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What I still remember is the cheese, the wood oven bread and the horse meat sausages – all from the region of Saxony – I had to buy it.
A bit of walking
It was the end of the summer school vacation. It was warm but gray, the ambiance at the market very relaxed. The vendors had time to talk and nobody seemed to be in a hurry.
The Sachsenmarkt in Dresden is not a small one I have to say. Two parallel lanes of about 100 meters separated by grass and rows of trees for picnic (is it allowed?), each lane with two rows of stalls – officially around 160 – facing each other. I had to do a bit of walking to get a glimpse of the wide choice.
A Westerner meets the East
As somebody who grew up in Western Germany my notion of Eastern Germany is rather limited, nothing to be proud of. When thinking of agricultural production in the East, I always have the big state farms in mind. And looking at the fields while traveling, they looked much larger than the ones in my area. So I was pleasantly surprised to see so many small producers at the market.
The whole market has a strong focus on regional products, also something I am not used too. “International” products were rare. Yes, the fish was not from the area, a Turkish stall served Mediterranean delicacies, the flowers probably came from the Netherlands and the Hungarian stall was run by real Hungarians. But that’s about it I guess. The rest was showing what the region has to offer.
Cheese, bread & horse meat
I do not consider Germany as a cheese country, the market seems dominated by large scale dairies which produce surprisingly low quality or boring stuff. France, Italy & the Netherlands are still the true cheese heaven to me.
The Sachsenmarkt surprised me. I guess at least 6 stalls with regional artisan cheeses, the highest density I have ever seen at a German market. Most of it was organic, from cow milk but also a lot from goat milk – I do not remember sheep milk. The choice was plentiful: from fresh cheeses to more mature ones up to a year old; with different ingredients and spices – always a winner: fenugreek; but also with funny names: Gute-Laune-Käse (jolly mood cheese) – did not try this one, I was already fine. The only thing I really missed were truly old cheeses. I just love the “yellow gold” which is 3 years old or so, the aroma is so concentrated and overwhelming. Unfortunately these artisans do not have enough space to produce it and maybe customers would not like to pay the necessary premium.
Another attraction was the baker who produced on site in a wood fire oven. People were queuing to get their share. He does not mind making the effort to bring his mobile oven to the markets and living a life where you have to get up early to produce real bread. He loves his craft and does not want to stop even though it is hard to find apprentices for his business. I guess working in a bread factory means having a more socially compatible schedule. He had a large variety of breads, I bought three smaller ones: a potato bread, one with sprouts and a regular sourdough one. They were tasty.
Three stalls had horse meat and sausages. I once had in Italy my very first horse steak tartar. It is decades ago and I am still chasing this taste. These stalls brought me closer to it and I bought a few sausages. One of them was run by one of the few remaining horse meat butchers in the region, the old generation does not seem to find successors. The clientèle is also rather limited but thankfully he still continues his job. Of course he sells also other meats to make a living.
BBQ on a bicycle
What a surprise! At the end of the market I found something I saw once: a charcoal grill for Bratwurst on a bicycle! Three years ago I had a stop over in Chemnitz at the market roughly one hour drive from Dresden. I saw the same bike, and yes the guy told me that it was him, the one from Chemnitz. The world is a small planet! But I don’t think that he was cycling the whole distance.
Learn the difference between Dresden and Leipzig
Most of the vendors cater for several markets. As regional and organic food is not on the budget side, they are looking for larger cities with purchasing power. Leipzig, the largest city in the state of Saxony is not far away from Dresden, its capital. Space for a rivalry. And yes, I learned my lesson from a lady selling bread; the message was very clear: Leipzig people are grumpy, they complain too much, they are not laid back. You go there only for the money not for the fun. Dresden people are just the opposite: friendly and gemütlich! They always have time for a chat and are patient. I can confirm the latter for this market: once I started a conversation with any vendor he did not end until I continued my walk, while real customers waited patiently for their turn.
Now I have to check out the Leipzig markets.
All in all: A display of Saxony produces, go for it if you want to get to know the regional bounty – only on Fridays.
A little link list:
- Farmers’ markets in Dresden (German)
- Marktgilde, the company managing the Sachsenmarkt amongst many others in Germany