The flea market

In spite of having seen many difficult times, the flea market beside the Hala Targowa, or Market Hall, continues to attract close to a thousand buyers and traders every Sunday. For many Polish families, checking out the “targi” after attending church for Sunday mass has grown into a tradition that they look forward to all week. For the vendors, it is not only a chance to sell or trade their wide variety of goods, but also to have discussions and exchange stories. In the midst of all kinds of antiques, collectibles, valuables and even not-so-valuables, occurs a social gathering of the most unusual kind.The stalls are set up as early as six in the morning. Some like to reserve by the month, for a 30 zloty charge, others choose to pay a daily fee of 5.50 zloty for old merchandise, or 9.50 zloty for new merchandise, per square meter.

While there are many collectors and professional antique dealers, who travel throughout Poland stopping at a market in a different town each day of the week, there are also others who in need of extra cash simply clean out their attics in hope of selling something.Once the stalls are set up, the flea market becomes an amazing center for coin, stamp and postcard collections, books, original photographs, jewelry, furniture and anything from bicycles and ice skates to puppies and rabbits. Especially popular at this time of the year are used schoolbooks. Local Krakow residents enjoy going for the lively atmosphere and the great bargaining opportunity.

People visit from all over the world for a chance to find a unique souvenir. A couple from Australia seemed very pleased with their purchase, “We have a wedding to go to and found two great pairs of shoes for 10 zloty each!”The popularity of this particular flea market fired off in the 1980s. Under communism, recollects Jadwiga, a local resident who frequents the flea markets since childhood, very little was available for purchase, so people made ends meet by collecting necessary items from all regions of Poland and making them available to everyone through the flea market.

“You could find anything there,” she says. “We would bring back cosmetics, which would freeze during the winter, but people would buy frozen creams and shampoos because there was nothing in the shops.” The flea market has since become much more organized. Whereas vendors used to set up their stalls chaotically, using any materials they came across, they now follow an orderly method. The market has also become much safer. After a period of no security or management of any kind, safety measures have been introduced, along with an official administration.At the beginning of last year, the markets were under threat of being demolished as a result of a series of complaints made by a number of residents in the area.

Councilors argued that issues tied to the functioning of the markets, such as the intense traffic on Sundays, the state of untidiness from litter left behind and the disorderliness of drunks residing in the area, led to arduous and intolerable living conditions. However, the councilors did not realize that a large majority of the vendors and traders live in the surrounding neighborhood, forming a strong voice against the elimination of the market place.

Fortunately, Mayor of Krakow Jacek Majchrowski defended those who are financially dependent on the sales made there, arguing that he could not in any way support an action that would cause individuals who operate there legally to lose their place of work. According to Majchrowski, the spot is one of the many attractions in Krakow, decisive in the city’s popularity and uniqueness. Though there are a number of other flea markets in Krakow, such as the one on pl. Nowy in Kazimierz, the Jewish Quarter, and the antiques on Maly Rynek, or Little Market, occurring three times a year, none can match the social and historic elements captured by that of the market beside the Hala Targowa on ul. Grzegorzecka. This is one tradition in Krakow that will not disappear ? as stated by Jadwiga’s husband, “it will be there until the end of the earth, and probably even after that still.”

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