Shopping Galore at Seventh-Kilometer Market
Located between Odessa and the airport, around 7 km from the city, the Seventh-Kilometer Market is thought to be the largest informal market in Europe. Known locally as ‘Tolchok’, the market consists primarily of brightly painted shipping containers, stacked two high and set out in rows, covering an area of 170 acres. With an estimated 16,000 vendors plying their trade, shoppers have a choice of everything from reasonably price authentic products to cheap rip-offs of Western luxury goods. Certainly, it is the rare shopper that will leave Tolchok empty-handed.
Tolchok (the Russian word for push, or shove) originally started as an outdoor market in Odessa where it soon outgrew the walled-in premises. During The Perestroika reforms of the late 1980s, the market moved outside the city limits to its current position where it had room to expand. The following years saw the market grow somewhat haphazardly, until some order was put in place with containers being lined up in rows to form streets, or alleyways. Some years ago, Tolchok was described in the New York Times as being “part third-world bazaar, part post-Soviet Wal-Mart and a place of unadulterated and largely unregulated capitalism” – and visitors to the market are likely to agree with that description.
In the morning, traders arrive and unpack their wares from the securely locked containers, spilling out into the alleyways in a form of organized chaos. Kitchenware, electronic goods, carpets, plastic-ware of every description, clothing, shoes, toys, perfumes and more jostle for space and attention from shoppers. At the end of the day, everything is packed away again and alleyways are swept and left tidy, for the entire process to start again the next day – seven days a week, all year-round.
Although there are no official statistics, it has been estimated that up 150,000 customers per day pass through the alleyways of the Seventh-Kilometer Market, with millions of dollars changing hands each month. The market is also the region’s largest employer, with up to 1,200 people employed as security guards and janitors.
If you have the good fortune of visiting Odessa, be sure to visit the Seventh-Kilometer Market – its sure to be an interesting experience.