I love markets. Not just markets, but the idea of market shopping; foraging around for the things you need for the next day or two. In North America, we shop for a week at a time. The rest of the world doesn’t do it that way, of course.
In Greece, there are bakeries and grocery stores on every block. But once a week in many neighbourhoods, the freshest of the fresh comes even closer to you. These are laiki –the people’s market.
Formally, they are known as laiki agora. Agora means “meeting place”, and besides the obvious raison d’être, they serve the more important purpose of allowing the community to socialize.
We were still a bit shell-shocked when my mom announced, on our second day in country, that it was laiki! Ours, in Ano Glyfada, is literally a block uphill from us. Produce and fish (of course) dominate, but in addition you’ll find household consumables, supplies, some simple hardware and tools, and even underwear and other clothing. Quite diverse, and quite overwhelming on our second day of jet lag.
In preparing for this post, I learned a bit more about the mechanics of laiki. And in the typically Greek fashion, they’re complicated. For instance, vendors are licensed and carefully vetted before being allowed to sell. There are age limits, and all venders – both producers and professionals (these are the two classes of vendors in all Laiki) – must have certification of having completed their military service.
Professional vendors are forbidden from participating in any other profession or livelihood; you are a professional laik vendor for life, and may make no income from any other source.
Markets are some of the first places I visit in any new place. They are all different, of course, but they are also all so similar; the smells, the sounds, and the mood. My Omi would have felt right at home here.