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The social barometer of Novi SadDecember 9, 2015

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We live next door to the most clear indication of the cities affluence, Nijlon Market. We are sandwiched between the ‘city proper’ hemmed by the canal, and the poorer Klisa, butted alongside a Roma settlement. Klisa feels suburban, it’s lack of high-rise and tree lined streets betray the three family homes with eeked out wage packets. As you pass along the main road out of the city the tarmac becomes the line between klisa and the Roma settlement. Roma, or Gipsies as so many call them, have their own sub society there. Affluence is present but poverty purveys, as crudely constructed vehicles with either bikes or horses move around huge mounds of items worth mere pennies. But before all of this is a large open space, it’s tarmac about 3 hectares, filled with sellers 3 days a week for the largest of the cities open markets.

Upon a damp and drizzly day there will still be life here, but when the sun shines the atmosphere buzzes. Men selling drinks and plastic bags drag carts through the crowds, while sellers, who have sometimes camped all night, flog every item under the sun. The majority, by far, are selling mounds of clothes. Blankets spread across the ground roughly protect garments piled high, as potential customers stoop to rummage for their treasures. The larger sellers simply assign one price to any item. This is where the ‘good will’ clothes end up. Most from mainland Europe they arrive in huge canvas holdalls to be sorted into large garbage type sacks and sold as job lots. Eventually they are tipped out, perhaps laundered and start their circular journey round their owners before sitting wearily in the landfill.

Thrifters and the penny-pinchers scour the stalls alongside those whose meagre wardrobes originated there. Others, even with their poverty, will not dawn the gateway unless pushed by dire need. When the city is doing well the market humms quietly, but when the purse strings pull the crowd surges. Lately it’s surged again, a very physical and tangible tell that a hard winter is in-store. We’ve noticed it grow, noticed the subtle hints, the drop in new items and rise of pitiful prices.

So Friday will come and the long weekend of the market will begin again, we are sure to spend some time wandering it’s wares and browsing it’s offerings. We will fill our bags again with the fresh produce, perhaps peruse the furniture or try not to lust after the beautifully woven wicker baskets… no that’s just me. Our feet will mingle with the cheaply shod toes of children and weary bones of those whose retirement gave little rest, the women with perfect manicures and the women whose silhouettes tell of poor nourishment. Amongst the tools men with greasy fingernails will display every screw and bit size imaginable, while others will sell things that once whirled and buzzed but hold no guarantee of doing so again. As we move, we’ll notice the crowds, hope for good weather for the sellers and sigh at the swell.

It’s hidden in it’s place, looked down on as junk, but it’s the most accurate reading of the city I’ve found. While it’s lovely to feel the buzz it’s like watching the final act, the crowd surges and cheers all the harder for they know the music is about to fade.

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