Ode to A Market

No poetry could do my local market – laiki – justice, or at least the kind of poetry that I might come up with. That said, I am sure that many others who are gifted wordsmiths could create a beautiful ode. In fact, Michael Llwellyn-Smith, in his 2004 travel book Athens, in Signal Book’s ‘Imagined Cities’ series, has eloquently described (albeit in prose) our Friday laiki:

It is one of the most vivid displays of everyday life in the city, with its regularity, the personal encounters with neighbours, the cheerful noise of the vendors crying their wares, the quiet purpose of the shoppers stocking their trolleys and baskets.

What I can offer is a photo essay from images I’ve taken in the market over the past year. The great majority of the photographs I have taken record the seasonal produce, but every once in a while, people catch my attention. They record, I hope, some of human dynamics of our laiki. After all, the word laiki comes from laos, the people.

One of my favourites – taken with my iPhone over my shoulder as I passed by – is this fantastic image of two men playing tavli (backgammon) back in August 2016 when many of the vendors were away on holiday. It appeared in one of my earlier IMK posts.

Another favourite is the Cretan cheese seller located right next to the onion supplier. Lots of other goodies from Crete are on display at his stall, like snails, dried mountain sage and good green olive oil.

The guy with the Δίσκος Καφενείου (kafeneion tray), a traditional design ideal for short distance takeout, often holds cold drinks in the summer rather than coffee. He moves though the laiki collecting and delivering orders also carrying a πλαστική σακούλα (plastic bag) over his shoulder with tins of coke, sprite and lemonada.

Even though the market street is closed to vehicles on market day, the motor bikes and vespas seem immune. They muscle their way though the pedestrian traffic. Negotiating the way past vegetable, fish, flower, olive, fruit and nut stalls can sometimes be tricky. However, shoppers take it in their stride.

The man from Tripoli hawks his Peloponnesian wares – apples in cooler months, beans in warmer ones. He is extremely expressive when exclaiming the quality of his wares. It is almost as if he wants to pull you in for a closer look.

Even the market dogs can be expressive – and a bit telling. This one with his face averted seems to be saying: “Please, not the spring onions!”.

Or the big bear-like dog looking a bit bored while his human dithers over a selection of frozen fish. He wisely knows that the fresh fish is available a few stalls away.

And, just before you leave the market, the mobile souvlaki stall is located at the end of the street. It is manned summer and winter. They certainly do a brisk business whether in shorts and tee shirts or in layers of sweaters and puffy vests. They have a rudimentary form of drive through as it is common to see an exchange of sticks of grilled pork and payment through car windows as drivers cruise by.


The laiki is definitely a place to observe everyday life in modern Athens. There is something new to see each Friday morning.

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25 comments

  1. Debi,
    A great selection of photos from the laiki. As I tour your photos, I can hear the sellers shouting in Greek to come buy their wares. I wish I could pluck some fresh veggies, fruit, and cheese off the computer screen. Even in California, the produce doesn’t come close to the quality and flavor of the fruit and veggies grown in Greece (especially apricots.)
    Donna

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    • Hi Donna, I agree with you regarding the taste of Greek produce. Perhaps it is because everything here is still quite seasonal (so sold and eaten when there are fresh) and no one seems to care if there are not-so-perfect looking fruit and veg. Apricot season right now! Made a really intense jam. Let’s hope you are here in Greece in time to sample them.
      Debi

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Love this post because I have an extraordinary love of markets. You’ve brought me to a new one and a new term, but I see similarities to markets around the world. Sometimes I take photos of veggies — all bright and piled up neatly. But most of the time, I try to capture the people of the markets — buyers and sellers — since they make the decisions of how to display or how to bargain. Give me a market any day, and I’ll show you people — and food — at its finest! Thanks for posting.

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  3. Wonderful photos (and commentary). I too love the laiki – we have two near us in Pangrati on Tuesday and Friday, both with their individual vibe. I used to love the one in Kalidromio when we lived in Exharhia. Are you near Kolonaki?

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      • They’re on the far side of Pangrati from you.

        The Tuesday market runs from Filolau along Timotheou for two blocks for food and up and down the pedestrian street of Laskou for clothes and other stuff.

        The Friday market is in two places. From December to May it’s in Archimedous from Platia Plastira behind the Stadium – this is our prettiest market, but you have to wait till December now. From June to November it’s in Pirrou both sides of Immitou. It’s not as pretty as Archimedous but it’s still got plenty of bustle.

        I must come over to Kolonaki one Friday. My favourite is still the Kalidromeo Saturday market.
        Cheers. Peter

        Liked by 1 person

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