If it is Saturday, it must be market day. The air was fresh. It was sunny, but crisp and cool. I want to tell you specifically about what I experienced, the sights, the sounds, and the smells.
The market is set up in a field/parking lot in the heart of town. I am told that it goes away at the end of the day but many stalls look very permanent. At this market they sell fresh fruit and vegetables from the farms all around, as well as just about anything else that you can imagine. American dollar stores have nothing on this market. Obviously, it is always best
to buy what's in season because it is much less expensive, but they do have out of season items. They offer a wide variety of produce, spices, hardware, plastic, and rubber goods. They also sell freshly made handicrafts, wine, nuts, and small kitchen utensils.
As we made our way toward the vegetable market there were women of all ages coming
and going with their wire carts and plastic shopping bags. I wonder if those separate the serious shoppers from the tourists. There are people everywhere, young and old. We even walked by some fresh fish on ice, probably yesterday's catch. Directly across from the fish table were fresh oranges and tangerines. Can you have a cacophony of smells? I bought nothing but my host bought the last few items for our lunch and dinner.
The smell of fresh fruit is invigorating. We walked by a table with lemons, eggplant, cabbage, beets (I am not a beet lover but if you go to rural parts of The Ukraine, you must try their beets.), peppers, lettuce, carrots, leeks, and parsley. That was only one table. From one end to the other the market cannot be more than a couple hundred yards but I am confident that you could easily spend a day there without visiting the same table or booth twice.
They also sell fresh eggs, meat, flowers, and jars of fresh honey.
Everyone seems to be very happy and they are friendly. People were scurrying everywhere. The noise level was a bit much for me, but it was a great time, all things considered.
What to buy: The smell of firewood mixed with fish and produce fills the air. I just realized
the fish table is next to me. These guys scream about their fruit with the passion
of American TV evangelists. I guess it is understandable since it's their
livelihood. What I take as an experience is their life.
I continue in the other direction. We stop to buy onions. We are on the hunt for cabbage and celery. I am standing in front of another fish table filled with shrimp. It smells good. We found the cabbage but not the celery - oh well, I'm not a big fan of celery anyway.
What to pay: It would be difficult to pay too much for the food and other essentials but the prices for the handicrafts and other "extras" may not be such bargains.
After the market, we stopped by the town hall where they were having some sort of city festival. Knowing absolutely no Ukrainian and only about half a dozen words in Russian, I understood nothing. My host did explain that they were celebrating the anniversary of the establishment of Irpen and that the speakers were local officials and politicians. Had I only known what was going to happen a couple months later (in The Ukraine's national elections), I would certainly have been a lot more inquisitive.
It seems like the weather is changing; it's getting a bit colder. Behind us men are playing cards, smoking, and drinking coffee and other beverages. Now it's about 11 am and the town center is becoming very much alive.
Fondest memory: Right now those wire shopping carts are very appealing to me. But because of my pride as a man I will probably never buy one. Sounds pretty stupid, right? Why can't they make customized ones for men with big wheels, chrome plated hub caps, cool handle bars. Then I would buy one and accessorize it with a license plate that says "Proud to be Ukrainian." Most men at the market drive their mopeds, cars or bikes. They would never be caught dead with a cart. But if they had one that looked cool and fast, I bet they would be sporting it all around!