The Ochers’ Mecca – Chronicle of the Ecseri Market

Rummage dealers, antique dealers, shopkeepers, snappers – the typical actors of the Rummage, also known as the Rummage Market, for over one hundred and fifty years. The short period since the market moved from Ecseri út to Nagykőrösi út accounts for only about a third of this long chronicle.

I was looking for something in my parents’ attic – perhaps my high school plant catalogue? – when I was distracted from my pile of old textbooks that were falling apart by another: my vinyl records! I traced my finger along the dusty cover of the top album in fascination before my favourite Queen album slipped out. All I had to do was find my ugly orange GDR record player to be swept up once again by the soaring voice of Freddie Mercury, just as I had been when I was a teenager. I was determined to find it, and as I did so, the channel of memories opened up, and the forgotten images of the Ecseri market in the early 1980sWhat a life there was! I could see the greedy eyes of the hawkers, luring customers and piling up all kinds of old-fashioned items on their stalls, from glass fish to theatre glasses and fake silver candlesticks. Unfortunately for us students, however, we don’t have that kind of luck. We hunted for forbidden goods, for Western vinyl records like this Queen in my hand, bought on my dowdy West German labels collected on Lake Balaton this summer, and of course for original jeans, which were still considered white raven in the Eastern bloc as the regime approached change. At that time, Western jeans were seen as a status symbol, like a Cadillac before the world war… I came across my first beautiful Levi’s here at the Ecseri market.

The biggest flea market in Budapest was a place where you could buy everything even under socialism. I could also tell you about the soft leather jackets of Turkish or Italian origin, never seen before, or the silk and nylon shirts, the representatives of the hippie culture that arrived late, which had the effect in the uniformed, grey world of the Kádár era like sunshine on a misty November morning. Unfortunately, I can’t tell you about the other profile of the market at that time, motorcycle parts, but I do know that, as you had to wait five to ten years for a Wartburg or a Zsiguli, motorcycles were very popular with men. I myself discovered our beautiful country in a sidecar with my father in the seventies. Anyone whose old Pannonia or motorbike broke down could go to the scrap market and buy a new or barely used part cheaply from the dealers, who were often specialists, and even have it fitted immediately. It was a magical world in Ecseri! It was chaotic, a bit slutty, smelling of crime, but so charming in a world from which everything exciting, irregular and original had been removed.

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