The Udelniy Flea Market in St. Petersburg

Trip Start Oct 17, 2010
Trip End Oct 24, 2010

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Flag of Russia  , North-West Russia,
Saturday, October 23, 2010


How I love visiting flea markets in the countries I visit!!

I tell Katia that we have to visit such a market here in St. Petrsburg and actually I am the one who looks it up on the net, find where exactly it is, so this morning just after breakfast we are out heading for Udelniy flea market.

There is some snow on the parked cars opposite the house and I am excited.

I love snow, I love skiing and we used to go skiing a lot, - at least two or three times a month, some years ago. Snow brings back happy memories to me and not just Christmas time!

Anyway, the Christmas spirit has come earlier for me this year……Some days ago Katia told me that I came to St. Petersburg just like Santa Clause because I brought along several gifts.  This trip out here came unexpectedly a few seconds before booking my trip to Cyprus, and I have never regretted it.

Both Katia and myself love walking, so we decide to walk for 20 minutes to the Metro station. It is really cold and windy today, but we are properly dressed so it is fine. We come to the metro and luckily find seats because the trip is quite long.  We are heading towards Fermskoe Shosse area.

The flee market we are heading to is supposed to be unique as it is the only market of its kind in the city. The local government has closed all other flea markets some 5 to 7 years ago. Udelniy emerged in the soviet times and existed illegally for about 50 years, and during hard times many dwellers survived and supported their families through these markets. Udelniy is more than a market; it is a way of life for these sellers here.

I have visited hundreds of these markets worldwide, and I am anxious to see what I can find here. I am not a person who buys things, but I have something in mind and probably lucky to find it here.

The snow that fell in the evening starts melting because the sun is out even if it is still really cold.  The mould ground is wet, dark and muddy.  There are crowds of people here, some to buy and others to sell. There is a line of local women who have just arrived and are busy taking out their products. They seem to be small producers of veggies and fruit.

To come to Udelniy flea market we have to pass through small shops, shops that remind me of market areas in Asian countries! There is a young boy not more than 11 or 12 with a strong clear voice and a microphone who speaks highly of the goods in the shop standing at the entrance, inviting people to come and have a look inside.  He surely can attract the attention because he is so sympathetic!

At last we are here!  On the side of a street under some very high trees and on the wet dark mould there are pieces of carton, plastic and old newspapers covered with different items. Old tools that can never be used, dolls with no hands and one eye, crockery, vases, cans, bottles, keys, frames, belts ties and badges …..some things are impossible to be identified. People selling here call the venue "an open-air museum". Everybody can find their own treasure, items belonging to Pioneer organization of the Communist Party, granny's handbag from 50’s, rusty spoons.

The interesting thing about this market in St. Petersburg is that each of these items carry a whole story or history behind. It is as if each item has its own soul, as if they have risen from the dead and are trying to live again. I see an item and try to make up a story in my mind.  Everything here is ready to tell their stories to the attentive listener….

We walk on this mould muddy ground covered with leaves and our shoes get wet. It is slippery but still you feel like you ought to see everything. In one or two spots it is really slippery, and as I take photos I ask Katerina to stand next to me and hold me not to slip and fall.  I watch carefully these peoples’ eyes and expression on their face and try to get deep inside them where I notice that there is much pain, patience but expectation for better days to come. Most of these sellers at Udelniy flea market are poor people, pensioners who come here to earn very little money but it is a way of meeting friends and sharing their problems. This market has become a sanctuary for these people who have become lost in the post-modern society, where the face-to-face communication has been replaced by technology.

The market has obtained its legal status as a public market 2 years ago. A rare example of a social victory and initiative in Russia. For more than 5 years, these sellers fought against the police and the bureaucracy of the city and local district authorities until their victory. Now people are registered and have permission to come here. They are no more afraid to be humiliated, or have their 'little treasures’ confiscated or burnt by the police before their very eyes. People are happier now as they love to come here during the cold winter and hot summer days, sell their unique things and communicate.  Most of them cannot imagine their lives without this market here!

What an experience!
The last item in the photo is what I was actually searching to find and finally I did.
It is Russian for sure, and who knows what the story behind it is....I am happy that I found one and it will remind me of the wonderful 8 days I spent with Katerina.

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littlekate on

Popi, Thanks for writing all that. This is my pain, but it has gone so deep inside me, that I can not share it, can not write or speak it out... Another thing is to realise that nothing could be done...

Dennis on

yes Popi...Flea markets are always just so interesting...I also search them is amazing what is for sale although when travelling is difficult to buy something that you cant carry...another great blog...keep up the good work...OH! also great descriptive pics

venoth on

Hi Popi, flea markets are the best place to get bargain items. This one in particular looks nice as well.

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