Monday, 21 August 2017

The Women’s Market: New Stockings in the Day and Old Found Objects in the Night

Alternative Cultural Guide to Sofia*   
During the day, the women’s market is comfortably settled between Ekzarh Yosif and Slivnitsa Streets, and another four lines of stalls line up the entire length of Stefan Stambolov Street.

Here and there, an old woman pops up, having brought with her a crate of garden tomatoes or parsley and dill, which she sells straight out of her shopping cart. A full-voiced woman, with several pairs of stockings thrown over her shoulder, squeezes through the towers of peaches and tomatoes. “Cheeeeeaaaap stockings – five for one lev,” she repeats over and over again, as she passes by the smoked mackerel and the pile of ground walnuts sitting on the white undershirts, spread out directly on the ground.

An enormous black dog rests in the shadow underneath the tin counter, and about ten more sleep in the small park with the towering bust of Georgi Kirkov – a publicist, parliamentarian, politician, socialist and union activist from the end of the nineteenth and the beginning of the twentieth century, whom the market was named after during socialism. Nowadays, the park is occupied by the playing children of the “night tradesmen,” as they wait for it to become 5 pm. At that time, the market transforms, the shutters of the tin booths selling cheese are closed, the trousers and t-shirts hanging on the stalls are folded, and now, lined up across from them are the offerings of the “scavengers.” They, however, are not Pippilotta Delicatessa Windowshade Mackrelmint Ephraim's Daughter Longstocking and her friends Tommy and Annika, but entire families, who have been digging through Sofia’s trash. From it, they have salvaged discarded books, clothes, toys, which they now spread out on a wrinkled piece of fabric. It is here that you can strike a bargain for some used nail polish, boots deformed from wear, and Camus’s L'Étranger.

All day long, like vultures, the middlemen are also on the prowl around the Kirkov monument. They work together with the antique dealers, looking for priceless treasures. The big deal they all boast with is a painting by Ivan Milev – the author of the image on the Bulgarian five-leva note, which was found leaning against a garbage container, and then ended up here. Now, Second World War medals roll around, as well as sabers and swords discarded from basements and attics.

The workers already have ten years of experience working at the night-time flea market and they have plenty of tales to tell, of coming in the morning without a single coin in their pocket and going home at night having made 100 leva. They re-sell old phones, stolen bicycles, and their hobby is to collect empty bottles of expensive perfume brands.

The night market is for the seekers of old objects and city stories.

* This story is part of the Alternative Cultural Guide to Sofia. The guide was created by students from Sofia University St Kliment Ohridski. Initiated by associate professor Alexander Kiossev, it was supported by the Sofia University’s Academic Research Fund. The texts, published in Bulgarian by the student magazine Piron, were edited by Lyuboslava Ruseva, and translated into English by




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