A few weeks ago, after completing the camino de santiago, I headed south to Malaga and Andalucia, for a bit more sun and sand before heading back to my real life in London. I arrived smack dab in the middle of Malaga’s ‘feria’ which I imagined to be a richly cultured celebration of everything flamenco, but it turned out to be a giant street party. After days and days of quiet walking, I found this a bit overwhelming.
I did sample an interesting wine only available during the feria – “Cartojal” is a sweet moscatel (would be a great dessert wine) served ice cold for your drunken pleasure. Apparently the grape doesn’t keep, so cartojal can only be enjoyed during this time of year. After a bottle to myself, I’m not sure I need it year round.
So on my second day in Malaga, instead of drinking myself to death and losing some of the precious serenity I had gained at the camino I headed to el paseo martiricos and Malaga’s ‘el rastro’ or flea market. I’m a connoisseur of european flea markets. I know the little villages are often the best, but in a previous life backpacking around europe I hit up flea markets in Vienna, Rome, Paris, London, Madrid and Barcelona. I used to collect vintage move posters and communist memorabilia (didn’t take up space in my backpack) but now I collect kitchenalia, obviously, and antique keys (going to create a collage on my wall of wonky keys, I will.)
I loved this market more than any of those (but less than some others I’ve come across randomly in small towns) – mostly because of the heavy roma presence and ‘gray’ nature of most of the products being sold (case in point, I got told off several times for taking pictures, I assume because lots of the goods were stolen). But also because of the roma farmers selling fresh produce from wheelbarrows throughout the market. A kilo of artichokes? 1 euro. 2 kilos of lemons? 1 euro. None of them had stalls, they just wandered about. Children had large rubber rubbish bins filled with ice where they sold coca-cola and beer. South American women sold empanadas from large baskets, still hot. Unfortunately I couldn’t buy any of their amazingly cheap fresh produce and they were all too shy for photos. I did have an amazing chicken empanada, however.
I did meet this old man, sellng herbal teas for 80 euro cents a bag, along with other roots and concoctions. We spoke for ages about each of his teas and I tried desperately to remember their names in Spanish so I could search them on the internet before. He was comletely toothless, the result of chewing on the pods in the bottom right corner, her said. I bought 2 teas of him – penny royal and bright yellow camomile, and thanked him.
Overall I found the market to be pretty entertaining, though as with any European flea market these days you have to make your past a fair number of tarped stalls selling the fruits of globalisation: bags, mobile phones, sunglasses, underwear etc – but I did find some real gems at this market – and some real junk. A lot of stallholders obviously had things they had rooted out from people’s trash – which I suppose would give them a great profit margin if they managed to sell anything! Doing a bit of research before I headed over I found some local Malaga newspapers that interviewed stallholders about the proliferation of ‘mobile phone’ stalls at their markets. Many of these traders are travellers, going from town to town with their wares each week. Because Andalucia is one of the poorer Spanish states I found the prices to be really reasonable (all the items pictured below cost less than 9 euros) and the mandolin I bought was also 9 euros – a bargain when a new one of decent quality is some 20 quid back in London.
2 antique keys, a wedgewood bowl (its german! claimed the salesman. its english! I replied), a sterling silver spanish serving thingy and of course, my teas.
And I also bought a mandolin, which you’ve seen here. I still regret not buying the rolling pin pictured below – it was about 3 feet long and absolutely beautiful.