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Saturday, June 11, 2011

Privoz Market

Privoz is Odessa's biggest and oldest open air market. It occupies three huge warehouses, an awning the size of a football field, and tons of semi-permanent and completely temporary stalls.  People sell their goods off of anything.  Some just squat around the perimeter of the market and display their garden herbs on a piece of cardboard. You can buy anything at Privoz - from homegrown veggies to knock-off coach bags, plucked chickens that are so fresh they're practically still moving, to freshly-squeezed juice, q-tips, and screwdrivers. And it's open 24 hours. At about 6.30 pm the consumer-oriented day-sellers go home and the bulk goods vendors quickly file in.

For the mixer we hosted at our flat last night, my house-mate Adrien and I went on a wild shopping adventure at Privoz. We quickly learned some survival methods...

Tip: Buy from the starushki -- the old folks.
We've been told that no one at Privoz is honest, but at least the old folks are generally nicer, more willing to bargain, and they speak slow and loud so we actually do have a chance to bargain. We bought carrots from this little babushka and think we've made a friend for life.

Get your bucket of spuds here!

This lady wasn't quite as nice, but we couldn't find any
starushki selling cherry tomatoes, so we compromised.

This babushka was especially sweet. Adrien really wanted those red
things hanging there.  I don't know the name, but it's some kind of slightly
sweet red fruit paste/gel, in which you roll up chopped walnuts, and then
hang-dry and let the casing harden.  A slightly sweet treat! 

The spice booths were my favorite. 

That's not really Coke...it's fresh juice squeezed from something that
tastes like cranberries. Adrien bought juice from this starushik last week
and then introduced me to him yesterday.  We bargained pretty well,
and he handed me one of the long red hanging candies as a present as
we walked away. 

Dried fish, anyone?

Running by the candy store; it's all a blur.

Farmers and vendors use the cheapest and most accessible means possible to bring
their goods to market. This means recycling water and Coke bottles as well as other
reusable bags, boxes, jars, and packaging.

The hustle and bustle of life at Privoz.
 Privoz is about a 25-minute walk from the flat, so with our hands full of goods tied up in little plastic sacks, we ran towards a marshrutka to catch a ride back to the city center. "What luck!" we thought as we hopped on.  Usually marshrutki barely slow down long enough for a few passengers to jump on or off.  This one had remained stationary as we jogged toward it from 30 meters away. As soon as we got on and the doors closed, however, we realized why it wasn't moving. The driver grabbed his man-purse and hopped out. He ran back behind the bus to where a police car was parked and was there for at least ten minutes - undoubtedly paying some bribe - as his paying passengers wilted in the 90+ degrees F inside the marshrutka. The automatic doors were closed and wouldn't open, and there was only one 6"x12" window open. One lady kept pacing back and forth from the back to front doors, fanning herself, and appeared to be on the verge of a panic attack. I was only slightly annoyed by the fact that my lettuce was starting to wilt.
In the end, our driver came jogging back to his marshrutka and we were on our way. Only a slight hiccup in our pre-party preparations.

Privoz is much cheaper than the grocery stores around here, and - if you can get over the very organic smell of the place (and by organic I mean freshly killed meat, eggs with the chicken poop still on them, and the many compost piles located throughout the market) - then you'll find that the quality of the products is actually much better and goods much fresher than in the supermarkets.  Privoz makes visiting WholeFoods seem like an artificial "organic" experience.  Adrien and I decided to go back and buy our groceries there each week for the rest of our seven weeks here and keep building good customer-vendor relationships with our favorite starushki.


  1. What a great post! This looks like a wonderful place to visit. Thanks for the tip about the starushki!


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