It is not located in the “centre” of the city, but the heart beat is strong. And to use a cliché: the Haagse Markt feels like a melting pot. Or as the blogger KiwiDutch perfectly expressed it: Local heart, global soul.
First a disappointment …
This huge market is enclosed by a high brick wall limiting the entrance to a few spots. The question remains what or who is being protected this way from what. Not a good feeling.
Then entering the market on the northern tip created a first disappointment: seeing stalls after stalls with more or less cheap clothes and other merchandise was not what I was looking for. I had to pass a flower stall indicating: “Be nice or leave. Thank you” (see picture gallery). Good to be reminded of the right manners.
… then relief
After quite a long walk towards the south – keep in mind that the market claims to be the largest one in Europe – I found the produce section. I needed a few moments to realize that I was not at a pricey gourmet paradise but at a place which caters for day to day needs to people of all kinds of backgrounds.
Some of the stalls reminded of Arab markets with all their dried fruit and nuts, olives & spices some of African markets with all their vegetables and fruit called exotic like plantain bananas & cassava, papaya, soursop. Some stalls had produce from the Indian subcontinent – lots of them I could not identify, and I saw for the first time Tannia leaves. Basically without own photos and Wikipedia it would have been impossible to name what passed the eyes.
The discovery went on with dried and smoked fish in all colours and shapes and lots of fresh fish and seafood in its own section. Of course all the produce of the northern hemisphere were available as well, including a few stalls with Dutch cheese. This great mix makes it easy to try out very different cuisines.
All of these sights were accompanied with fragrances and flavours which enhanced the experience and are probably familiar to people having lived in the tropics.
On the street food side the offer was a bit more limited, mainly fried food. I enjoyed a crunchy chip spiral on a stick prepared in front of my eyes (see picture gallery above).
The crowd and the vendors
As it comes to the crowd was the same mix as the produce themselves: people with all kinds of origins identifiable or not were busy making their purchases. And as price are low, literally everybody has a chance to grab some decent produce. This is made even easier for the customers as many stalls sell the produce by the prepared bag or bowl instead of getting the right quantity of a pile.
Despite the hot weather the vendors were in a good mood. They were chit chatting with each other and laughed a lot. These good vibes made the visit even more pleasant and gave the feeling to be part of a larger community, especially as not many tourists were present.
Taking photos was mostly granted, of course not without jokingly giving it a price tag.
All in all: A great place when you want to leave behind classic European markets and discover what the globe has to offer.
A little link list: