The Saturday livestock market, a timeless affair – Caracal, Romania

P1100808Every Saturday, as pink tints the clouds and the sun climbs above the horizon, horse-drawn carts carrying livestock make their way to an open field on the edge of town.  Elderly couples bundle up for the walk which they make every week to reacquaint themselves with family and friends who are also expected to be at the market.  Before dawn, coals on grills are bright orange, preparing food to feed the morning market goers and sending smoke rising above the carts and Communist-era Dacias.  The galloping hooves of latecomers can be heard scraping the concrete road before careening to a halt at the entrance.  I felt like I had walked onto a film set, another world that only existed if intentionally recreated.  But no, this was the local Saturday livestock market.  It’s been happening for centuries, though the Dacias are a more recent addition.

P1100827With my camera and halting Romanian, I was the obvious – and only – foreigner at this party.  Fortunately, the Romanians are a welcoming bunch and were proud to show me their animals and allow me to take photos “for my family in America who has never seen a market like this.”  Ahhh, they nodded in understanding.  “Then you should take a picture of this!”  Before I knew it, some older gentlemen were escorting me throughout the market to meet friends and find the ‘best’ animals.  I was grateful for my impromptu hosts, who guided me through the back reaches of the market where hundreds of men of all ages, and only one woman, were milling about at the social event of the week.  Apparently the women stay closer to the front where grain and hay is sold.  I only crashed their party for a few minutes and was able to take some memorable shots as the sun began to burn off the fog.

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Some pigs are sold from the cart.  Some are sold from the trunk.

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From copper stills to leather harnesses, vendors proudly display goods they have crafted with years of experience.

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Furniture, cows, hay, animal feed, van loads of cabbage or other seasonal vegetables – even bricks of salt – are sold at the market.  Of course, I got the impression most people were there just to catch up on the latest gossip.  But that’s part of the centuries-old market tradition.

Bricks of salt mined in a town in central Romania - 1 Lei (25 cents) per kilo.
Bricks of salt mined in a town in central Romania – 1 Lei (25 cents) per kilo.

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