11 February 2011

Thread Bare to Thread Full

Right near our guesthouse in Kolomyia was this market skeleton. We walked through it on a ramble. These outdoor shopping structures just never cease to draw us in, empty or full. The idea that markets still work this way, all over Europe - these supercentres that never get packed up on their days off. Real estate where vendors all pay their dues for a stall, drive or drag their goods in and stand out in any weather to sell is just so interesting. It's always such a vibrant scene when full and then such a tattered and desolate one when empty.
The big market happens here every Saturday, but we happened to be there right in time for the hush-hush use of the space. Every Thursday morning, starting at 3am, there is an embroidery market. Souvenir shops come to get their hutsul shirts, skirts, tablecloths. Residents come to find an embroiderer and a pattern they like so that they can put in an order for a specially made piece or two. It's the biggest market of its kind in Ukraine and customers come from all over. Naturally, we made it our mission to head over there as early as we could manage to sneak a peek and maybe snap some pics.
We weren't going to fool ourselves into thinking that we'd make it there when it opened at 3am, but thought that moseying on over at 7ish would be just fine. Well, as you can see, that was like showing up to the midnight showing of Twilight at 11:45pm or waltzing into the Mac store midday on the Ipad's release.
Four hours into their market day, it was sort of a mad house. From a block away we could see cars parked haphazardly. Vans were parked with men asleep in the driver's seat. A police officer weaved in and out of the cluster of women at the gate. We weren't sure if the group outside were selling or buying or if they were in line to enter and thought it best not to barrel our way inside. Though we never made it in, it was still amazing to see the market space go from this...
...to this in less than 24 hours.
Through the gates we saw barrels of threads, piles of linen, a sea of heads. It was quite the scene.

P.S. We learned about the embroidery market from Vitaliy, our host at On the Corner guesthouse. Apparently, their home has also welcomed Julie Powell a.k.a. Julie of Julie & Julia (the author, not the actress Amy Adams a.k.a. Purse Girl from The Office). She's pretty much blogger royalty, though Vitaliy and his family are "real people" royalty themselves. They've been featured in at least two Discovery Channel specials on Ukraine and Ukrainian families. Mama Pavliuk made a mean mushroom soup.

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