Sunday, July 3, 2005

The market at Izmalovsky Park

We went to a local market yesterday. It was a bazaar! And, I don't mean that in the sense of bizarre, it was literally a bazaar. Just like the street shops, each merchant has a small space - from a few items laid out in front of themselves - or a 12x12 canopy with hangers or tables, or a section of counterspace in a prebuilt section - up to a 20x20 freestanding space in a section of prebuilt wooden booths. Just about anything you might want. Lots of suits and bikinis and women's underwear, plenty of shoes and jackets, a few booths with some boom boxes and a few electronic goodies. There is a complete section for groceries and foodstuffs. We see quite a few Chinese merchants here with fresh produce of the more Asian persuasion - daikon radishes, Chinese cucumbers, bok choy, etc. Food booths are generously sprinked throughout. We buy a couple large stuffed pastries for about $.75 - cheap. They have a tiny amount of meat and cheese folded inside a tart shaped dough packet. The consistency is like a pizza dough - that the cook stretches before putting in an oven to bake on a hot surface, pizza - like. But the other choice is fried, and I choose the baked.

There is a section with the more touristy geegaws and souvenir stuff. There is a lot of it that is not just geegaws tho - but good stuff. We see typical items - fur hats of many types of furs - fox, sable, wolf in 3 varieties, and more; hand carved chess and backgammon boards, lacquerware, and Soviet souvenirs.

There are also other wood carvings - from lathe-turned tourist stuff like wooden maces, spoons, candlestickes, eggs, bowls, and covered bowls - to really fine examples of joinery and woodworking made from birch burls. This last example - the birch burl woodworking - is a series of boxes, ranging in price from $15 to $500. Their complexity corresponds to their price. The least examples have one compartment. Next their is one compartment with a secret drawer, and wooden hinges. The drawers are exceptionally clever, spring loaded, and worked so that the box must be opened first. And they are disguised so that I would not have expected a secret drawer. The most expensive example is large enough for a generous jewelry box, and it has about 6 secret drawers available when the top is open, with two more on either side of the top itself. The wooden hinges are remarkable, too. The hinge pin is metal, but the hinges themselves are part of the wood. Amazing work.

There is more - linen cloth of exceptional quality and design. Very nice stuff. I am told that they really wear the fur hats in the winter, so I shall have to shop for one - but I will do that later, when I have a better idea of prices. I stop at one as the fur catches my eye - and the shop owner is glad for an audience. He has command of a little English, and well-pronounced, but his vocabulary is quite limited. He tells me that hat I am looking at is fox. Typical of a bazaar, when you catch an owner's eye, or stop to look they are immediately with you making offers and haggling. "This one" "that one" "20 dollars, 40 dollars, 100 dollars, what you want?". The hat stall owner is no exception. Almost all of the stall-keepers are polite, some are more insistent than others. The fur hat stall owner is on the pleasant and polite, but insistent side. The hat I am looking at is nice, the fur is good, but I think it is not a fine example. It appears a bit thin, with not so much undercoat - perhaps a spring fur, or the animal was just not a really strong one. Anyway, I think the fur good be a better quality. The owner doesn't understand me when I try to tell him "later". Since he is quite nice, I finally borrow a phrase book and communicate "later week" to him. Pitiful - I must learn some more Russian words so I can at least communicate some basic concepts.

Speaking of Russian words tho - I am beginning to recognize some of the words and names. The metro names are becoming usuable, as I begin to achieve some recognition of the Cyrillic alphabet.

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