“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 their radar like a Boeing 747. I gave up all hope of not looking like a tourist when I heard their call, and I was only three steps inside the door.
The Besarabsky Market is located in a bright, hanger-sized building, and was packed with locals. 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. So this market, like others around the world, is a great place for travelers to see the kind of stuff city residents need on a daily basis.
It was a cold, rainy Saturday, and the stalls should’ve been buzzing, but weren’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) fifty times. But the upside of slow business was that the vendors had 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 played cat and mouse with a stern-looking owner to sneak a photo, and was lucky to escape without buying a can of overpriced cavier.
As usual, there was abundant fresh produce, all arranged in colorful hillsides sloping into the aisle. Some of the fruit looked tasty, but it was so well organized that I was afraid I’d pull the wrong piece, triggering an apple avalanche.
There was also a large, fresh meat section, but I have to be honest, I’m a bit squeamish at meat markets. So I walked through briskly with eyes straight ahead, and didn’t dare pause for a photo. As I exited the carnage of the meat department and returned to the comfort of the veggie bins, my last thought was that if I had to butcher my own meat, I would definitely be a vegetarian. So I sought refuge in the fruits and nuts.
Pickled and canned? These two jolly ladies have you covered. They won the award for showmanship and congeniality. They were having a bit too much fun, and I suspected 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 Mafia took another shot at me on the way out the door.
James & Terri