In almost every neighborhood of Athens during some day of the week, there’s an open air market called Laiki, the people’s market, and the smells and sights and sounds are intoxicating: the stinging waft of lemon getting deep into your nose, picking up a piece of coriander to breathe it in, squeezing lemons and apples and pears and mandarins, picking out potatoes, pinching a green pepper and tasting the residue on your finger.
These are experiences, in the fresh air too, that you can’t get in a supermarket and the reason – along with the usually cheaper prices – why many people prefer Laiki to stores. There’s the hustle, the bustle, and the hustling so be on guard for that too from aggressive hawkers who want to do the picking for you.
Favorites are honey, so thick it takes a while to drip off the spoon, and the famous Greek tomatoes. You’ll never be able to eat one from an American supermarket again after this.
You can get cherries, bananas, watermelons, melons, cucumbers, garlic, apricots, beans, peaches and even clothes and utensils for the kitchen and garden. Sellers change their prices frequently within the same day, especially for sensitive products such as fish and the prices drop the later it gets in the day if you’re willing to trade off some freshness.
Then there’s the loud sounds of the hawkers bellowing and beckoning: “Ola, ena euro!” (Everything one euro) or “Pare! Pare! Pare!” (Come and Buy!) You won’t need much coaxing.