One of the biggest changes that have taken place in the city of Tirana is the influx of free markets. There are a multitude of stores that sell anything and everything that one could think of, all privately owned. They’re typically small, perhaps the size of an aisle at CVS, and it’s full of stock. There are stores that sell shoes, stores for electronics, for cell phones, for bread, for sweets, for stationery, beauty products, cleaning products – basically, every store owner specializes in something. There are also mini-supermarkets and almost always foreign-owned by Italians, Turks or Greeks.  I’m amazed at the quantity of stores because it insinuates that there is a large number of people who own private commercial property, and that a significant amount earn their living selling consumer goods. In addition to the stores, there are sidewalks, street corners and back roads filled with street vendors. They vary in age, background, style of speaking, goods, prices, and authenticity. It’s one of my favorite things about the city because there’s always something being sold to somebody who needs something, at all hours. You could be missing a battery – done, bought and sold in under a minute. Or someone needs a smoke but is all out – one cigarette it is for the guy in the skinny jeans. Or maybe you’re on your way to the bar with some friends and wish you had a pair of sparkly earrings for the occasion – not to worry, the guy right by the parked cars provides an array of sparkly earrings at the affordable price of $3 ( 300 leke).  The street vendors I visit most often are the farmers who sell fresh veggies and fruits. It makes grocery shopping a surprisingly amazing experience because you buy whatever items you want to eat that day, straight from the farmer, or the person who happens to be selling vegetables that day. Gone are the days where I buy groceries for a week, loading heavy bags in my trunk and struggling with them upstairs to the house. Here I buy something daily – like bread for example. Daily fresh bread has improved my quality of eating, along with fresh cheese. A true indication of where you’ve been shopping is revealed by the type of bag you’re carrying. It it’s the larger, paper bags with the fancy ribbon handles, then you’ve been somewhere a bit more up-scale (but not by much). If you’re carrying a plastic bag with writing on it, then you’ve probably been at those specialty stores buying something priced mid-range. And if you’re carrying unmarked, pink/blue/green/yellow/clear small bags, then you’re buying from a street vendor and it’s relatively cheap. I live for the colorful bags!

7 thoughts on “Markets

  1. love this! i wish I could spend sometime in an eastern european country soonthe 2nd photo from the bottom, that's that dress vendor's mercedes-benz? nice!

  2. I wish I could shop on a daily basis and get fresh produce and veg and bread. Oh, it just sounds divine!! I love all your pictures. Thanks for keeping us in the loop and teaching something, as well!

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