Picking My Way Through the Pijaca

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Mihajlo stands watch over his mother's assortment of beans and squash as he is off school for the day.

By Hayley Schultz

BELGRADE, I enter a side entrance of Kalenic market to find myself among fur coats and assortments of high heels. My boots “click-clack” on the uneven cobblestones as I make my way towards the food stands. Serbian music plays on the radio. People continue shopping as a light rain falls. I pass by kitchen appliances, purses and even diapers before arriving at the food.

Kalenic is one of the largest markets in Belgrade. Each neighborhood has its own pijaca where neighbors come to shop, catch up on the daily gossip and enjoy a coffee after the shopping is done.

Most customers are loyal to the same vendors, sharing with family and friends the secrets of their favorite fruit seller. “I go to the same people because I know them and I know where the food comes from,” said one Belgrade local.

Manolis' stand is very popular. Many of his customers have traveled to Greece and are delighted to find Greek olive oil and fresh Greek salad with Tahini that Manolis prepares on the weekend.
Manolis’ stand is very popular. Many of his customers have traveled to Greece and are delighted to find Greek olive oil and fresh Greek salad with Tahini that Manolis prepares on the weekend.

Even children work at the stands. This past Monday, Mihajlo, 16, was at his mother’s stand since he was off school due to a state holiday. His mother started selling beans and squash 20 years ago when she lost her job. Though she lives in Belgrade, all of her products come from a family-owned farm 25 kilometers from town.

A stall owner from Greece, 42-year old Manolis Zografakis, is the only non-Serbian who works at the Kalenic market in Vracar. His products do very well here, with olive oil being the most popular.

While March marks Zografakis’ first year at Kalenic, many vendors have been here for decades.  Every morning they wake up and come to the same place, some starting their day as early as 6:00 a.m. and not ending until 5:00 p.m.