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Articles > Tourism and Travel > The best flee market in the world
This weekend I checked out the Vernissage market in Yerevan. It's basically a flea market, but everyone, every guidebook, says it is a must-see. Although Armenians have a famous tendency for thinking that everything in Armenia is the most beautiful, unique, whatever in the world, it was mainly foreigners telling me about this. I asked one Armenian guy before I went if it was cool, and he shrugged and said "Well, it depends what you think is cool."
A meta aside: What's probably actually uniquely Armenian is that in addition to believing that everything here is the best in the world, they also joke about how they think everything Armenian is the best in the world. I think lots of small countries have inflated senses of their own place in the world, but few are as self-conscious about it as Armenians. Similarly, I don't know how many Armenians have told me that Armenians are always late for meetings. In my experience they're no more chronically late than any other people in this part of the world, but they definitely like to talk about how they are.
Anyway, the Vernissage was cool. There is a touristy element: a long row of guys with rugs, followed by a long row of old ladies selling their embroidery. The old ladies were giving a hard sell, mainly by looking sad and sweet and speaking to me in the few words of English they knew. "Mister, you want? I made." There was a huge section of truly terrible paintings, lots of Soviet coins and pins and other knickknacks. And some booksellers selling some good stuff on Armenia in foreign languages; I got a collection of obscure William Saroyan plays that deal with his Armenian-ness.
But the best part was on the margins, where there were people selling every manner of secondhand goods. Each person had a plastic sheet laid out with his or her stuff, and it was often highly specialized.
You want beaters for electric mixers...
The Vernissage

... or drill bits...
The Vernissage

... or a remote control?
The Vernissage
This is the place.
Speaking somewhat to the poor state of science and medicine in Armenia,
there were also people selling chemicals...
The Vernissage

... beakers and test tubes and other such glassware...
The Vernissage

... microscopes...
The Vernissage

... and most worryingly, medical supplies like scalpels and forceps
and other whatnot.
The Vernissage
Travels through Turkey, Georgia, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan, Afghanistan, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Xinjiang.

Added: Friday, May 25, 2007
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