Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Piata, part 2

The Piata is a magical place. It's so full of life. My recent post on the subject made me realize I've never taken any pictures there. So, two Fridays ago I decided to go with my camera.

Click on the slideshow to view the photo album:

It was busy! Not only was it a Friday--which are usually busy--it was Good Friday, so people were stocking up for the Catholic Easter. I say 'Catholic Easter' because here people make the distinction between the Catholic/Protestant Easter and the Orthodox Easter, which fall on different dates.

One of the things I like about Lugoj is how multicultural it is, and this is certainly reflected in the piata atmosphere. Walking past the mounds of fruits and vegetables one can hear people speaking in Romanian, Hungarian, Romani, German and even Italian from time to time. As you enter the vicinity, you can hear musica populara (Romanian folk music) blaring from the windows of nearby shops. As you make your way to the far end, the characteristic sounds of manele become more prominent (manele, by the way, is a sort of Turkish-influenced pop). The smells of fresh produce, grilled meats and fried dough waft through the air. The vendors aggresively peddle their wares, calling wandering shoppers to come look at their offerings. "Poftiti, Poftiti," they say. The Rroma women drift about selling wooden spoons.

You can find nearly anything at the piata. There's a barbeque where you can get a beer and some ribs. There are also gogosi (doughnuts) and langosi, a sort of fried dough that comes with cheese or jam. The vendors sell a variety of clothes, fruits, vegetables, meats, dairy, flowers, spices, cleaning products, pots, brooms. If they don't have what you want today, they might have it tomorrow (along with the arrival of other new or unexpected treasures). When corn is in season, they have corn. When pumkins are in season, they have pumpkins. When tomatoes are in season, there are mounds of tomatoes. A lady once tried to sell me bulbs of a mystical tulip from Jordan (so she told me, anyway). It's a place where the arts of selling, conversing and negotiating meld together to form a one-of-a-kind interactive experience. It's also a place full of surprising possibilities. There was a time when I had a surplus of Serbian money that I couldn't seem to exchange anywhere. However, just when it seemed like I would be stuck with the Dinara forever, I happened upon an unassuming little man at the piata who gladly exchanged them into Euros. He did what even the banks wouldn't do!

With my camera hanging around my neck, I got more attention during this visit to the piata than usual. When I went to the dairy section trying the cheeses, I asked to take pictures of a couple of the vendors. Many were so flattered that I took their picture, that they offered me samples of their cheeses. Other vendors flatly refused my photo requests. The people selling meat seemed more opposed than others for some reason. I asked one of the Rroma ladies selling spoons if I could take her picture, and she said I'd have to buy one of her spoons first (so instead I snuck a shot of her while she wasn't looking).

I came across a woman selling a green herb I'd never seen before, so I stopped to ask her about it. She responded in garbled speech I couldn't quite understand (no teeth). She said the name and explained something about it's uses. I caught the word 'ciorba' (chorba, or sour soup). "So, it's used in ciorba?' I asked. She just kept on speaking about something, barely intelligible. The younger lady at the next stand said the woman didn't hear so well. So, I asked the younger lady to repeat what it was called. "Macris," she said (muh-crish, also known as Sorrel in English). I turned back to the old lady and asked if I could take a picture of her. She didn't seem to understand, so I repeated myself. Still nothing. Next I mimed the motion of taking a picture and pointed to my camera. She finally seemed to understand and smiled. Once I took to the picture, she offered me a handful of the herb. "You simply must take some," I thought she sputtered toothlessly. I politely declined, saying I wasn't planning to make ciorba any time soon, and had no other use for the stuff. However, she probably didn't hear me and proceeded to put a handful of the leaves into a bag. I again tried to stop her, but she stubbornly went on. Finally, I decided it wasn't really worth fighting. Handing me the bag, I asked her how much she wanted. She said no payment was necessary. However, for the amount she had given me, it felt wrong just walking away. So I pulled out a few lei and gave them to her. She argued that I'd given too much. I told her not to worry about it. However, she obviously wouldn't agree and snatched the bag back, stuffing in more macris. I again objected; half a kilo was already quite enough. At this point she finally got the hint, and realizing there was no way she could convince me to take more of the herb, she instead threw in a bundle of radishes to settle the score.


hjoyferg said...

...and THIS is precisely why I ADORE the piata & will miss it something fierce. Lucky you they let you take pictures! They just about chased Justin out last time he tried! :)

Anonymous said...

Great pictures Mike. Thanks for sharing.

spEnky said...

ciao. faine pozele de la piata. cand mai intri pe mess ai putea sa mi le trimiti si mie te rog ?! :D

daniela (bluerock)