One of my absolute favorite things about living overseas is going to green markets. I love going to the farmers’ market as much as the next (sub)urbanite, but European (and Central Asian) green markets are different from American farmers’ markets in two very important ways:
- Frequency: The open air farmer’s market in my hometown is on Thursdays. The pijacas (pronounced like the Italian “piazza”) in Serbia? Every day! The lovely Eastern Market in Washington, DC isn’t even open daily — it is closed on Mondays.
- Cost: Farmers’ markets tend to be on the more expensive side, with costs that usually come in higher than those found at nearby grocery stores. Here in Serbia, on the other hand, the produce, flowers, baked goods, and other items I buy at the market are usually better deals — and better in general!
I. Love. Banjica. In fact, my sister is due to arrive in less than 48 hours and I know a visit to Banjica is at the very top of her must-do-ASAP list. I try to go at least once a week, often more frequently in the summer. I do, however, try to avoid going on weekends, when it is madness and the whole market is overrun with people. The sights, the sounds, the smells: I love it all. Kalenić is a pijaca in Vračar, a downtown area of Belgrade, and it is very popular within the embassy community. I do love Kalenić, and if there is a hard to find item, that is where I look for it; the prices at Banjica and the close location make it better for me.
Conveniently, Balkan culture is not that of a bargaining kind. Rather, prices are usually marked, which not only makes things easier but also makes me feel less like a foreigner locals take advantage of (as they did in Uzbekistan). While I am certainly not fluent, I know my numbers and am very good at pointing, so I rarely have massive misunderstandings (that time I ended up with four heads of lettuce instead of one notwithstanding).
I usually drive to Banjica, though I could just as easily take the bus or walk. In fact, I went for a run recently, and took a lovely path through the woods that eventually ended up across the street from the pijaca. Instead of finishing the run and ending up at home, I took out some dinar I had stuffed in my pocket, bought some strawberries and cherries, and had a leisurely stroll back. Much preferable, if you ask me.
Right now, strawberries are less than $1 a pound! This is my favorite time of year.