“Caviar? Caviar? Gude deescount price. Luke! Luke!” This is the sound you’ll hear if you ping the tourist radar just inside the door of the Besarabsky Market in central Kyiv. And believe me, to the vendors inside, you’ll show up on the radar like a Boeing 747. I gave up all hope of not looking like a tourist when I heard this, and I was only three feet inside the building.
The Besarabsky Market is located in a cavernous, hanger-sized building, and is primarily for locals. And while most of the vendors probably grew up as good communists, they did learn one of the most basic tenets of capitalism – you can only sell what people are willing to buy. Consequently, the market is a great place for tourists to see the kind of stuff the city residents need on a daily basis. For this reason, we always try to visit the biggest city market wherever we go.
It was a cold, rainy Saturday, and the market should’ve been buzzing, but wasn’t. Few customers, and the tourist tattoo on my forehead made me a lamb to the slaughter. I must have said “Ni dyakuyu” (No, Thank You) 50 times. But the good news was that this slack time gave the vendors lots of time to chat and joke across the aisles. It was great fun to watch their interactions.
Just inside two of the three entrances, occupying prime selling real estate, the caviar cartel set up shop. Their neatly organized cases had every type of caviar imaginable. I didn’t dare look too closely for fear that one of the petite ladies would wrestle me to the ground for a purchase. I was lucky to get to a photo with her peering sternly over the case.
As usual, there was lots of fresh produce, all arranged in colorful hillsides sloping into the aisle. Some of the fruit looked nice, but it was so well organized that I was afraid I’d pull the wrong piece, and trigger an apple avalanche.
There was also a large meat section, but I have to be honest. I’m a bit squeamish at meat markets, so I walked through briskly, not even pausing for a photo. Once again I realized that if I had to butcher my own meat, I would definitely be a vegetarian.
The dried beans, fruit, and nut section was an appetizing work of art. Pickled and canned? These two jolly ladies have you covered. They win the award for display and congeniality. They were having too much fun, and I wondered if maybe a vodka bottle was circulating around the booth. It was a cold morning after all.
I didn’t buy anything, but not for the lack of assertive selling. One of the caviar cartel took another shot at me on the way out.