Uniquely Hungary: Insights Into Budapest's Flea Markets, By Anne Zwack

  • 16 Apr 2015 11:30 AM
Uniquely Hungary: Insights Into Budapest's Flea Markets, By Anne Zwack
For those of you, like me, who have been going to the Ecseri Piac Flea Market for twenty years it is very sad to see how it is winding down. It used to be a regular Saturday rendezvous for diplomats and expats, and we would all have lunch in the little family run kocsma in the far left corner.

We actually gave a goodbye party for the Italian ambassadors there years ago and all the ambassadors came, little flags waving on the bonnet of their cars, and we ate what is still one of the best goulash and bab leves in town.

However, although it is not the treasure trove it once was and half the stands are deserted, I find there are still sublime pieces of kitsch just waiting for me to buy them; I see the vendors rubbing their hands as I approach.

The second hand clothes booths are enormous fun and I still find exquisite bed and table linens while there is plenty of Herend although some of the piquet figurines might be of dubious authenticity. If you go, it is worth also checking out the small adjoining external market further up the road, opposite the French car saloon.

In the meantime, there is a flea market on Saturdays in the Gozdu Udvar, named after Emanuel Gozdu, a very rich Romanian who intended it as a centre for Romanian students of Greek Orthodox faith pursuing their studies in Hungary.

After the war it was nationalized and fell into disrepair although there were fascinating little stores hidden away under its arches like a barber that had remained unchanged since 1920. In 2008, it was expertly renovated as you see it today, but I can’t help missing it the way it was before, often used as a set for films about the Second World War.

Running uninterrupted between Dob utca and Kiraly utca, it had the most extraordinary sense of perspective not unlike looking the wrong way down a very long telescope. The Gozdu flea market is surrounded by a whole gamut of restaurants and bars like the popular Spiller’s.

An exciting new flea market which is open only on Sundays, on the other hand, is the A Kert in Paulay Ede utca at number 33 in what looks like a condemned building propped up with scaffolding. It has the enormous advantage in winter of being inside and heated which is maybe why both vendors and customers all seem in a very good mood.

There is a bar serving food and I saw what looked like a very authentic hamburger dripping orange cheese from a triple bun. It has a funky, this-is-the-place-to-be on a Sunday morning atmosphere: lots of jewelry, some fifties furniture and I saw one furniture restorer sanding an old piece of furniture she had painted egg shell blue which definitely caught my fancy.

I don’t have to tell anyone that bargaining is de rigueur. “Piacon vagyunk” they will say warming to the theme, but it is not considered good form to insist too aggressively. When they say “Korrect” it’s time to throw in the towel.

By Anne Marshall Zwack for XpatLoop.com

Anne was born in England in 1946, grew up in Cambridge and was educated in England and in Belgium. She lived and worked for several years in Paris, Rome and Milan where she met Peter Zwack who swept her off her feet and eventually brought her back to Hungary.

During this time she wrote for many important American publications including the Travel Section of the New York Times, Travel + Leisure and Gourmet Magazine. She currently divides her time between Budapest and Tuscany. Peter and Anne Zwack have two children and were married for forty years.

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