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Berlin's street bargains

Louise OsborneAugust 17, 2012

In Berlin, the best place to find a good deal is at one of the city's many street markets. There you can find everything from fruit to antique treasures. DW's Louise Osborne went out to haggle.

Image: DW

"That is 15 euros," says the women across the cluttered table, eyeing the photography book I am slowly flicking through.

"Nein, danke," I say, carefully replacing on the table and making to move off into the crowd.

"Then how much will you pay?" says the market stall owner, a short Turkish woman with a veil covering her hair and arms folded across her chest.

I consider the question. "How about eight euros?"

"12," she says.

"Nine," I counter.

"10." She looks at me with a hint of defiance.

"Ok, 10," I concede, happy with my effort at haggling and ready to browse through the other bargains just waiting to be found as I walk slowly, taking in the rest of the stalls.

Bargains and songs

Berlin's Boxhagener Platz flea market in Friedrichshain is just one of many that spring up across the city, tempting in tourists and residents alike on sunny Sunday afternoons.

Set in a square surrounded by cafes and framing a children's park and patch of grass, the market is a treasure trove of old eastern bloc furniture, second-hand clothes, books, and household ornaments. It is the perfect place to relax, browse and chat with the open and talkative stallholders.

The famous Mauerpark in Prenzlauer Berg is home to another flea market. It's not just the chance of a vintage bargain that draws crowds every Sunday, but also the open-air karaoke sessions that take place in the theater adjacent to the market every week.

While the number of people trawling the stalls can get a little overwhelming as the tourist season kicks in, one of the things I like most about the market is the friendly atmosphere and the courtyard where, after a hard few hours shopping, you can sit down with a drink and a bratwurst or some kind of Turkish treat.

Flea market in Berlin's Prenzlauer Berg
Items from former East Germany are popularImage: picture-alliance/dpa

Art and avocados

Berlin has more to offer than the weekend flea markets. Markets selling everything from fruit, vegetables, flowers, household essentials and textiles to art work and jewelry pop up in neighborhoods throughout the city during the week as well.

One I know well is the Maybachufer Turkish market that appears every Tuesday and Friday just meters from my front door.

Sprawling down the road next to Kreuzberg's stretch of the Landwehrkanal, the market presents a pleasant mixture of sounds, smells and colors. Walking down the street with stands lining both sides, you get drawn in to the drama of the sales as the stall owners call out the prices of a punnet of strawberries, a box of cherries or a half dozen avocados.

Living in the UK I would always go to the supermarket for my fruit and veggies, but here in Berlin I find it strangely therapeutic to search through the variety of fresh produce at weekday markets, looking through to see how ripe the fruit is and checking for bruises and holes.

And on a day when the sky is clear and the sun is out, as is should be in the summer, it's good to have a drink of freshly squeezed juice from one of the stalls as you sit and listen to music played by groups relaxing next to the stands.

Berlin's KaDeWe shopping center
There's no real need to shop indoors in BerlinImage: picture-alliance / dpa

Taste of Thailand

Meanwhile, weekends at Preussenpark in Charlottenburg-Wilmersdorf offer something completely different. There, the Thai community brings blankets, plastic chairs, umbrellas and cool boxes to share and sell rice dishes, with some even providing massages and manicures.

The exotic haven has become controversial between neighbors who don't like the noise and rubbish left by the market, according to newspaper reports, and those who enjoy the informal but colorful Thai oasis.

While the people are open and welcoming, letting visitors explore and take a look at what they have to offer, leave your camera in your bag. Tense relations with the neighbors have left the food sellers camera shy.

Berlin is a city of street vendors with stalls springing up in different neighborhoods from Kreuzberg to Pankow and Zehlendorf to Mitte. Whether you are shopping for food or gifts for friends, there is hardly any reason to head indoors.