Walking through the market Riga Central Market was akin to peering into some of my earliest childhood memories.
The hustle & bustle of the clothe stalls took me brought back flashes of infancy; barely remembered snatches of toddling around Blyth Market surrounded by fabrics on all sides.
Inside, colourful stalls filled with fruits, cheeses, meats, spices and all sort of dried produce took me straight back to the 80’s before the Guernsey Market shut up shop long before it’s eventual redevelopment into the indoor street and shopping arcade that it is today.
The scales and tills in use simply added to the feeling of deja vous. An eclectic assortment of analog and digital rarely two and all extremely manual. No self-service touchscreens and printed barcodes here and absolutely no chance of an unexpected item in the bagging area.
The glass cabinets of the butcheries were what really resonated with me. Identical as they were to my own time working first in the supermarket delicatessen before becoming one of the stores fishmongers. Far too many early mornings were spent leaning down into these, the front lifted like a car bonnet as I filled the tray with ice before laying out the display for the day.
Also far too many times did those heavy glass lids slide down silently and un-noticed thanks to worn out hinges only to announce themselves with a thump on the head upon standing back up.
The buildings in which the markets reside are fascinating. Originally built in the 1920’s to house Zeppelin’s, they are huge imposing structures next to the River Daugava and the main railway station and surrounded by warehouses – which in seemingly typical 2010’s fashion have become a bit of a hipster hotspot known for arts an entertainment.
The market itself moved into the buildings in 1930 and hipster would be the last word that comes to my mind.
Old-fashioned probably carries negative connotations for many, but wonderfully old-fashioned is exactly how I felt about the market. There was something refreshing real about it and I enjoyed the simplicity. What you saw was what you got. No piped in smells, no calculated foot-flow designed to keep you in longer and no promotional advertising.
Just produce on display where you can purchase the quantity that you need, the cut you want and even the ‘ugly’ parsnips and carrots are for sale instead of being rejected as imperfect by the supermarkets.
I kinda miss that.