As far as I can see, any place worth its salt always has a market, or two or three! I’ve been an avid market goer since my first trip abroad, Croatia as a teenager, where the toothy grinned old lady with ripe and juicy apricots inspired me to learn a few words of Croatian, whose luscsious fruits pulled me back as though on an invisible string. Back to a place so vibrant, bursting with the colours, sounds, scents, flavours and textures of mountains of alive produce, often picked only hours before.
Well, I’m delighted that our region has some classics, from the regular town markets that have existed for centuries to recently established artisan gatherings, and from flea markets and antiques sales to a couple of producers at an event.
Let’s start with the three “old-timers” which have a mix of retailers and small producers selling their own wares. And one thing I love is that the price for a table is around 300 HUF, only about 1 Euro, so it means that even the woman with only a little surplus from her garden can sell her vegetables, fruits and herbs – and that means the freshest, often organic (but without the label), lovingly tended food. It’s a privilege to have such high quality ingredients to cook with.
Sárospatak (Erdélyi János utca) opens on Wednesdays and Saturdays and is already in full flow by 7 am. It has the largest attendance of the excellent local cheese makers (cow, goat and sheep) and a butchers which sells meat from their own farm in the Bodrogköz, the other side of the river.
Neighbouring Sátoraljaújhely (Piac tér near the hospital) is much larger and draws a crowd from Slovakia too when traders gather on Tuesday, Friday and Sunday. Stalls open even earlier here than in the slightly more genteel Sárospatak where the day seems to start a little later.
At the other end of the wine region lies Szerencs (Kisvásár tér) where the enormous outdoor market area is open from 5 am from Tuesday to Sunday.
Artisan / Farmers’ Markets
Tokaj-Hegyalja Market – the first, and still, in my humble opinion the best. A superb location, around a popular yet elegant restaurant set among the vineyards, this monthly (2nd Sunday) market is a favourite among winemakers and other locals who enjoy meeting up for lunches during the week at the Sárga Borház Restaurant. This is truly a meeting place: around 60 producers arrive from around the county to present their wares to locals and tourists alike. Also live music, exhibitions, wine tastings, pony rides and more.
Most artisans have been involved since the very beginning in April 2012. Indeed several applied for their producer’s licences because of the market – they (rightly) believed it would be a success and they would not have far to travel to sell their lovingly crafted products. Its success inspired others to follow suit, so we also have…
Buffalo Market, Szerencs – the first Saturday of the month for the artisan market, the third for the antiques fair.
Almost all the events invite quality producers. A couple of highlights are
Zempléni Market, Sátoraljaújhely – local producers assemble for this market which accompanies the wine tastings in “Cellar Valley” or “Cellar Hill”, or one of the dance events in the centre of town.