Rodenkirchen is the most Southern neighborhood of Cologne, directly on the Western banks of the Rhine river. The market with a couple dozen or so stalls is at the centre of the shopping area (scroll down for map).
Currently the Cologne area is dominated by the last days of the carnival season. Carnival music everywhere, basically all songs celebrating the city of Cologne as the best place to be, including the soccer club 1.FC Köln, girls and at times the local public transportation company KVB. Nice mix.
Due to carnival the number of stalls was reduced, as there was a need to have space for the live music, marching bands and people drinking and dancing. So the market was full of loud music enjoyed by everybody. Ladies in fur coats were dancing while waiting to be served, vendors wore costumes and sang along. Great ambiance.
The vendors explained me that the purchasing power of the population is quite high in comparison to other Cologne markets. As one butcher who serves 18 markets with 4 trailers told me, he has to adapt to each location with his meat and sausages offering, as taste and wallets vary across the city. In less wealthy locations, he does not even start displaying quails for example.
Of course good vegetables were available as well. The lamb’s lettuce was definitely better than the ones in the supermarkets. All the cabbages looked great as well. There was even local Jerusalem artichoke available and much more. But I still have to get used to the fact that fresh tomatoes are also available in winter time.
Truffles in Germany
There was something which really caught my eye: it shined like a gold nugget in a river bed or so: at the corner of a fruit & vegetable stall, there was a lady selling truffles. This was a first for me on a German outdoor market. The lady, Sabine Hörnicke, who just occupied that little spot had a few tubers from Italy to sell – really tempting.
She owns a business called Tuber Germania, trades in truffles, trains truffle dogs and helps to re-introduce this fungi into Germany. I did not even know that it was possible here, but apparently there was a significant production in Germany in the 19th century until World War I. I am curious about when this production will pick up again. It seems to be a hard task to build on those forgotten traditions.
The view of an Italian family
An Italian couple with a child did extensive purchases at the market, so I felt the urge to ask them about this market in comparison to those they experience in Italy. Well, they like the Rodenkirchen market and considered the quality to be good but the prices higher than in Italy. Rodenkirchen market seemed a bit small to them as they were used to much bigger markets with a wider choice in Italy, lets say 20 vegetable stalls instead of a few as here. A wider choice of vendors results into some headache at the beginning when one does not know the market to be sure to get the freshest product, but once having a vendor of choice, shopping becomes a quick thing to do.
With all their experience they liked to do the groceries here at the market, their heavy bags were certainly the proof.
A little marketing activity on the market
From my experience German farmers’ markets do not invest a lot in marketing as in comparison to the UK or US counterparts. In the UK initiatives like Love your local market or in the US the Farmers Market Coalition try to promote awareness and more. In contrast to this, there is little social media activity and not a lot of promotional activities in Germany. At least they do not seem to be very organized and consistent.
So I was surprised to see a customer with a shopping bag printed with “Mein Wochenmarkt” (my farmer’s market). He told me that from time to time they are being distributed for free, unfortunately not on this day. I am not sure if they are the best tool to promote visits at the market, but for sure I would love to have one. Creates a sense of belonging to a community, probably.
All in all: A really good market for quality food purchases, worth a little detour
A little link list:
- Wiki with all the Cologne markets
- Hope to find more