Monday, June 27, 2011

Sunday market @ Rum, Austria

"Whoever said money can't buy happiness simply didn't know where to go shopping." - Bo Derek

Shopping, everybody loves it…. Most of the joy comes from the fact that something new is added to our list of possessions. But, during my visit to Austria I came across a joy of experiencing something else.

About Rum

Rum is a market town (since 1987) located in Tyrol, Austria, on the eastern border of Innsbruck in the administrative district of Innsbruck-Land. Since World War II, because of proximity to Innsbruck and development of an industrial area in Neu-Rum (New Rum), which abuts the Olympic Village district of the city, its population has greatly increased and it has become one of the richest municipalities in the state. (,_Tyrol)

When I landed in Rum, I wanted to explore the places around where I was staying. One of the good way (or the relevant way) to explore a town and meet people is to check out its eateries. So I went to the hotel reception desk for enquiring about the good restaurants close-by. She informed that the closest is a McDonald’s that is a few block’s walk down the street, the other options are a few kms away. McD is something I can live with for a few snack, time-to-time when I am hungry, and thus decided to check it out.

Checking around

McD was just few walk down the street. It was quite crowded when compared to the number of people in the streets. Checked out the menu and ordered something. My vegetarian friends had some tough time ordering as there were very few vegie options (unlike India) and also there was this BIG language problem (Austrians speak German). They finally managed to grab something and when the stomach stopped screaming, we decided to check the place around.

Rum is really a small town (I guess a village for the localsJ) and there was nothing much around there nearby. Beside the McD was a gasoline filling station, and farther down was a big Metro Cash & Carry shop (You can see one in Kanakpura road, Bangalore ). A big parking area for the Metro shop overlooked it. Metro is a wholesale shop which required membership for any purchase. We crossed the parking and walked down to the store. We obviously did not have membership but still wanted in to explore the shop. Upon enquiry we realized that our company had special permission to shop there and we just need to carry our company ID badge for an employment proof. We decided to come back there the coming Sunday…

Come Sunday and we were outside the Metro shop just after finishing our breakfast. Surprise was awaiting us there when we saw – “The Metro store was closed”. We soon realized that all (well should I say most) shops remains closed on Sunday in Austria. But more surprises were awaiting us – we turned around to look at the Metro parking space and it has transformed completely.

Sunday market

The whole parking was filled with what looked like “Hawker” stalls. It was something that was not present the other day we visited here. Pleasantly surprised we decided to explore.

Just after exploring few stalls, I was quite amazed by the variety of things that was up for sale. Clothes, fruits, meat, electronics, paintings, old coins, antiques, shoes, fishing net…. u name it. We soon realized they were all used items and were sold by common people who loaded their van with stuffs and spread them out in the parking area. One antique beer mug with 3D carvings took my attention. I picked it up and checked the price – “Its goanna cost you 15 euros” – The old lady said. That was something too expensive, I kept it back. “If you want to buy it, I can give it for 10 euros” – The old lady told. There comes another revelation, they do bargaining here, hmmm…. Welcome India J

Over the next weekend when we visited Innsbruck and roamed around the popular tourist shops we figured out that the prices of items in the Sunday market at Rum is much less then what has been sold in other markets. But they are used items too though.

Henceforth, the market place became a favorite hangout place for us every Sunday, not just it was priced right, but the variety of items there was mind boggling. We typically spend a lot of time looking around, spending more time exploring things that we have never seen before. The whole experience was culturally enriching, meeting common people (old and young), and knowing their culture/dress/art form. Some sellers there would convert to shoppers as the day pass by. Quite fun to hang out and watch.

Some of the unique items on sale that I remember: Old worn out door knobs, deer horns beautifully decorated on a wooden plaque, one big garden statue, guitars and bike models, African wooden arts, Arabic artwork with gold colored carvings, skating and surfing boots, fishing rod and nets, a bike model made of cane, dried meat, old Olympic medals, badges, old swords, silverwares, antique brass utensils, and many more….

Some shopping

The things that attracted me most there was the antiques as well as the things that are very traditional to Austria. I zeroed in on an Austrian beer mug with lovely Tyrolian artwork of some famous historical monuments. The colors were beautiful, bright and traditional. I was able to get a good bargain (well that’s what I believed) and grabbed it.

To be doubly sure that I am collecting the right stuff I checked with my colleague in office about the things that can be collected as a memento from Austria. The inputs I received was, “Pick some beer/wine, they are famous here”. I wanted something else, they said – “Wooden items are good here, you can grab some”.

With their inputs in mind I started exploring the market again. A wooden plaque took my attention. It consisted of beautiful 3D carvings (looked like metal) at the center with the image of a Tyrolian soldier in three different moods. I checked for the price and the person agreed to give me a good deal if I buy all of them, three pieces in total. I was apprehensive to get all of them, so I decided to move on. But as I started exploring the other stalls, the plaque stuck to my mind. As one typical shopper I went back many time to the same stall, hesitated, avoided buying it, and finally decided – let’s buy it. I paid him the money and put the prized possession in my bag.

My wife Prantika visited me in Austria during my last week stay. I made it a point to take her too to visit the market, to give her a feel of it. She liked some artwork from Africa and we purchased that too.

When I finally left Austria, I came back with some great memories to cherish back home.

“Culture is the sum of all the forms of art, of love, and of thought, which, in the coarse or centuries, have enabled man to be less enslaved” – AndrĂ© Malraux.

I just got another flavor of it……

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