Travel Diary: Transylvanian Flea Market

Hey guys! Today’s post is an ode to the semi-annual Negreni Fair, an event famed among connoisseurs for being the biggest antiques market of the region. This place, with a sense of capitalism to it that would make Marx spin in his grave, should have the motto ‘You name it, we sell it’.

blacksmith's bellows
Blacksmith’s bellows infested with wood-boring beetles

Targul de la Negreni, or Körösfeketetói Vásár is held twice a year in a small village in Cluj (Kolozs) county, Romania, occupying the picturesque mountain meadow and both shores of river Crișul Repede (Sebes Körös).

Every second weekend of June and October, the place is host to one of, if not the biggest, but surely the most incredible markets of Central-Eastern Europe, with thousands buying and selling everything imaginable and beyond simply spread out on the ground. The railway runs across the market area, with trains sounding their horns when approaching.

negreni fair and train

If I have to describe this event in a few words, I’d say disorganized, crowded and uncoordinated, yet totally fascinating. A colorful, noisy, busy chaos.

roller printers for wallpaper
Antique roller printers for wallpaper

Also a splendid occasion to study mob psychology, group behaviorism and psychology of mercantilism. It’s amusing to experience the transition from tradition to globalisation, from communism to capitalism, from authenticity to imported knock-offs.

compur old plate camera
German plate camera from the 1920’s

Traditionally, fairs provided opportunity for people from different regions not only to buy and sell, but also to meet relatives and friends. Nowadays most of them are reduced to folklorized kitsch-fests. Negreni Fair on the other hand still maintains its original function on a huge scale.

soviet manpack transceiver
Early 50’s soviet manpack transceiver

Locals both Romanian and Hungarian by nationality, gypsies from all over Romania, antiques dealers, collectors and curious tourists alike show up on the river banks to bargain, eat, drink and socialize the weekend away.

old seltzer bottles
Vintage seltzer bottles in their original crate

Handcrafts, antiques, souvenirs of the past political era, household utensils, second-hand, vintage and new clothing, livestock, furniture, art, relics, all sorts of goods from authentic gems to worthless rubbish are up for sale.

vintage demijohns
Set of old demijohns

In my estimation, a good 2/3 of the merchandise is really just piles and piles of utter, total junk, but with a sharp eye you can dig up true treasure. As they say, one man’s trash…

Mona Lisa reproduction
Junk vs. treasure

Nobody gets out without buying something that’s most probably not needed in their lives. Euphoria kicks in around so much exciting stuff. It’s an addictive frenzy! Once you visited, you are sure to want to go next year. Trust me, it was my 5th time there.

moskvich pedal car
Every Eastern Bloc kid’s dream from the 70’s: Moskvich pedal car

Are you excited to go yet?

These are my top tips & tricks:

  • Book accommodation either at Oradea (Nagyvárad) or Cluj Napoca (Kolozsvár) where you can find decent and affordable hotels and restaurants.
  • Parking is available on the spot for a small fee (10 RON) and they will keep an eye on the vehicles. Admittance is a laughable 1 RON.
  • Try blending in as much as possible, otherwise you’d be spotted for a tourist from miles, and prices will mysteriously double with no chance of bargaining.
  • Layered clothing is best and wear flat, comfortable, sturdy shoes. Don’t expect any pavement, it’s dirt paths all over. Bring a bag with straps that leaves both your hands free, preferably in front of you to always have an eye on valuables. Plus, something to carry the bounty in (hello, big blue Ikea bag!).
  • Have a shopping plan: the offer is so immense it’s impossible to check out everything. My top picks are branded china, vintage glass- and silverware, old linens and candle holders.
  • You will need lots of small change in the local currency. Do not flash out big notes, let alone Euros (see being spotted for a tourist)! Needless to say, there are no credit card terminals or ATMs.
  • Your survival kit should include hand sanitizer/wet wipes. Forget restrooms, even mobile toilets. Not joking!
  • Don’t be afraid to eat at the food tents, it’s mostly freshly grilled meat. Satisfy your sweet tooth (and send your blood sugar over the roof) with the world-famous kürtőskalács (chimney cake) chargrilled in front of your eyes. Local beers are good (go for Ciuc or Ursus), but be careful with pálinka, it has a tendency of causing irresponsible behaviour.  🙂

original chimney cake

See you there next time!


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