Color, Aroma and Sounds of an Ukrainian Market

Fancy a pastry for breakfast? Perhaps a slice of spiced sausage is your taste? Are you a bibliophile who salivates at the prospect of thumbing through acres of books for hours on end? Do you have a hard time resisting darling creatures? If you answered yes to any of these questions, the eclectic, vibrant Ukrainian market scene is a must. Commercial trade has blossomed since Ukraine’s independence, and while markets have always been a cultural staple in this country, their prominence and array these days is bursting at the seams.

Food markets in central Kiev tend to be inside light filled halls with long aisles divided into individual sectors with carefully laid arrangements of vegetables and fruit, fresh flowers and spicy meat. Bessarabskiy market, Kiev’s oldest bazaar built in 1910 for traders coming to the country’s capital from the Bessarbia region, is a favourite of Ukrainian locals offering the standard fare of fruits, vegetables and meats as well as a huge and diverse selection of tea and honey. Ukraine is among the world’s top ten producers of honey with over 500,000 beekeepers harvesting up to 70,000 tons of honey annually to sell on the domestic and international markets. Yet, the culinary diamond of the Bessarabskiy market is the astonishing amount and assortment of caviar on offer. Generally speaking, this foodstuff is meant more for the tourists than the locals, and vendors scrap to learn at least a few choice words of English to sell this often purchased souvenir. Haggling is not only acceptable but welcomed if you can find common ground!

Bessarabskiy market does not only offer food for People making their weekly grocery purchase or those simply wandering through the market to inhale all the sights and sounds, however. While all the food stalls are concentrated on the first floor, a trip upstairs will net the visitor a selection of clothes, home repair tools, decorative items and bathroom equipment.

If books, music and films are your passion, why not investigate the Petrivka market? Though the selection of English language books is thin, the stalls regularly stock Penguin classics, local and foreign writers and the latest bestsellers. Shopping for a DVD can be risky business as many discs are pirated. Stickers marked English on the DVD cover can also be misleading. If in doubt, ask a vendor to show you part of a disc as DVD players on the market.

Travelers may want to give the Bird Market a wide berth for fear of finding a new friend. The vendors in this small market give away mongrel kittens and abandoned puppies as well as showcase pure-bred cats and dogs complete with lineage descriptions. Not all animals on the market are “darling creatures”, however, unless pythons, anacondas, grass-snakes and lizards are part of your definition. Curiously, the most popular pets on the market are rodents including white mice and guinea pigs.

Whether you are hunting for lunch or a foreign literary classic, the Ukrainian marketplace is a place to savour and explore any time of year. Maybe you can even get the new pet you purchased at the Bird Market through customs on your way home!