During my time in Europe, I’ve been able to visit various markets in Spain, Germany, and Italy. Markets ranged from Christmas markets in Berlin, Germany to local food markets in Rome, Italy. Each market was unique, with its own story and theme as evidenced by items carried and energy exuded. Visiting markets allowed me to enter a world where I was immersed with the region’s culture and cuisine. Coming from a Taiwanese background and prior to coming to Europe, the markets I had been to were either weekly flea markets in the states or night markets in Taiwan. Both offer a very different experience, as the first focuses more on a consumer experience and the latter focuses on a more social experience.
The first market I’ve ever visited was the La Boqueria Market in Barcelona. The market itself was very representative of the culture in Barcelona, bumbling and vibrant. The market was teeming with tourists all looking to absorb and explore the excitement and vibrancy of Barcelona’s famous food market. It’s easy to see how many people get drawn in, like bees to honey. On my last night in Barcelona, I ended up getting some fruit and sangria! 🙂
During my time in Rome, markets became as aspect of my daily life. When it came to purchasing fresh produce, my roommates and I (Squadro Barbara) would go on trips to our favorite market, San Giovanni. The market in San Giovanni is diverse as it includes stalls with meat, vegetables, seafood, and even clothing. The space in which the market occupies gives it the feeling of a third place. The space in the market functions as a community builder as well as for human interaction and socializing. Its location is surrounded by neighborhoods, and those who frequented the San Giovanni market were locals. Contrasting this market experience was Eataly, which served as the industrialized version of a market. Walking in was the Italian equivalent of walking into a Whole Foods. The experience was impersonal, extremely pricey, and emphasizes the disconnection between the producer (farmer) and the consumer.
One of my most memorable moments was visiting the Christmas markets in Berlin, Germany. I visited Germany at the conclusion of my program abroad with some friends from my program. The Berlin Christmas market functioned as an immersive experience to the German culture mixed in with the holiday spirit. Any pine that you saw, there were definitely Christmas lights adorning it. What made it the incredible experience that it is was being able to speak with the producers. I was able to buy a hand-plated necklace of the Paris skyline from a jewelry maker in the market as well try some German specialties: bratwurst stewed with sauerkraut, eierpunsch (eggnog), and gluhwein (German mulled wine).
Markets offered a special insight to a city’s culture and people, that a museum cannot provide. All your senses are ignited and heightened, sense of smell, sight, and touch. They serve as a “third place.” The market becomes the place people refer to as the main center, a space of socialization and discussion, and a place of transparency. And what makes a market amazing is its potential with variety and quality. With my experience with various kinds of markets abroad, I plan to apply my insights to the markets I experience in the states. I’ve grown a special appreciation for markets and can’t wait to explore more both in Seattle and San Jose! 🙂