Ecseri Piac (market), located in Budapest’s 19th district, is one of the largest outdoor flea markets in Eastern Europe. It is bric-a-brac and kitsch galore, and I’ve been wanting to go ever since I came to Budapest but for some reason I just never found the time. Finally a few Saturdays ago we drove over to the market and meandered through just about everything you might expect to find at a flea market in a country with a history as rich, diverse and strange as Hungary’s.
We arrived at about 8, which could be considered late for real bargain hunters, since the doors open at 6 a.m on Saturdays. But when we got there, there was still a substantial crowd. The vendors had all their wares unpacked from boxes and cardboard crates.
Porcelain? Check. Old military patches? Check. Farming equipment? Check. Paintings of Mediterranean Jesus?
Check. There were a lot of Jesus things, actually. But I wouldn’t say there was a theme to any of it. I think you could find just about anything at Ecseri. And even when you go there not wanting or expecting anything, I imagine that a common reaction to the sea of stuff is: I think I need that.
Sculptures. Heirlooms. Old Clocks.
And a lot from the Soviet-era. If you’re interested in Soviet or Communist history, go to a flea market in Central or Eastern Europe. It’s living, three-dimensional history in a place like Ecseri.
As a closet romantic, I really love old typewriters. And there were quite a few at Ecseri, equipped, of course, with the Hungarian keyboard.
There were a lot of old toys. Scary, scary old toys and stuffed animals and dolls whose vacant, 19th century eyes really gave me the creeps.
I don’t know why anyone would want an old stuffed animal with someone else’s baby’s saliva on it, but it’s always those old bears that turn up on Antique Roadshow and end up being worth thousands. Some of the fancier booths had beautiful jewelry and very expensive looking estate silverware.
And various replacement pieces in case you lost your giant home crucifix.
It’s a place where you can’t help but imagine the charm of older times.
A place where the stories of the old uniform, Russian icons, antique water jugs, and family portraits are more important than the items themselves. I think flea markets must be one of the last places on Earth where strangers talk to each other face to face.
You can reach Ecseri, which is on Nagykörösi út, by public transportation, but it’s just as easy to catch a cab, since the market is just outside of the city. Take a Hungarian friend if you really want to haggle prices, because as the flow of tourists have increased over the years, the bargains have decreased. That’s not to say you won’t find bargains, but probably you have to know your stuff. Keep in mind that if you want to purchase antiques, no one will stop you, but you have to have permission from the Museum of Applied Arts before taking them out of the country. Whether you are looking to spend an early morning in sensory overload, learn more about the history of the Magyars, or find an elusive Herend Porcelain vase to take back to your home country, Ecseri is definitely not a place to miss in Budapest.