Women work in the fields. Unlike the rest of the country, they also sell the
produce. The women's market is a basic institution of Black Sea towns. It exists
practically everywhere between Bartın in the far west and Hopa in the east. The
best are to be seen on the short stretch between Vakfıkebir and Çayeli.
Aficionados swear by the markets of Of (Thursday) and Çayeli (Wednesday). Rize
(Monday and Saturday), Sürmene (Tuesday) and Akçaabat (Tuesday) are runners up.
It is not that these markets are bigger or richer than elsewhere. But the sight
of hundreds of women hawking, haggling, strolling and gossiping in the
psychedelic-red shawls typical of the region is a sight that one does not easily
The market's emphasis is on fresh produce and dairy products brought down from
the surrounding villages. They are grown, picked and hauled into the market by
the peasant women who do the hawking. There are also professional marketmen who
sell kitchenware, cheap clothes, plastic toys, chicken wire, spices, religious
tracts and Dr. No's Latest Cure For Rheumatism out of the back of their trucks.
Abdullah the watermelon-man arrives each week with a truckful of "sunny babies"
from the far south. Hobbled chickens squawk in protest as they are poked and
probed by discriminating buyers. But it is the women whose cries rise loudest
above the general uproar: "oozy figs better than honey!", "creamy cucum¬ber for
200!" and "taste my ripe mulberries! ".
It is not all buying and selling but also a social occasion, an opportunity to
break out of the tedium of isolated far-away farms. One meets old friends and
makes new acquaintances at the marketplace. A surprising number of teenage girls
stand out in the crowd. One of them will perhaps pretend to take a stroll to the
other end of the market, dying to know if that boy who's been looking at her all
morning will follow. At first she'll affect to ignore him, then perhaps throw
him an ambiguous smile over her shoulder. That's how her parents met, and her
grandparents before them.
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