At the Market
The temperature outside is barely 5 degrees Celsius, but the usually empty parking lot is now swarming with people. They are all standing around long tables covered in jars of honey and jam, sacks of potatoes, and bags of nuts. They have come from small towns and villages from all over the region. Some people are there to sell, some to buy. It’s the traditional Wednesday Open Market in Blagoevgrad.
The so called “green market” in Blagoevgrad lies along the Bistritsa River, right at the edge of the town center. More than 10 years ago, it was nothing more than three blocks of open space packed with stalls where people sold everything from carrots to PlayStation knock-offs. Today, a two-story green building, filled with stores and even more stalls, occupies half that space. The rest, save for a few cabs on one end, remains desolated for most of the week.
But not on Wednesdays and Saturdays. Every Wednesday and every Saturday, Nebie Hairua, together with her daughter Aishe, and dozens of people from villages and small towns all around Blagoevgrad get up at 5 a.m., load up their produce and come to the empty lot to try and make ends meet. There they would spend a nine-hour work day, cuddled up in their outworn down jackets to fight off the chill.
As soon as the market opens at 8 a.m., the place fills with customers. Some go from one seller to another to compare products and prices. Others already have experience and go straight to their preferred vendors.
“People, when they try it and they like it, always come back for more,” said Hairua on a recent Wednesday afternoon.
Hairua, a woman in her 40s wearing a colorful scarf on her head, is in Blagoevgrad both days every week. She rents two tables for 4.40 levs each, and, together with Aishe, makes a living for the family.
The two women are from Avramovo, a village near Yakoruda and Razlog. Their family deals with livestock breeding, mostly cattle. More than half of their stall is filled with fresh homemade sirene, kashkaval and butter. Large jars of honey cover the rest.
There is no one to sell to in Avramovo, a small community of about only 600 people, which is why they come to Blagoevgrad.
“There everybody produces their own, very few people buy,” Hairua said. “And for unemployed people from the village like us, this is really the only option.”
Despite the cold air and the gray skies above, the mother and daughter seem to be fine with what they’re doing. As we talk, their smiles never come off their faces. Knowing they do what they do for their family keeps them warm.
Five o’clock comes and the noise quickly fades. The remaining sacks of potatoes and packs of butter are reloaded in the cars, and the Hairuas and their fellow merchants head back home. Until next Saturday when they’ll be back again with more.
Photos: Vesselina Apostolova