I hate shopping. Mevrouw T hates crowds. So why, whether in Sydney, Amsterdam or places in between, do we follow a weekend ritual of going to the local markets?
In Amsterdam it’s the Saturday Noordermarkt in the Jordaan district. In Sydney we go to the Marrickville Market on Sundays.
It’s more than shopping. We go for the entertainment.
Amsterdam’s Noordermarkt is right by the corner of two of Amsterdam’s most beautiful canals, the Prinsengracht and the Brouwersgracht. The Protestant Noorderkerk which dominates the square dates from the 17th century.
Marrickville Market is in the grounds of the Addison Rd Community Centre, a collection of shabby huts, relics of the site’s history as an army barracks. The buildings date from 1913 until the early 1970s. No way could it be described as beautiful, but it does have space, grass, and places to sit.
Markets showcase local culture.
The Jordaan of the 1950s was a crowded, unhygienic working class slum, with 80,000 inhabitants.
Now only 12,000 people live there. Four-storey buildings which each used to house four large families are now lived in by yuppie couples or empty-nesters, each with their own smart apartment, with a bathroom.
In Marrickville you see a lot of tattoos, piercings and interesting haircuts wandering past.
This is also a former working-class area, which has become popular with the arty, alternative, counter-culture people. The Addison Rd Community Centre is home to the Reverse Garbage Depot and the Bower, where industrial junk is recycled into art materials and furniture is restored.
The community nursery cultivates plants indigenous to the area and gives away free garden mulch. Addison Rd provides affordable rehearsal space to fringe theatre, dance and music companies. All good things which ought to be encouraged.
Buying from the producers feels good.
It gives us a warm fuzzy feeling to buy from the pretty girl who milked her grandma’s goats and made her own cheese, then rode her bike into Amsterdam carrying it in the basket on her handlebars, wrapped in a red and white checked tea towel.
It doesn’t matter that the cheese may have been mass-produced in Bulgaria and that the pretty girl is a Polish university student. Don’t ask, don’t tell. The market environment makes it feel authentic.
Junk food is better at markets.
In Amsterdam, market fast food means Dutch apple cake and whipped cream from Winkel, the café on the corner of the Westerstraat that regularly wins the people’s choice award for best appeltaart in town.
On market days it can be hard to get a seat outside and the appeltaart queue can go around the corner.
In multicultural Marrickville there is a wider choice of snacks; gozleme from the Turkish ladies, vegetarian wraps, ‘home made’ quiches, ‘hand made’ German bread, Chinese dumplings, sizzling sausages and the Argentinian BBQ.
The coffee is way better in Marrickville, as it is everywhere in Sydney compared to Amsterdam.
The coffee cart at Marrickville does a roaring trade. Give your order, pay your money, take your ticket and wait for your number to be called. It’s worth the wait.
There’s a social scene.
We usually meet people we know at the markets. Even if we don’t we like to see other people who know each other meeting up.
And a disclosure of interest…our daughter regularly has a second-hand clothing stall at Marrickville Market. She buys stock at charity depots, choosing items in excellent condition with a known designer on the label. Her prices are way below the retail value of the items and her stall is very popular, with many regular customers. It’s a good business from which everybody gets a good deal. It makes everybody happy.
The dress she’s displaying happens to be from King Louis, the Amsterdam clothing company for which my brother-in-law works, based in the Jordaan.
It is very likely to have been bought in the Jordaan and has now found its way to Marrickville, thus neatly connecting the two markets and providing a neat ending to this post.