It‘s all about shopping Greek and shopping local. The upmarket coastal Athens suburb of Glyfada has its weekly market each Thursday. This is where residents rich and poor, Greek, foreign and ex-pat all come to shop, pulling trolley bags and arriving from early morning for their weekly produce. Although the uber rich probably have Albanian housekeepers to do the shopping for them.
Market day gridlock
The Greek word for these urban markets is “laiki“. Trying to get a park anywhere near here is a mission. Side streets are wall-to-wall cars too. Glyfada market stretches several blocks starting from near the church of Agiou Konstantinou on Lazaraki St, and clogging northbound Zervas St for hours. Despite intermittent sun, a cold wind whips between the stalls on this autumn day. The crowds are out, the traffic is in absolute gridlock, but as longtime Glyfada resident Alan Butler said recently on Facebook: “So, what’s the problem?” (or roughly that)
The crisis has made people kinder
The laiki is cheaper than buying fresh at the supermarket, the quality is better, and it’s a chance to mingle, chat and taste before you buy. At Glyfada market stallholders beckon potential customers in a loud, competitive chorus. This used to be my home stomping ground and revisiting is a pleasure. One change I’ve noticed this time around is that stallholders are a lot more polite than they used to be. No matter how meagre my purchase, I’m thanked profusely. The malingering Greek economic crisis might unwittingly be one reason for this. My friend Deborah, a Scot who has lived here for almost 30 years, says widespread financial hardship has made people kinder and more supportive of each other.
Autumn is the season of nature’s richest bounty. The laiki is a kaleidoscope of colour, heady aromas, textures and tastes. Chestnuts are on sale. A lovely snack roasted over hot coals and sold on street corners in the centre of Athens throughout winter.
Support the local economy
Nowhere else are the olives so plump, piquant and enticing, or the peppers, both sweet and fiery, so eye-gougingly scarlet. No Photoshop needed. The sweet banana chilli peppers (top pic) taste brilliant if you blister them in a frypan or on a BBQ, then peel them (nor not) and serve with olive oil, salt and a squeeze of good quality vinegar. If you’re visiting Athens, a suburban market like this one will show you up close how good the essential ingredients are for Greek food. And your interest will be appreciated.
“Times are very hard for us. People are just grateful you’ve bought something at all,” says an olives stallholder. “People come to buy Greek products more to support the local economy.”
I pass a stall selling fragrant bunches of mountain tea, dried oregano and jars of honey. The tea is a popular cure all for colds and sore throats.
And yep, it’s kinda weird, but people do actually shop for their underwear here. Shapewear seems to be popular today.
No big knickers, thanks
Fish is a particularly good buy. But you need to be at the laiki early to get the best. It’s on my shopping list, as are olives, peppers, pots of pink and yellow autumn chrysanthemums, and chestnuts. But I’ll pass on the big knickers, thanks! If you liked this post, you might like to check out my visit to a Greek weekly market in the Peloponnese town of Xylokastron.