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Monday, August 14, 2017

Homburg: What is it about flea markets?

As soon as my eldest son was housebroken and had small change in his pocket, I took him to garage sales.  His eyes sparkled when he spied old plastic Super Heroes and Pokemon cards.  An early lesson in economics and decision-making.  He wanted everything, but could afford little.  Heartbreaking choices followed, but his heart didn’t break.

He comes by his early passion honestly.   I think it’s in the human genome to shop and bargain.  Name a great flea market of the world and I’ve probably been there.  Souks in Turkey and Morocco.  The happy street markets of Paris.  The famous El Rastro of Madrid.  The almost overpowering expanse of the Metz, France indoor flea market.  They all contain the same elements of hopeful buyers and equally hopeful sellers of random goods.

In southwest Germany, buyers and sellers will find one of the best flea markets around: the Homburg flea market, or as the Germans call it, Flohmarkt.  It’s a wondrous playground for ideas, inspiration, and bargains.

See, that’s a ma-velous thing about flea markets, both the wares and the prices float from day to day, month to month. Trash and treasures intermingle. Hopes and dreams soar.  And if the treasure of your life has just been purchased by someone with a quicker, sharper eye, in Germany you can battle grief with Beer and Wurst, as you stroll to the next array and find something even better.  Keep in mind I’m still talking about a flea markets and not Friday night’s happy hour.

Homburg’s rendition is close to the city government offices, the tall, expansive conglomerate office building Germans call the Rathaus, city hall, with Rat translated as advice. When you think of government offices, you may find you use a different translation.  But having visited several Rathauses here, I’ve found the public servants to be spontaneously polite and almost embarrassingly helpful.  Different culture.  Different expectations.  Lucky Germans.

Homburg Rathaus

Ok, so you’ve found the general area.  Noise, people lugging away brass lamps, tables, chairs, and even musical instruments point the way to the treasure trove.  In this case, tents mark the spot. A wide range of tents spread across the land like a Bedouin encampment, lacking only camels, ferocious heat and blowing sand.

 The tents serve an important purpose.  I’ve visited this flea market when a downpour struck like an angry Greek god.  Even with my lighting-like reflexes and a switchblade umbrella, I was soon soaked from the knees down and sloshing about in sloppy shoes.  Not so the vendors.  With the practiced art of a well trained Indianapolis pit crew, the treasures were quickly protected, but still viewable by those buyers whose lives no longer mattered to them without the thrill of the hunt.

How often? My now entranced readers ask.  The first Saturday of every month, but there are exceptions, so be sure to ask around, or confer with Mr. Google, the sage of the age.

Ok, time for some flea market counseling.  You do not truly love the objects you see and desire. (There may be other situations where that advice is valuable.)  These flea market objects are simply metal, wooden, glass, plastic and paper ornaments.  You didn’t know about them until you saw them and may not yet know WTF they are.  You didn’t need them until they popped into your line of view.  You’ve kept other things a secret from your wife/husband/insignificant other and your severe disappointment in losing the object of desire can be a secret, too.  See addend above.

Bad form to shed tears in front of a vendor, who only just now mistook you for someone he wished to speak with, but who now wishes with all his heart to avoid.

When a vendor takes the object of your desire and smashes it against the hood of his car, you know your casual, low-ball bid disturbed him.

But the best advice is to remember, there is always next month, with another first Saturday.  The Beer will be cold and the Wurst hot from the grill.

Note some small red circles on the daggers?  They cover Nazi symbols, which are illegal to show openly.

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