I just spent three days and nights billeted at Buvljak, the flea market next to Vero in New Belgrade, and I have come away with the following inventory: One t-shirt, a plastic box with no apparent function, one cd of dubious and unnamable origin, a bread box, four unassorted pillows, a toilet seat, and a hub cap. None of these items, of course are on my list. And none of the items on my list are checked as being obtained.
Ok. I was only there for about 50 minutes, but it felt longer.
The flea market used to be the place to go to find the thing that your imagination conjured up and told you that you needed. It could be a triangular bamboo table, a purple spotted bedcover, or a length of copper cable. Whatever it was, somehow someone at the flea market had six of them.
These days, however, even Buvljak has become as homogenous as the Delta Citizens or Uscean shops. There are millions of t-shirts which all look the same, a pair of myriad replicated sweat socks with the Nike logo facing the wrong way. Every clothing shop has the same cargo pocket pants, the same plaid shirts, and the same frumpy dresses. It does not take long as you walk down the narrows alleyways for the goods and people to meld and blur into one. It is like spending more than two hours in the Louvre, eventually all the paintings look like the Mona Lisa.
Incidentally, I saw a Mona Lisa clock at Buvljak today. In 17 different places.
I often wonder what goes through the minds of the people who spend all day in the stalls watching people like me stumble past. We onlookers have dazed expressions, walk too fast to notice much and too slowly to seem purposeful. If we have no bags in our hands, we are almost invisible. If we have at least one purchase, then we are punters and they engage you in riveting dialogue, like "what do you want?"
But that is the point. If you know what you want, you are in the wrong place. If you go to the flea market and have a specific thing in mind, you will NEVER find it. And you come back with a t-shirt, a plastic box with no apparent function, one cd of dubious and unnamable origin, a bread box, four unassorted pillows, a toilet seat, and a hub cap. The point of going there now is to see what you discover. And due to the homogenization of choice, you only need to randomly sample a few stalls to know what's out there.
But another mystery of the flea market is that even though I have these EXACT SAME THOUGHTS every time I go, I cannot stop myself from going back soon after. There is something magic about the idea of the flea market which suggests that everything imaginable and not is there waiting for me. This time, however, I decided to commit my experience to a blog and prevent myself from recidivism. I will NOT go back there, and if the urge is too strong, I will reread these words to remind me. I will display my hub cap and toilet seat prominently in my home as a memento.
And then I will drive off to Pancevo.