I enter through a side entrance of Kalenic market to find myself among fur coats and random assortments of high heels. My boots “click-clack” on the uneven cobblestones as I make my way towards the food stands. Someone is playing Serbian music on a radio. A light rain begins to fall, yet people continue their shopping. I pass by kitchen appliances, purses and even diapers before arriving at the food.
While Kalenic is one of the largest markets in Belgrade, it is by no means the only one. Each neighborhood has its own pijaca where neighbors come to shop, catch up on the daily gossip and enjoy a coffee after the shopping is done.
Most customers are loyal, returning always to the same vendors, bringing with them family and friends to share the secrets of their favorite fruit seller. As a local from Belgrade said, “I go to the same people because I know them and I know where the food comes from.”
Even children work at the stands. This past Monday, Mihajlo, 16, was at his mother’s stand since he was off school due to a state holiday. His mother started selling her products 20 years ago when she lost her job. Though she is from Belgrade, her family owns a small farm 25 kilometers from Belgrade. All her products are from the farm.
According to Manolis Zografakis, 42, a stall owner from Greece, he is the only non-Serbian who works at the Kalenic market in Vracar. His products do very well here, with olive oil being the most popular.
While Zografakis is coming up on one year at the market in March, many of the sellers have been here for at least 20 years. Every morning they wake up and come to the same place, some starting their day as early as 6:00 a.m. and not ending until 5:00 p.m.