I’ve noticed that we go through an interesting process of knowledge acquisition where we think we’ve figured something out, only to learn later that we didn’t quite have it right, and the market is a good example of what I mean. The night we first arrived in Pecs, we found a very small 24-hour food store, sort of a pantry almost, a minute’s walk away from our apartment. It has bread, pasta, a few fresh and canned vegetables, pastries, salamis, cold drinks, beer/wine and probably cigarettes, cigars and the like. I thought, “Okay, we’ve found the food – we’ll be okay.” The next day we stumbled upon a place called the “Konzum,” which is home to a smallish grocery store called “Coop” — sort of like a Wesselman’s to our friends in Evansville. And I thought, “Okay, we found the real grocery store – the place were Hungarians buy their groceries.” Then, while looking for clothes hangers, I went to a dry cleaners in the “Arkad” (the big shopping mall toward the south end of the city center) where I was told to go to the InterSpar on the lower level of the mall. The InterSpar is like a giant Target/Walmart — grocery store, liquor store, household goods, clothes, etc., all under one roof. You can buy an onion and an oven on the same trip. It has a huge selection of fresh bread and a decent sized produce section, and I thought, “Yes, THIS must be where the locals buy everything.” This new information was good for about a week, until an English-speaking colleague of Margaret’s offered to escort us to the indoor market, which, we learned, is the place the locals really buy their produce. It’s in a relatively non-descript building across the street from the mall – and we probably never would have entered if Gabi hadn’t taken us.
Here are some pix (remember, you can click on the image to see a higher-res version):
It’s really a kind of farmer’s market that’s open 6 days a week, from early in the morning until about 1 pm, I think. Everything is brought in directly from the farms, sold by the people who grew or raised it (I’m assuming) and it’s one of the most amazing collections of fresh food-stuffs and people I’ve ever seen.
There’s a section of cooked foods in the market where you will find, amongst other things, fried sausage venders. I was there at 8:00 am, and people were happily eating breakfasts of giant sausages, bread and mustard. The week before, when we were there with Gabi, I asked her what she would recommend from the prepared food sections and she said, “nothing.” She was there for the fresh produce and eggs. “You are what you eat,” she said. Me? Sometimes, I don’t mind being a sausage for a few hours.
And finally, the one thing you will likely NEVER find in a US market… “homemade” milk. I’m pretty sure that it’s conventional cow’s milk sold in used/recycled water and soda bottles. I walked past this table 2 or 3 times and never saw anyone buying. Not sure if it’s considered safe or not.
Last word on the market: As much as I like the idea of buying all our produce at the market, it’s exhausting for a non-Hungarian speaker because everything you want to buy involves a transaction, and not many people at the market speak English. Eventually you can get what you need, but it’s not easy, and sometimes I’m reduced to holding out a handful of coins and letting the vendor take what they need. Whereas at the InterSpar, you can fill up your cart and leave without saying anything more than “good afternoon” and “goodbye’ to the cashier. That said, we’ve had great luck with apples, mushrooms, eggs, grapes and cheese from the market. Margaret will probably have more to say about the Cheese Man – he and his brother make the cheese from their own cows, and he speaks English.