ll be the first to say that this Türkenmarkt is not a peaceful or relaxing stroll through a market, however. It’s not what many might dream a quaint Provençal market would be in France where you dreamily stroll through the market, a few sprigs of dried lavender held up to your nose, and a wicker basket on your arm filled with the hen’s fresh eggs of the day and a round of Brie for the afternoon’s luncheon.
This is Berlin— multikulti chaos where a hard bargain is driven and truckloads of Champignons, Salat, and Tomaten are sold by the carton. It’s bustling with noise, Omas and Opas, babies squealing and kids running around, and Turkish moms running around in full-body-covering-dress shouting Turkish at their little ones who are snatching samples left and right, and bumping in to you along the way. But it doesn’t matter to me. I shove through the crowds like the rest of them, trampling on toes and pushing aside trolleys that are in my way. I have only gotten a couple of confused and disgruntled looks and murmurs from tourists as I chug through the masses. The locals know how it’s done over here, even though it’s a big sightseeing stop for many tourists. Pushing and shoving is entirely allowed; it’s expected! But to the unsuspecting tourist it probably looks like a fest of rude assholes who don’t know the meaning of personal space or the word, “Entschuldigung.” The worst are the tourists who want to stand in the middle of the aisle and snap photos. “Move it or lose it!” is my mentality here. If you don’t mind being pummeled, pushed, and squashed then snap away, just make sure there’s room for me when I come barreling through with the rest of the locals.
On warmer days, even though the market is still in full swing during the cold months, the market is particularly busy, and especially sweaty. I love the warmer market days as it means I can finally don one of my favorite tank tops, linen shirts, or even capri pants. No matter how warm it may be out, though, and no matter how much I anticipate I’ll sweat among the crowds, pushed up against people, elbow-to-elbow, all trying to make a deal, I do refrain from wearing sandals. Open-toed shoes aren’t the best choices for footwear on market day. I’ve seen the baby carts and trolleys roll their ways madly through the market. Wearing sandals at the Türkenmarkt is a recipe for broken and greased up toes. Leave your sandals at home on market day. You’ve been forewarned.
End of Excerpt from Bumped to Berlin by Savannah Page
Have a fabulous start to the new year, everyone!