Tag Archives: Markets

Of Flea Markets, Dirndls, and Crime-Solving Dogs

With spring comes the return of the Flohmarkt, or flea market, a famous feature of the Viennese landscape. To be honest, it’s possible they were here all year, but the weather was so bloody awful that who would have known? So, a couple of weekends ago I hit the Flohmarkt Trifecta:  three flea markets in 2 days. Curious what there is to buy—and what single purchase I finally selected from among the tens of thousands of objects on offer? You will never guess.

Flea market at Freyung in Vienna
What the hell is this stuff, and why does it haunt my dreams?

The first flea market (which was also the smallest) gave me an unfortunate false sense of what to expect from the others. This consisted of a few stands in the neighborhood of the Freyung (last seen on this blog here). It was there that I saw a table of totally scary paraphernalia from both World Wars as well as associated other military campaigns, liberally mixed with crucifixes, dolls, and other items familiar from horror films.

This photo is incapable of conveying the terror instilled by this display — but I couldn’t take better pictures because the totally scary guy manning the stand was looking at me and probably putting a curse on me.

 

So naturally after that I was curious about what to expect from the semi-annual Neubaugasse Flohmarkt, held in the 7th district. This is a gigantic flea market running up both sides of a long street and consisting of dozens of stands and a bewildering collection of objects. Allow me to set the scene:

Neubaugasse flea market in Vienna's 7th district
Thank God it wasn’t raining.
Turtle shell from Neubaugasse flea market in Vienna
This noble sea creature did not die in vain. Not at all.

 

At Neubaugasse you could find an incredible range of objects, from a turtle etched with images of the first American presidents and a giant bald eagle, to a pair of airplane seats, to cameras of every possible variety.

Airplane seats from Neubaugasse flea market in Vienna
Because there’s nothing you long for more in your own home than the experience of flying coach.

 

 

 

 

Overwhelmed by this display, we headed downhill and into the 6th district, and thus into the rear portion of the Naschmarkt. The Naschmarkt is best known as Vienna’s largest outdoor food market, but it also has a flea market at its far end. This flea market is only on Saturdays, but takes place year round.

 

Flea market at the Naschmarkt in Vienna
At the Naschmarkt, if you want stuff rather than food, head out back.

 

 

 

I can now unreservedly say that this is where you want to go if you are in search of Tracht.

 

That’s right. Tracht.

 

Tracht at Naschmarkt flea market
Why do I write Tracht with a captial-T? Because in German one capitalizes nouns, and Tracht is a Thing.

 

What is Tracht, you ask? Tracht is traditional regional clothing—your dirndls, your lederhosen, your little green felt cavalry jackets with brass buttons that probably have a name but I don’t know what it is. Also, Tyrolean hats (not pictured here).

 

 

 

By now you are wondering what purchase I made—what single object I selected from this glory to bring into my home and represent my identity. Was it a dirndl? Was it a dead animal? Well, it was at Neubaugasse that a certain book among the thousands upon thousands displayed there caught my eye:

Kommissar Rex book in Vienna
Here I am and there is Rex, right under my hand, as though I am petting his adorable head.

It’s a commemorative picture book from the first season of Kommissar Rex, a television program about a crime-fighting German Shepherd. It is my favorite TV show, it is teaching me German, and it was a flea market, damn it! A flea market is a temple to misguided purchases.

I make no apologies.

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Austrian Markets, Promised Land of Cheese and Bacon

Vienna is divided into 23 Bezirke, or districts. And originally each Bezirk had a market, or more than one. The markets were the identity of the district — they sold different kinds of goods, and were gathering places for the (often culturally and ethnically defined) communities that surrounded them. They were important in the city’s transition from agrarian to modern, and they still bear the stamp of the districts they serve as well as of Austria’s food production more broadly. And, of course, they are vanishing. Today, most districts have a market, but these markets are diminished in size and offerings, pushed out of existence by the ubiquitous Billa supermarkets. Increasingly, they offer boutique goods — jars of jams, say — or pastries — in addition to, or in gradual replacement of, the more traditional produce.

So, we are on a mission to visit all of the markets, one by one, before they’re either gone or so radically gentrified as to be unrecognizable. In other posts, I’ll introduce you to some of our favorites — for instance, the Kutschkermarkt in the 18th district (by the way, one goal of this blog, as we’re getting to know each other, is also to get to know the districts — every single one of them, bit by bit. A bit like Colbert’s Better Know a District, but with more German and fewer politicians). But this weekend, we went to the Viktor-Adler Markt, in the seldom-visited 10th district. It was a pretty great market from the point of view of produce — unlike the more boutiquey markets, people here were seriously getting their Saturday shop on (N.B. Austrian grocery stores are all closed on Sunday; if you want to eat before Monday mid-day, you better shop on Saturday). Here’s the scene:

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As you can see, it was grey.  And raining.  And in an inadvertent reflection of the day’s conditions, I managed to take a photo of a bunch of empty crates rather than the produce bounty beyond. Here, let me try again to capture the mood, if not the beauty of the veg:

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As usual, I had no umbrella, and, let’s be honest, I wanted to go home. And then I saw it. The Promised Land. The Promised Land of Cheese and Speck. I speak, of course, of the cheesemonger. Cheese from the mountains, cheese from the goats (sometimes even the goats who live on the mountains):

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There’s a cheese literally coated in shards of hay, called Haycheese (Heukäse. German is a very literal language):

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There was cheese in a shade of green so terrifyingly bright that it demanded explanation (it’s made with basil). (It does stand out a bit, doesn’t it?):

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When people think cheese, they usually think France.  But Austria has incredible cheeses.  They are semi-hard cheeses, not unlike what Americans think of as Swiss cheese, or maybe between Swiss and Cheddar, but with a much rounder flavor.  They melt well, go well in sandwiches, and, for all their apparent physical similarities, have an incredible variety of flavors.  And that’s before people start mixing them with additional ingredients! Like Bärlauch (that’s wild garlic):

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This is just an introductory post, of course, while I figure out the platform and how to insert images, etc. So all of this is just a prelude to the eventual sequel, in which I dive into the many, many, MANY kinds of speck, a selection of which were being sold at the neighboring window:

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Spicy Speck!!  You know we bought some of that.

This post is also a yet more distant prelude to the even further sequel in which I explain at great length Austria’s totally contradictory relationship with horses, and why we never, EVER buy meat from this guy:

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Posted in Food, Regan Writing | Tagged , | 2 Comments