Flea markets. For many, it’s just a gathering of bunch of people to sell bunch of crap. In reality, it is not so simple. As there is no real tradition of flea markets in Turkey (at least in my surroundings), my first visit to a flea market was in 2006, the year I moved to Germany. So yes, it was a traditional German “Flohmarkt” just outside the city of Oldenburg. I remember that a friend was in need of a bicycle and he was hoping to find an affordable one, yet still in rideable condition. He was told to check out flea markets. He dragged us along with him on a Sunday morning so that we could help him pick something. We spent some 2-3 hours without any success and he left the market empty handed that day. However, by the time we were leaving, I had already been struck by the magic of that flea market.

Since that first flea market experience, I’ve been to many others in several German cities. Some tiny markets as in Oldenburg city center, some huge ones as at the famous Boxhagenerplatz in Berlin; sometimes outdoors, sometimes indoors; sometimes really interesting and cool stuff being sold, sometimes indeed useless junk. But no matter what, I’ve always enjoyed walking between those stands.

A typical day at the Boxhagenerplatz Flohmarkt in Berlin

For me, flea markets are not only about buying and selling stuff but also about the kind and cool interactions between the people who don’t even know each other. Sometimes it’s a long and fiery negotiation between a vendor and a buyer, sometimes just an opinion sharing between two coin or stamp collectors who happen to be looking for new items for their collections.

Flea market at the Fliegerhorst Oldenburg airfield in May 2012.

As I walk through the stands, I think about the memories and moments all those items have ever witnessed. They are helplessly waiting for their new owners and just looking at them could make me wonder sometimes, who had purchased and listened to that Cat Stevens record for the first time back in the 70s, or what delicious recipes had been prepared in that old ceramic baking dish from Paris. In a nutshell, flea markets are sociological phenomena which have their own characters, histories and styles.

Last week, I was once again at a flea market. This time though, the venue was quite unusual as the stands were on both sides of the runway at an abandoned airfield just outside of Oldenburg. Accordingly, I was also thinking about the venue itself as I was walking on the runway, how many aircrafts had ever landed and taken off here, and how engineers and mechanics used to work in those moldering hangars. I spent two magical hours walking on the historical asphalt, buying some CDs and a shot glass for my collection  in the process.

If you have never been to a flea market, do it as soon as you find the opportunity. Just witness that magical atmosphere and maybe save some old but still cool items from ending up in a garbage container.

Category: English, Leisure

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May 2012
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